Focus on Children Virtual Conference

2022 Focus on Children conference coming to you virtually through Zoom on Saturday, February 5.


The Zoom Conference link will open at 8 am.  Registered attendees can access the conference using the links below.

Please see the FAQ page for Zoom account information and requirements.

Canvas will be used for workshop evaluations, handouts, announcements, etc. See the FAQ page for information about Canvas.

If you have questions please call 360.752.8444 or email

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Keynote Speaker

Advocacy in Child Care: Opportunities for Educator Voice

Ryan Pricco - Director of Policy & Advocacy, ChildCare Aware of Washington

This training will explore advocacy – what’s happening, where you can share your story, and how. Participants will learn what is happening in Olympia and Washington D.C., and will walk away with a better understanding of how they can use their expertise to influence child care policy.

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Agenda - 6 STARS Hours/CEUs

8-8:30                 Check in via Zoom

8:30-8:40            Announcements

8:40-9:40            Keynote

9:40-10:00          Keynote Discussion

10:00-10:20       BREAK

10:20-11:50       Morning Session


1-2:30 pm          Afternoon Session A

2:30-2:50            BREAK

2:50-4:20            Afternoon Session B

4:20-4:30            Closing/Evaluations


Spanish Agenda- 6 STARS Hours/CEUs

8-8:30                 Check in via Zoom

8:30-8:40            Announcements

8:40-9:40            Keynote

9:40-10:00          Keynote Discussion

10:00-10:20       BREAK

10:20-12:35       Spanish Morning Session


1:30-3:45            Spanish Afternoon Session

3:45-4:00            Closing/Evaluations

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Morning Session



Addressing Challenging Behavior: Enabling Your Staff to Act

Jamie Ashton

Program leaders will learn strategies to build a team that works together to support all children and families. Explore ways to support staff when triggered by challenging behavior, reflect on the role of culture and staff’s expectations, and gain an understanding of the role of implicit bias in staff’s responses to challenging behavior. Core Competencies: Program Planning and Development


Doing our best: living and teaching diversity equity and inclusion

Hannah Simonetti

In a unique and difficult time in the world where we are all trying to do our best, join 하나 Hannah Simonetti for a conversation about living and teaching diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).  The first half of the session will focus on how we as educators do DEI in our everyday lives. The second half of the session will look at how we introduce, educate, and talk about difficult topics with young children and families.


Taking the Indoors Outdoors!

Laurie Saling

Are you interested in taking your learning experiences with children in the classroom into the great outdoors?  This workshop will give you strategies and approaches to embrace more nature-based outdoor learning in your early childhood program.  We will cover topics from outdoor gear, safety and risk management to nature-based curriculum planning.  Learning in the outdoor setting provides children with natural opportunities to build confidence, self-regulation and connection to the natural environment. Core Competencies: Program Planning & Development


Vroom: Building Brains from Birth to 5

Vesla Tonnessen

“Vroom” helps parents and caregivers boost their child's learning during the time they already spend together. In this workshop, you will learn how to use the website and application to turn everyday moments with children into brain building moments and deliver positive parenting messaging to the families you serve. Core Competencies: Child, Growth & Development



Afternoon Session #1:


Resilience & Hope: Building from the Basics

Kristi Slette

Research tells us how childhood trauma and exposure to toxic impact brain development across the lifespan. What does research tell us about the sciences of resilience and hope? Discuss how to increase resilience and hope in children and adults. Learn knowledge and skills that can mitigate stress responses in home and workplace settings and help you build a more compassionate response. For newcomers & those seeking review on addressing ACEs (Adverse Childhood & Community Experiences). Core Competencies: Child Growth & Development


Meaningful Family Engagement

Ray Soriano

Families are at the center of children’s development and growth, and parents are their child’s most important teachers.  How can we better connect and partner with families, especially those who continue to experience stress, challenges, and trauma?  Join Ray for an exploration of concrete strategies to engage with families from a place of compassion, inclusion, trauma-awareness, cultural humility, social justice, and hope.  Will include tips for engaging fathers. Core Competencies: Family & Community Partnerships


Children Can Be Climate Justice Activists Too!

