April 20 - 22, 2021

National Head Start Conference

Leading conference in early childhood development

Our can’t-miss experience of the year is here—the 48th annual National Head Start Conference!

When is it?

This virtual event will bring everyone together from April 20-22, 2021 for three days of sharing knowledge, networking with peers, and celebrating achievements.

Interested in attending?

Head Start’s largest annual gathering is digital!

Although not what we’d originally planned, the online conference will allow everyone in the Head Start community to participate safely and affordably, and even attend nearly as many sessions as they would in a traditional on-site conference. We will gather together April 20 - 22, 2021 for this critical opportunity for everyone to take a step away from the day-to-day and prepare for the next year.

There is so much uncertainty all across the country right now, but what is not uncertain is Head Start’s bedrock commitment to lifting up children and families in our communities. Now, it is important for our community to stay connected and stand united. Many of us are isolated, but we are not alone. Will you join your peers from all across the country for this important moment in Head Start’s history?

What Can You Expect?

The National Head Start Conference will offer you and your staff many of the same professional development and training opportunities that you have come to expect at an NHSA in-person conference. These will include:

  • informative sessions led by experts in the field of early childhood;
  • thought-provoking discussions with colleagues from around the country;
  • inspiring speakers delivering cutting-edge ideas;
  • and so much more!

An exciting new feature this year is a dedicated Early Head Start track designed to deepen knowledge of the latest research and practices with respect to infant/toddler child development.

Who should attend?

As the largest national conference devoted to all things Head Start, this year’s National Head Start Conference will once again bring everyone together for three days of sharing knowledge, networking with peers, and preparing for the year ahead.

At NHSA we have intentionally designing the online conference to offer valuable content for everyone in Head Start. So whether you’re a Director, Administrator, Manager, Teacher, Policy Council Member, Parent, Community Partner, Board Member, or serve Head Start in another role, this conference is for you!


Diamond level:

Platinum level:

Gold level:

Body & Mind for the Stressed Out Educator

Speaker: Ron Shuali, M.Ed.

Stretch your body and strengthen your mind in the Body & Mind experience. This workshop will show the participants how to become more effective teachers and increase their energy through various stretching and strengthening movements. Eliminate pain from your back, neck, knees, sciatic and ankles gently and easily. And finish the workshop with a peaceful and relaxing meditation.
8:00 AM – Thu 9:00 AM

Coaching Early Childhood Educators: Beyond the Basics

Speaker: Julie Cucuel

"Coaching Early Childhood Educators: Beyond the Basics" will explore the 5 levels that instructional coaches organically move each teacher through to increase the teacher's professional practices. This session will provide an introduction to each of the 5 coaching levels and provide a range of strategies to support your role as an instructional coach. We will explore the concept of intentional listening, calibrating ideas, effective feedback protocols, and true collaboration.

Cultivating a Workplace Culture of Self Care in Uncertain Times

Speaker: Melissa Harrell

In our efforts to make life better in our communities, our own health and wellbeing is often sacrificed. Helping professionals are already at high risk for burnout but add the challenges of working in a global pandemic and heightened racial injustice, and the scales tip very quickly. This unique session will allow a space for personal awareness and reflection of how these unprecedented times have impacted individuals and organizations. Participants will gain a deeper understanding of their biological responses to stress, where they are in the burnout cycle, and how to mitigate/ heal with mindfulness skills.

Cultivating Resilience

Speaker: Anne Barrett

Resilience is the ability to adapt to new challenges, manage stress, and recover from adversity. While it may seem like resilience is an inborn trait, the fortunate reality is that resilience is a set of skills that can be cultivated. Such skills include: cultivating a growth mindset, practicing mindfulness, becoming more self-compassionate, and practicing regular self-care.

