Inaugural Northwest Early Learning and Pyramid Model Summit convenes

November 28, 2023

The 2023 Northwest Early Learning and Pyramid Model Summit drew hundreds of educators from Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska earlier this month for in-depth learning and networking to promote young children's social emotional development and equity in early learning. During in-person and virtual sessions offered over multiple days in early November, early childhood administrators, coaches, behavior specialists and state teams delved deeply into ideas and collaborated with regional educators during sessions focused on specific aspects of Pyramid Model implementation and systems-level supports. Attendees discussed the unique needs and opportunities across urban and rural communities; planned for coordination across childcare, public school, special education, mental health and community agencies; and discussed how to build racially just and culturally and linguistically responsive approaches to Pyramid Model implementation in communities across our region. More than 150 people registered for pre-summit sessions and close to 400 registered for the full in-person summit hosted in Seattle, while the virtual sessions drew up to 100 individuals each.

The summit featured presentations from several College of Education alumni, staff and faculty including Haring Center Education Specialist Em Dandridge, M.Ed. '20; former Director of My Brother's Teacher William White, Ph.D. '21; Assistant Teaching Professor of Justice in Early Learning Jamie Cho, Ph.D.; Associate Professor of Special Education Angel Fettig, Ph.D.; Haring Center Senior Director of Professional Development and Training Ariane Gauvreau, Ph.D.; and Haring Center Research Scientist Jennifer Baumingham, Ph.D.

Kathleen Meeker, Ph.D., associate professor and director of research for the Haring Center for Inclusive Education, co-organized the summit with support from faculty and staff at the College of Education. ConnectEd's Kenda Lomax and Jael Gibbs ensured the event ran smoothly and attendees' experiences were positive.

Learn more about the triumphs and lessons from the inaugural Northwest Early Learning and Pyramid Model Summit and plans for future summits in our Q&A with Meeker. Please note that responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Now that the summit has concluded, what are some of the lessons or takeaways that you will use to guide planning for the next event and/or incorporate into your work now?

Kathleen Meeker

As we were planning the summit, we leaned on other models that we had seen nationally and in other regions of the country. This really helped us feel like we weren’t building something brand new. We were building on momentum that had already brought us together in the past and had worked well. But as we built out the summit, I think we built more confidence to try new things and make sure this summit truly served educators in communities across the Pacific Northwest. For example, each afternoon we had local “success story” panels that featured educators and coaches from each state sharing their successes and challenges. The cross-state learning and connections were amazing. As we start planning the next summit, I’m particularly excited to keep building awareness of local expertise and creating opportunities for programs to share with one another.

What did you hear or observe during the summit that excited, challenged or sparked something for you? And for the participants?

A highlight for me was our opening keynote session with Dr. Martina Whelshula, Cree Whelshula and Dr. Mary Louise Hemmeter. Their heartfelt conversation about the future of the Pyramid Model in our region set the tone for the entire summit. The Whelshulas challenged each of us to recognize cultural and linguistic bias in our daily interactions and to approach each child with what Cree Whelshula called “radical love.” Dr. Hemmeter inspired us to think about the ways our region can lead and inform national efforts.

What was some of the feedback you heard from attendees?

I'm delighted to share the following feedback from a couple of our attendees:

"The conference was FANASTIC! Every single session I attended was wonderful — presenters were so engaging, had great real-life examples and were so approachable. Thank you!"

"This was a powerful testament to the strength of regional collaboration and engagement. I loved that it was small and that there were opportunities to talk with partners and professionals across the early learning system and with national researchers."

Are there plans to organize the summit as an annual event? If so, can you share anything about upcoming planning or goals?

The summit has been a dream of leaders in our region for many years, so we are energized to carry this summit forward as a regular event — either annually or every other year. The Oregon team has offered to “host” the next event, so we are beginning to look at what it will take to rotate the summit around our region. The planning teams from Oregon, Alaska, Idaho and Washington have been amazing partners, and it is exciting to think about how this summit can be carried forward in ways that reflect the unique contexts of each state and community.