Jamie Cho

This workshop builds on anti-bias anti-racist education to include climate justice in the curriculum. Participants will learn about the interrelated nature of climate change and social justice, as well as how to incorporate into curriculum and pedagogy in early learning settings. Core Competencies: Curriculum & Learning Environment


Beyond Themes: Moving to Individualizing the Curriculum to Meet Children’s Needs and Interests     

Kim Owen

This workshop will explore how to bring individualized curriculum to your classroom so the needs and interests of all children are included. We will look at how to make what you observe and document about individual children part of your curriculum and included in your lesson plans. During this workshop, we will practice planning activities and bring in materials to meet the needs of all children in your classroom. Bring some observations of your children so you can bring back curriculum ideas. Core Competencies: Child Growth & Development


Early Identity Development: How We Become Who We Are

Darcie Donegan

Explore how young children develop their identities--particularly gender, race, and culture.  You will also learn more about your own identity and culture as well as ways to support positive identity development in children you care for, and care about. Core Competencies: Interactions


Afternoon Session #2:


Creating a Culturally Reflective Classroom: Introducing Multiple Ways of Thinking

Kim Owen

In this workshop, we will go beyond adding materials to support diversity to exploring the multiple ways cultures view and interact with the world. We will explore different ways of thinking, problem-solving, world-views, and how to handle the inevitable conflicts that arise when people from different backgrounds interact. Attendees will gain a deeper knowledge of what culture is and how it influences the child and their family. We will explore concepts such as how to build cultural and social capital in all your students and families, and ideas for being truly inclusive of all people. Core Competencies: Curriculum & Learning Environment


Exploring and Celebrating Music and Rhythm with Young Children

Ray Soriano

Music brings much needed joy, creativity, connection, and healing, particularly during tough times…and not just for children, but for families and teachers too!  Join Ray for a fun and lively musical exploration of songs, rhythm games, and strategies that you can bring to your classroom right away.  We will emphasize facilitation, inclusion, and cultural responsiveness as we play together. Core Competencies: Interactions


Power of Ease

Kristi Slette

Learn "Ease Keys", easy and accessible practices that work with what neuroscience tells us about claiming our calm with movement and breath. Learn to increase ease as we experience daily stress that impacts our personal wellbeing and relationships. This training is trauma informed and focuses on embodiment practice that has implications for healing from trauma and working with others with trauma history. This 1.5 hour session will focus on self-regulation skill building.  You can use these skills for yourself, other adults and with children. Core Competencies: Health, Safety, and Nutrition


Animal and Zoo Cams stimulate Data Gathering and Observation Skills in Early Childhood

Janet Mock and WWU ECE Pre-Service Teachers

Readily available on the internet, animal and zoo cameras can provide young children with highly motivating opportunities to gather and represent data. The questions that children ask as they observe the animals can also give rise to various STEM tasks and opportunities. We will explore a few example Zoo and Animal Cams together.  There will be demonstrations for potential methods of gathering and displaying data suitable for young children by WWU’s Early Childhood pre-service teachers. Core Competencies: Curriculum & Learning Environment


Community Resource Navigation Training

Heidi Knickerbocker

Learn how to navigate resources, programs, and services available in Whatcom County. Participants will learn how to utilize the Opportunity Council’s online Community Resource Center ( to help families meet their basic needs, and will hear from the SEAS program about developmental resources for children with special health care needs. Core Competencies: Family & Community Partnerships




Spanish Morning Session:


How to Create an Inclusive Environment Using Children’s Literature

Carolina Olza-Kelsh

Los beneficios de la diversidad e inclusión.  ¿Cómo crear un medio ambiente inclusivo y culturalmente sensible usando libros para ninos.  Analizaremos la importancia de crear un curriculum que apoya al desarrollo de todos los niños. Core Competencies: Curriculum & Learning Environment


Spanish Afternoon Session:


Growing Up WILD

Susie Manrique, Maria Salazar & Ariana Salazar

Growing Up WILD es un programa de educación para la primera infancia que se basa en el sentido asombroso de los niños por la naturaleza y los invita a explorar la vida silvestre y el mundo que los rodea. Los participantes participarán en actividades con materiales naturales que se pueden encontrar fácilmente en el exterior. Estas actividades se pueden llevar adentro para que los niños las exploren y experimenten. También veremos ideas de actividades que se pueden crear en el interior y aún permitir que los niños exploren el mundo natural. Core Competencies: Program Planning & Development


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Get to know our presenters!

Jamie Ashton

Since spring, 2014, Jamie has been an early learning coach and trainer with Child Care Aware of Northwest Washington at Opportunity Council. Prior to that, she spent more than 20 years as a teacher and administrator in early learning programs and schools in Whatcom County. She is passionate about supporting teachers and administrators to be reflective learners and has countless years of experience training teachers and program leaders across the state.


Kim Bogren Owen

Kim Bogren Owen holds a BA in Cultural Anthropology and an MA in Early Childhood Education. She works with diverse programs representing a variety of cultures and pedagogies. She brings her knowledge and experience to the training she offers. In her spare time, she enjoys beachcombing, hiking, and spending time with her family.


Jamie Cho

Jamie Cho, Ph.D. (she/her) is a faculty member at Bellevue College. Originally from California, she has worked in the field of education as an early interventionist, inclusion specialist, teacher educator, field supervisor, consultant and researcher. Additionally, she has five years of experience as a Parent Education instructor. She has her BA in Psychology with a minor in Education and her doctorate in Special Education from UC Berkeley. Jamie is committed to social and climate justice and has been working to create systemic change within school systems through a values-driven model.  


