The 2022 WECA Conference was nothing short of exceptional.

The annual event provided learning opportunities dedicated to enhancing the professional development and growth of Wisconsin’s early childhood workforce through four keynote presentations, 25 live workshops, and 23 on-demand sessions. Topics covered growth and retention of professionals, health and resilience, racial justice, cultural responsivity, leadership, communication strategies, and brain development, among many other timely and relevant topics for the early childhood community.

The opportunity has drawn nearly 800 early childhood educators, advocates, presenters, speakers, and sponsors from all corners of Wisconsin – and beyond – to network and grow together through the theme, “Cultivating Connections.”

“What a wonderful conference you put on! I have to say, I think the best I have ever attended by WECA,” shared a returning attendee. “The keynotes were outstanding, as were the other presenters. But, the keynotes are worth the registration fee alone – each of them.”

The event began on Thursday, Sept. 29 with a morning keynote on preparing an early childhood profession in the midst of the pandemic provided by Mary Harrill, Ana DeHoyos O’Connor, and Dr. Sharon Little. Additional Thursday sessions followed and were capped with a Thursday evening keynote, “Because,” presented by Rachel Giannini, who was featured in the documentary, “No Small Matter.”

Friday began with keynote remarks from author and agent for social change Kevin Carroll, who discussed unleashing creativity and growth through the lens of play – both as healthy development for children and a philosophy for centering one’s career and life purpose.

“As I started to lean into the importance of play, I started to understand the importance of belonging,” Kevin said. “As early educators, you know the power of (play), you know the importance of it – I want you all to double down on the importance of it.”

Friday continued with sessions on leadership, health and safety, communication, child development, and more. Saturday began with the morning keynote dedicated to talking about race, racism, and justice with young children with the authors of the book, “Our Skin,” Megan Madison and Jessica Ralli.

“We believe that young children deserve a whole lot of grownups who are ready to support them in their feelings, all of those feelings, so they know they’re not alone,” Megan said. “We need young children’s great ideas for how to change the world.”

Registrants, speakers, sponsors, and exhibitors connected on the virtual event platform, Whova, where they visited sponsor booths, participated in virtual meetups for networking, and participated in contests and activities for the chance to win prizes.

The conference was graciously supported by 18 sponsors, exhibitors, and in-kind donors whose financial support ensured the event was dynamic, inspiring, and a valuable educational opportunity for all in the early childhood community.

“This year’s conference was extremely well-attended and provided so many new professional development and learning opportunities,” said Jen Dittrich, WECA’s Membership and Training Director. “We are so pleased to continue to offer this event, and already look forward to next year.”

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