By Gina Minoia

Learning doesn’t always have to take place within the four walls of a classroom. Last weekend, 17 members of the Broome Educators of Children Association (BECA) traveled to Rye Brook, New York, to take part in the NYSAEYC Annual Conference at the Hilton Westchester.

The educators conference features dozens of workshops that build skills in many areas of teaching, from administration to using art and music in the classroom. In a workshop called “Nurturing a Sense of Wonder through Nature” that focused on using nature in curricula, Kathryn Wills learned that “Nature play enhances academic achievement, helps to improve student behavior, and fosters an appreciation and love for nature.” This was Wills’ second state conference, but it was every bit as valuable as her first.

“It enriched our knowledge of early childhood education and kept us open-minded to all of the possibilities in different modes and styles of teaching,” she said.

While Kathryn will be graduating in June, this was Monica Hollenbeck’s first state conference as a freshman. One of her favorite workshops featured rhythm and music; participants in this workshop learned about writing and producing their own music for children. As an aspiring first grade teacher, these were valuable skills for Monica.

“It made me look at education in a different way,” she said about the experience. She also attended a workshop that dealt with approaching parents about difficult situations, a daunting task for young educators. “We came up with a list of ways to get parents more involved,” she remembered. 

Christine Duffy-Webb was excited to take BECA to the State Conference, and for good reason. “It’s a great chance to network with professionals, and [students] come away with new, fresh ideas,” she said. She also stressed the value of a new environment and “learning from someone other than your professor.”

Duffy-Webb, Wills and Hollenbeck agreed that closing keynote speaker Enrique Feldman was a highlight of the conference. Feldman used humor, personal experience, and brain games for children and adults to inspire educators.

“He reignited our passion and reminded us why we were there,” said Duffy-Webb. Kathryn added that, “He involved the whole crowd… It was very hands-on.”

BECA’s annual trip to the conference provides an enriched environment for aspiring educators to expand their knowledge of a career in teaching. Members get the unique opportunity to learn from experts in the field and build their professional portfolios. Student Activities and student-run fundraisers make it possible for students to take part in beyond-the-classroom learning, and this year was no exception: Funds from Student Activities combined with fundraisers such as the March 12 Volleyball Tournament, which this semester raised $1,300, and Scholastic book fairs allowed 16 students to attend at a significantly reduced cost. All fundraisers are run by BECA students and help to benefit club activities such as the state conference and the BC Center.

Stay tuned for more BECA events and fundraisers!

Gina Minoia is a freshman in the Education program.