Darcie Donegan

Darcie Donegan has been teaching ECE/ED at Whatcom Community College for over 30 years and has an MA in Human Development/ECE/Adult Ed from Pacific Oaks College. She has also had the opportunity to travel extensively and both teach and learn in many countries including Albania, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, England, Israel, Italy, and Japan.


Heidi Knickerbocker

As Opportunity Council’s Community Resource Specialist, Heidi has worked to develop a virtual Community Resource Center (WhatcomABC.Org), created new community resource guides on a variety of topics, and continues to develop new online and print materials focused on community resources, programs, and services available in Whatcom County. Heidi has also developed a resource navigation training to teach local service providers how to effectively utilize these tools to find and access resources so they are better equipped to serve their clients, and can empower clients to self-serve by directing them to these online and print materials. Heidi has worked in Opportunity Council’s Community Resource Center for three years, providing both indirect and direct client services, and has a B.A. in Human Services from Western Washington University.


Susie Manrique

Susie began her career in early learning right out of high school, working summer programs. She was given the opportunity to work with parks and recreation programs serving underprivileged children. Coming from a migrant background, she also held the migrant families and children close to her heart, and was able to work in Summer Migrant Daycares year-round. She worked in a variety of roles, from bus driver to cook’s helper and teacher’s aide. Then, she opened and ran a child care business for 25 years. She currently is an Early Learning Coach/Trainer for ChildCare Aware with the Opportunity Council. She has lived in Skagit County for 49 years along with her best friend and better half, Joe, her husband.  She has three wonderful grown children, and three awesome grandchildren! She is grateful to be a part of a team that holds close to their heart a love and respect for children and their families as much as she does.



Janet Mock and WWU ECE Pre-Service Teachers

Janet Mock has taught pre-school and elementary grades K-6. She has been working in Mathematics Education at Western Washington University since 1995. Janet considers early childhood teachers to be the most important teachers of mathematics. Pre-service teachers in Woodring’s Early Childhood Education program will do most of the presenting and will share sample work from various animal or zoo cams along with a few STEM ideas for that Animal or Zoo Cam.


Carolina Olza-Kelsh

Carolina ha dado clases a padres de familia, y proveedores por 12 años en Whatcom Communty College. Obtuvo su maestría en Educación Infantil con enfoque en diversidad cultural. Es instructora certificada en el area de Disciplina Positiva.


Ryan Pricco

Ryan Pricco coordinates all advocacy efforts for Child Care Aware of Washington and is an effective voice in Olympia and Washington D.C. for children, families and caregivers. When the Legislature is not in session, Ryan focuses on grassroots mobilization, system messaging, representing us at key meetings with state-level partners, community engagement, and policy development. Ryan holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Washington.


Ariana Salazar

Ariana was born in Nayarit, Mexico, where she attended school until grade nine. Her dad helped their family (two brothers, one sister, and her mom) get their residency in September 1998, and she started attending Mount Vernon High School. She began her career in early learning while she was still in high school, working a part-time job at Best Self at Madison School. Ariana enjoys working with people of diverse cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. She has current and previous work experience with parents and students providing educational and parenting classes, and she has been working as an Early Learning Mentor Coach for four years. Her BA degree is in Educational Administration. Little by little, Ariana states that she is reaching her goals for herself and her family. By studying and working hard all the time, she will continue to succeed. Ariana has one son, who is 14 years-old and her pride and joy. Ariana believes that by setting and achieving goals for herself, she is an example for her son to follow.


Maria Salazar

Maria was born in Mexico, with her first language being Spanish. She has lived in the United States for 20 years. Her passion for education started when she was little because both her parents and three sisters are dedicated to teaching. Since she was little, she admired her parents for the love and dedication they did through their work as educators. When it came time to decide what she wanted to do professionally, she became a teacher. Maria graduated in Mexico with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education in 1999. Years later, she moved to the United States, where she began working as a leading teacher in early childhood education programs. In 2019, she became a part of the Early Achievers team as a coach, which has allowed her to support countless families, children, and individuals dedicated to early childhood education. Maria is currently working on her Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education at Skagit Valley College. She lives in Mount Vernon, WA, and when she is not working, she enjoys spending quality time with her husband and two children.


Laurie Saling

Laurie Saling has worked in Education for almost 30 years!  Currently she is adjunct faculty at Skagit Valley College in the Early Childhood Department, Bellingham Technical College in the Parenting Education Department, and at WWU in the School of Education.  Prior to teaching at the college level, she directed and taught at The Madrona School Preschool and has been an elementary classroom teacher and school counselor.  Laurie loves to create educational programs that integrate social-emotional learning, academics and the natural world!


