2015 Conference Information


Dr. Ross Greene

Green Screen


Judy Hunter



     The 2015 Annual Children and Youth Conference held on the campus of Florida Gulf Coast University, and in partnership with The Hunter Institute of Early Childhood Learning, The Children and Youth Mental Health Conference and The School District of Lee County was an outstanding success!  We welcomed over 300 attendees who enjoyed workshops presented in three different tracks: STEAM for early childhood, children and youth mental health and best practices K - 12.   The keynote speaker was Ross Greene, Ph.D., former Harvard Medical School faculty member and author of The Explosive Child and Lost at School.  Dr. Greene presented a very well received address on undertstanding, parenting and working with chronically inflexible children.  His collaborative approach to problem-solving can be found at his website:  livesinthebalance.org. 

      For a brief description of ALL the workshops presented at this year's conference, please see below:

The Hunter Institute of Early Childhood Learning presented the following "STEAM" workshops:

The “A” in STEAM” – Laurie Belle, Three Oaks Elementary School

                This workshop demonstrated how to connect art with science and math.  Participants created art projects with meaningful ties to their curriculum (using bubbles!).


Robotics 101! – Denise Defrehn and Sue Fowler, Sylvan Edge

                This was a hands-on workshop where attendees built and animated LEGO robots. It was exciting to see what they created  come to life!


The Natural Explorer: STEM Education and Early Childhood -  Dr. Laura Frost, The Whitaker Center for STEM Education at FGCU

                Dr. Frost presented on children as natural explorers.  Participants learned to nurture children's exploration through STEM activities in this interactive workshop.


Using I-pads in the Early Childhood Classroom - Sarah Molinari-Powell, Pelican Marsh Elementary

                This interactive workshop allowed participants to use I-pads while learning the “art” of incorporating STEAM into their classrooms.


Make Time for Music – Dr. Louise Patrick, Bower School of Music at FGCU

                Through active participation, attendees used their voices, bodies, movement and music to make rhymes, fairy tales, and short stories come alive. You don’t have to be a music teacher to incorporate music into your classroom!


The Best Hour of Your Life: Teaching STEM – Glen Beitmen, The Village School of Naples

                Glen, known locally as “THE Science Guy,” presented a fun workshop on STEM, including intelligent failure, high-tech/low-budget activities and comedy sports for kids.  One lucky attendee even won a year's supply of science supplies and a visit from Glen for her school!


Using PBS Learning Media in the Classroom - Mandie Rainwater, a PBS Learning Media Teacher of Distinction, and Barbara Steinhoff of WGCU

                Participants learned how to use the outstanding PBS Learning Media resources available to all online.


Puppetry for Pre-K…and Beyond! – Dr. Elizabeth Elliott, College of Education at FGCU

                Dr. Elliott presented a make-and-take workshop on using the art of puppetry in the early childhood classroom (and at home).



Our conference partners in Children and Youth Mental Health presented the following:

Collaborative and Proactive Solutions - Dr. Ross Greene, Lives in the Balance

                 In this breakout session, Dr. Greene described the basic components of his CPS model, including identifying lagging skills and unsolved problems and the three steps for solving problems collaboratively.


Breaking Barriers and Building Bridges: A Student Centered Approach to Teaching and Learning - Ashley LaMar, Royal Palm School

                  Royal Palm Exceptional School provides a combination of standards based instruction as well as instruction specific to the goals of the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) to ensure every student is actively engaged in the learning process.  This presentation showed how an innovative combination of learning centers, technology, and action based learning can work together to maximize success for every learner.


Coping with Childhood Trauma - Laura Youngfleisch, Salus Care

                  Trauma in a child’s life has consequences ranging from minor symptoms such as attention disorders and depression to schizophrenia and personality disorders. The key to mental wellness is prevention and treatment when symptoms arise. This presentation examined symptoms as well as services.


Your Guide to an IEP That Works - Clara Alevy, Parent Education Network

                   Developing and implementing an IEP (Individual Education Plan) is the equal responsibility of educators, parents, and other members of the IEP team.  This workshop explained the IEP process and the importance of parental participation.  Participants learned helpful tips for writing effective IEP goals and strategies.


Everyone Wins: Replacing Behavioral Challenges with Goal-oriented Partnerships - Dr. Doug Carothers, FGCU

                    This presentation examined positive principles of behavior management that encourage willing engagement in “right behavior.” Concrete examples were provided of the application of these principles in multiple settings including the home or school. Participant-provided scenarios were used to demonstrate the shared goal of increasing prosocial behaviors and assisting children in learning valuable behavioral skills.


Marijuana: It’s No Big Deal Right? - Dr. Jessica Spencer, Manatee County Youth Commission

                     This session offered a glimpse into the world of Big Marijuana and explored its marketing techniques. Understanding how marijuana currently affects our youth is critical to protecting the next generation from this dangerous and addictive substance.


Through Their Eyes - Tracy Anglada, BP Children

                      Attendees learned about the symptoms of bipolar disorder from a child’s perspective.  They identified common myths and misperceptions surrounding students/children with psychiatric diagnoses and how to help a child succeed by understanding appropriate interventions and accommodations.



The Lee County School District  presented the following workshops on "Best Practices" K- 12:

Understanding Children of Poverty - Polly Kiely, Kindra Pinnace and Amy French, Curriculum and Staff Development Lee School District

                     Children of poverty come to school with a variety of different needs and unique strengths. This session provided participants with an overview of the impact of poverty on student learning and actionable strategies as well.


Supporting Students and Families in the Child Welfare System - Christy Kutz, Principle San Carlos Elementary and

        Tim Kutz, Administrative Director, Collier County Public Schools

                       Thousands of children become a part of the child welfare system in Southwest Florida each year.  Attendees learned the basic laws surrounding the sheltering of children and ways to support the child, birth parents and foster family in the school setting. This session was a must for teachers, school counselors, social workers and school administrators.


Responding to Text - Gina Whidden, Melissa Ziemer and Nicole Gulli, Patriot Elementary

                        Participants learned how responding to text is the backward design of formulating a meaningful written response using text-based evidence for grades kindergarten to eight. The common language which thinking maps provides allows students to analyze the text, then unpack the prompt and dig deeper into the text by citing textual evidence.


Two Schools, One Home - Dr. Ruthie Lohmeyer, Melissa Smith, James Lindley, Marti Domanski, Kathy Hickey, Traci Budmayr and Scott

          Whittamore, Buckingham Exceptional Center and Riverdale High School

                        In order for students with severe or significant disabilities to have successful inclusion experiences in general education programming, they must display key social skills and have established friendships with general education peers. A social-skills curriculum was developed and piloted between Buckingham Exceptional Student Center and Riverdale High School. Participants learned about this curriculum and how it integrates social skills into daily or weekly instruction and includes students with significant disabilities in general education programming.


Sensitivity Awareness Workshop - Suzanne Tocci and Anthony Tocci, Patriot Elementary

                       Sensitivity awareness is a key element to fostering meaningful inclusion in any school or community setting. Participants learned that Patriot Elementary has documented substantial evidence that their Sensitivity Awareness Workshop (SAW) encourages a sincere sense of compassion and empathy in young learners.


Leader in Me - Tracy Fisher, Amy Grout, and Teresa Williams, San Carlos Park Elementary

                        The Leader in Me is a program created by Stephen Covey based upon his book titled  7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It is formatted so young students can use and practice these life-long principles. During this session, participants were given an overview of what students learn in regard to these principles and how they impact not only education, but personal lives as well.