Beginning with the lovely reception that had great food from Corner Kitchen Catering, Rhubarb, French Broad Chocolate, wine from Biltmore Wines and beer from New Belgium, all of the attendees had a great time, chatting with one another and enjoying the relaxed atmosphere.
This was followed by great speakers, including an introduction by Charlie Owen, and a video message from Governor Roy Cooper. The Keynote Speaker, Dr. Kathleen Gallagher was absolutely engaging and informative, spending nearly 45 minutes revealing to the audience how early childhood education impacts not only the child, but the family members, their neighbors, the community and ultimately, society.
One of her biggest points was that low-income children hear about 30,000,000 (yes, that's MILLION) fewer words in their first 5 years than their peers of greater economic means.
While Dr. Gallagher spoke mainly on a national level, there was a panel of five local experts int he field of early care and education to discuss the issues in North Carolina, and specifically, Western North Carolina.
Sheila Hoyle, Greg Borom, Amy Barry, Philip Belcher, and Jennie Eblen all spoke to the issues related to limited funding in this area, a shortage of high quality teachers in the area, and the low pay rate that is keeping schools from having an early care and education curriculum, as well as limiting people's ability to remain in this profession. All of this is impacting parents who want to return to work or school, since there are not enough slots available for children to receive early care and education. This is thus, impacting our economy in a serious way.
Gallagher was a long time professor at UNC Chapel Hill and is currently the Endowed Chair of Early Childhood Education at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. She has conducted early childhood education research for more than 30 years.
“We hope this educational forum will increase public understanding of the critical importance of the first 2000 days of a child’s life while outlining some of the challenges and possible solutions regarding quality, access and availability of early care and education in WNC,” said Verner Executive Director Jacque Penick in a statement. “The quality of early experiences a program provides can enrich the life of any young child, but for children living in poverty, it can be transformational, and we have reached a critical tipping point in Buncombe County.”
Verner Center for Early Learning is a early childhood education program serving nearly 300 children birth through 5 years in Buncombe County. It focuses on evidence-informed, innovative practices, highly trained teachers, and engagement of families and community. Visit www.vernerearlylearning.org.
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