Empower Your Children for a Happy, Confident, and Inner Peace filled Life

Speaker: Paul Levin

It does not seem like it, but your children hear and record everything you do, say, and feel. That is a heavy burden for a parent. Prior to the age of 7, the mind of a child is a sponge. A sponge that will be squeezed countless times during the rest of their life. What will drip out? Will it be anger? Will it be fear? Will they give up on their life? The first 7 years set the stage. Learn what to do and what not to do, to raise happy, confident, and empowered children. ~~~ Target audience is parents, staff, and directors, in that order.

Enhancing Organizational Performance: A Practical Approach to CQI

Speaker: Larry Campbell

This session is designed for HS Directors and Senior Management Leaders to equip them to develop a culture of Continuous Quality Improvement and demonstrate program impact using data-informed decision making. However, developing, testing, implementing, and spreading a change will not happen without the support of people – your staff. Focusing on data dashboards and reports and not on their effect on people will doom improvement efforts. Participants of this session will be introduced to organizational development research and will learn how to factor in the human side of change to obtain the cooperation necessary to make and sustain CQI improvements.

Fostering Resiliency During Traumatic Times

Speaker: Breeyn Mack

Recent data shows that nearly half of all children in the United States have suffered at least one adverse childhood experience. Even more distressing is the fact that, for more than one in five children, that number rises to two or more. Stress from the COVID-19 pandemic—combined with school and childcare closures—has magnified concerns for children who have experienced trauma, especially for those from minority backgrounds. In this interactive session, teachers and administrators will discover proven strategies for nurturing children's social-emotional competence, creating environments that foster resiliency and reducing the effects of trauma by promoting protective factors in young children.

Honoring All Families

Speaker: Gillian Gansler

This workshop will begin to prepare Head Start professionals to work effectively with a variety of families. In this interactive session, we will explore cultural competency and will provide educators with the knowledge and skills needed to interact with culturally diverse families in a manner that is respectful and appropriate to their diverse needs. We will discuss how distinct cultural perspectives influence interactions with families and will provide strategies to effectively engage diverse families, including families of children with disabilities and families from refugee and immigrant communities.

How to Host a Can't-Miss Virtual Family Engagement Event

Speaker: Rebecca Honig

Family workshops are critical to setting families up for success and meeting your family engagement goals. Today's unusual situation means we're all learning new ways to support families from afar. And that includes family workshops. So how do you hold a virtual event that achieves your goals AND parents will be excited to attend? During this interactive session, you’ll learn strategies to ensure your events are highly interactive, effective, and FUN. And you’ll learn tips and tricks to help ensure high levels of attendance. This workshop is great for directors, teachers, and family engagement specialists.

Importance of Executive Function Skills and Brain Building Science

Speaker: Erin Ramsey

This session will provide an overview of executive functions and the Mind in the Making Seven Essential Life Skills that every child needs. Ways to bring science into action in everyday ways. There will also be an overview of Vroom and brain-building tips for everyone who interacts with children.

Leadership During Uncertain Times: What's the Temperature Within Your Department?

Speaker: Earl Suttle

In this interactive session, leaders learn how to stay motivated and energized as a leader, learn how to utilized celebrations and appreciations to keep the team up, 5 ms for motivating team members, how to create an action personal development plan for p

Leading Through Fear and Uncertainty

Speaker: Brian Gaumont

Over the past year, our teams and stakeholders are experiencing heightened levels of fear and uncertainty. This is a normal, human response to change. As leaders, there are steps we can take to help them through this and ultimately help them cope while remaining productive. In this webinar we will discuss those steps and measures you can take as a leader to help those you serve.

Let's Energize Your Nutrition and Wellness Strategies

Speaker: Shannon FitzGerald

How is the health of your operation? Need fresh approaches to develop a lasting framework for your wellness and nutrition? Could you use some motivation? Whether you have stellar wellness and nutrition programs in place or are in need of direction or rejuvenation, we will highlight strategies for optimizing nutrition and wellness. This session is for everyone! The what, why's, and how's of nutrition and wellness will be explored.

Make Story Time the Best Time of Day

Speaker: Amy Vandament

The relationship between an adult, a young child and a good book creates a safe space and a bond, and it fuels a passion for learning and literacy. This year, when children are deprived of the comforts of their school routines, connecting through reading is especially crucial. Amy Vandament and Isabel Baker will present read-aloud techniques and strategies and a review of the best new picture books of the year: stories, STEAM, Social Emotional, Basic Concepts, emphasis on inclusion and diversity, books that adult and child alike will enjoy again and again. Target Audience: Teachers, Directors, Trainers, Literacy Specialists, Curriculum Coordinators, Family Caregivers.

Outdoor STEM Activities

Speaker: Greg Nelson

Outdoor settings provide a natural opportunity for children to develop STEM mindsets. Get research-based ideas for real-world activities that spark curiosity, hone observational skills, and promote cause-and-effect reasoning.

Preventing and Intervening with Aggressive Behaviors in Young Children

Speaker: William DeMeo

There is widespread concern over the increasing frequency of aggression being exhibited by young children. The number of young children in early childhood programs with aggressive behavior is one of the leading concerns of teachers, administrators, and parents. This intensive workshop has been designed to provide practical and readily applicable interventions for addressing and facilitating constructive change. Through didactic presentations, experiential exercises, and case examples, participants will be able to intervene effectively to help young children turn to anger and misdirected aggression into an appropriate response.

Race and Equity in Head Start – Results-Based Accountability

Speaker: Diveena Cooppan

The vision that racial disparities have been eliminated and racial equality has been achieved, requires eliminating the systemic causes of racial disparities, promoting full participation for all community members, and the reduction of race-based disparities in our communities. Oakland Head Start introduced a Results-Based Accountability approach to evaluate race and equity performance measures. Using the Community Assessment, we determined the race and equity results we want to achieve. Indicators are identified to help measure if we have achieved our result. This presentation looks at Oakland’s race and equity model and the City’s Head Start findings and program implications.

Seven Strategies for Better Sleep

Speaker: Anne Barrett

Seven Strategies for Better Sleep In the United States, insufficient sleep has reached epidemic proportions.Getting enough sleep is crucial for good health. The truth is, most of us are incredibly busy and many of us get through life on little sleep. We don’t give our sleep the attention it deserves. This talk is for you if.. • You just don't sleep as well as you used to when you were younger. • Sleep issues have been an issue for you on and off throughout your life. • You tend to be a night owl and you know you aren't getting as much sleep as you need. • You have a hard time falling asleep. • You fall asleep fine but tend to wake up at 3 AM and can't get back to sleep. • You want natural solutions (not drugs) for great sleep.

Sing and Sign / Cantar y Hacer Señas: Developing Dual Language Learners

Speaker: Mike Longoria

Singing is a powerful emotional experience that is strongly connected to language. American Sign Language (ASL) is a kinesthetic activity that engages the entire brain and makes meaningful connections to the letter and sound recognition and vocabulary. Together, singing and signing are neurological experiences that build neural pathways in young brains and promotes and motivates young children to read and write while making learning two languages fun and exciting.

Supporting Higher-Order Thinking Skills in Young Children

Speaker: Sandra Ampudia

Constructivist theories explain how young children learn and develop not only by exploring the environment, but also with the presence of effective interactions in which teachers interact with children to facilitate learning activities to support and scaffold development, learning, and language. The properties of the interactive exchanges between teachers and children -the information conveyed, feedback loops, and conversational sequences- are critical to teachers’ fostering of children’s learning (La Paro, Hamre & Pianta, 2012) One way to promote engaged support of learning is understanding the process and the impact of teacher-child conversations, questions and the natural use of higher levels of vocabulary. This training session is designed to support practitioners to be more intentional in the use of questions and vocabulary, providing them with specific information on the different ways to embed those in daily routines to effectively support higher-order thinking skills, cognitive and language competence. Meanwhile, these strategies are intrinsically connected with the Cognitive Development CLASS Domain improving effective indicators such as analysis and reasoning, problem-solving, making predictions, and prompting thought processes, among many others.

Tackling Transitions

Speaker: Brandon Williams

Transitions can be tough, especially if children are asked to sit still and remain quiet while simply waiting. This session will review best practices for managing transitions and demonstrate activities to help teachers facilitate various transitions that take place throughout their daily routine. We’ll also discuss strategies for minimizing transitions.

Teachable Moments: The Children are Home, Keep them Safe

Speaker: Kim Clear-Sandor

Head Start plays an important role in keeping children safe at home. The COVID 19 pandemic has kept more family members home and using their home space in different ways. Join this interactive session to explore how to capture this teachable moment and provide home safety strategies for families with young children. This session will also highlight active supervision strategies for families.

The Importance of Child Engagement in Play and Learning

Speaker: Alan Guttman

This workshop focuses on the importance of child engagement in play and learning. In this interactive session, you will learn how to define and recognize when children are genuinely engaged with adults, peers, and materials in sophisticated play and learning. Join us as we view, analyze, and discuss videos of children engaged in daily activities to broaden and deepen your understanding of how best to support and promote child engagement in your program.

Transition Magician to Kindergarten

You have ensured that your children have all the necessary school readiness and social skills to enter Kindergarten. But, is your receiving school ready? In this session teachers, parents, and management staff will explore practices on how to better align your children's transition to their receiving school. We will share practices that are working for Three Rivers Head Start program and we will provide time through small group discussions for participants to share ideas that are currently being used.

Understanding Intersectionality

Understanding Intersectionality and Implementing Strategies to Overcome the Associated Obstacles Presenters: Tela Copeman and Ariel Phillips Social categorizations such as race, class, and gender paired with an individual or group of individuals, create interlacing and interdependent systems of disadvantage or discrimination. This is Intersectionality. The intersectionality of an individual can be empowering and oppressing. Our aim is to create practical strategies that identify an individual’s intersectionality and overcome associated barriers, thereby increasing outcomes and goal achievements.

Understanding the Complexities of Blended Family Dynamics and How You Can Help

Blended families are different than first families. This seemingly obvious statement, however, carries heavy implications: because the dynamics are different at home, the differences also affect the children at school, in the community, and elsewhere. This presentation is designed to help people better understand the complexities of blended family dynamics and thus have a better idea of how to communicate with and help those families.

Using the Whole Child Approach in Addressing Inter-generational Trauma

Research demonstrates that a caregiver’s mental health and overall functioning significantly impacts the emotional well-being of their child. A history of generational family trauma can significantly increase a child’s risk of psychological distress and mental illness. However, when the caregiver-child relationship is safe, supportive, and stable, the child is buffered from the adverse effects of potential mental health stressors. This workshop will focus on innovative practices that take a whole-child approach to early childhood mental health. Participants will explore a multi-tiered system of support that effectively meets the mental health needs of the whole family.

Your Money, Your Goals Tools to Improve the Financial Well-Being

The CFPB will show how selected tools from the Your Money, Your Goals financial empowerment toolkit can be used with Head Start parents to strengthen their finances. Using relevant scenarios, this interactive workshop demonstrates how these tools address financial goal setting, savings, cash flow, debt, and credit topics. A brief summary will show how to address identity theft. Additional CFPB resources and will be shared and how to access them. Participants will learn more about where to turn for resources when money management issues arise. This workshop is recommended for in-home, center-based advocates and managers, and directors.

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Speaker: Sarah Pounders

Gardens for young children come in all shapes and sizes providing fun, hands-on learning experiences for any Head Start classroom. This session will explore the many different garden options available to you and how to design a garden program to best fit your needs and available resources. We will share the basics on how to get started along with tips and ideas from past NHSA’s Gro More Good Garden Grant winners.