Hannah Simonetti

하나 Hannah Simonetti is a transracial transnational Korean adoptee who grew up in Oregon.  She has a master’s degree in Ethnic Studies from San Francisco State, and has been a practitioner of Social Justice and Diversity work in institutions of higher education for over a decade.  하나 Hannah is a mother of 2. She has spent much of her career mentors adopted children and adults, as well as working with adopted families around issues of race and equity.


Kristi Slette

K. Slette, M.Ed: Director of Whatcom Family & Community Network is a leader and trainer in mobilizing resilience in communities to promote wellbeing for children and families. Slette taught at WWU in the Human Services Program for 15 years and has been a local parent educator and coach, most recently relating to why hope, resilience and toxic stress matter.


Ray Soriano

Ray Soriano, MSW, is a parent, child advocate, college instructor, and early learning leader with over 30 years of experience that includes ECE teaching and administration, child welfare work, parent education, Head Start/ECEAP, and music education. Website:


Vesla Tonnessen

Vesla Tonnessen is the Coordinator for the Whatcom Early Learning Alliance, a former preschool teacher, and a parent of young children. She has been a user and advocate of “Vroom” for the past 3 years. She uses “Vroom” outreach to connect with families, school districts, community organizations, and healthcare providers.  She has presented on the topic of “Loose Parts Play” at previous FOCUS conferences. 


Susie Manrique, Entrenadora/Entrenadora (Coach) de Aprendizaje Temprano

Mis comienzos con el aprendizaje temprano comenzaron justo después de los programas de verano de trabajo de la escuela secundaria. Me dieron la oportunidad de trabajar con parques y programas de recreación que sirven a niños de bajos ingresos. Viniendo de un origen migrante, también tengo cerca en mi corazón a las familias y niños migrantes y pude trabajar en Guarderías de Verano para Migrantes durante todo el año. Trabajé en una variedad de roles, desde conductor de autobús hasta ayudante de cocina y ayudante de maestro.

Luego, abrí mi negocio de cuidado infantil por 25 años. Espero traer a la mesa mi experiencia. Recientemente, completé el proceso de calificación y ahora entiendo más del valor (para nuestros niños, nuestras familias) y el privilegio que es para mí ser parte de Early Achievers. Siento que podré contribuir y ayudar a mis compañeros proveedores.

Creo que invertir en nuestros niños es muy importante. Una de mis citas favoritas que guardo cerca de mi corazón lo dice así: "Los maestros plantan semillas de conocimiento que crecerán para siempre".

He vivido en el condado de Skagit durante 45 años junto con mi mejor amigo y mi mejor mitad, José, mi esposo. ¡Tengo tres hijos adultos maravillosos y tres nietos fantásticos! Estoy muy agradecida por esta oportunidad de ser parte de un equipo que tiene muy cerca de su corazón el amor y el respeto por los niños y sus familias como yo.


Ariana Santa Cruz, Entrenadora / Entrenadora de Aprendizaje Temprano

Nací en Nayarit, México, donde asistí a la escuela hasta el noveno grado. Mi papá nos ayudó (dos hermanos, una hermana y mi mamá) a conseguir nuestra residencia en septiembre de 1998, y comencé a asistir a Mount Vernon High School. Cuando estaba en la escuela secundaria era difícil aprender un segundo idioma porque hablaba español y todos los estudiantes hablaban inglés. Fue un mundo nuevo para mí. Conocí a una profesora que hablaba mi propio idioma y me ayudó poco a poco a aprender el segundo idioma. La primera vez que trabajé con niños estaba en la escuela secundaria, trabajando a tiempo parcial en Best Self en Madison School. Trabajar con niños me ayudó a mejorar mi inglés. 

Disfruto trabajar con personas de diversos orígenes culturales y socioeconómicos. Tengo experiencia laboral actual y previa con padres y estudiantes que brindan clases educativas y para padres, y he trabajado como Asesora Mentora de Aprendizaje Temprano durante cuatro años. Mi licenciatura es en Administración Educativa. Poco a poco, voy alcanzando mis metas para mí y para mi familia. Al estudiar y trabajar duro todo el tiempo, seguiré teniendo éxito. Tengo un hijo, tiene 14 años y es mi orgullo y alegría. Al establecer y lograr metas para mí, le doy un ejemplo a seguir para mi hijo. Vivo en Mount Vernon, Washington. 


Maria Salazar-Velazquez, Entrenadora / Entrenadora de Aprendizaje Temprano

Nací en México, mi primer idioma es el español y he vivido en los Estados Unidos durante 20 años. Mi pasión por la educación empezó cuando era pequeña porque vengo de una familia donde mis padres y tres hermanas se dedican a la docencia. Desde pequeña admiré a mis padres por el amor y la dedicación que hacían a través de su trabajo como educadores. Cuando llegó el momento de decidir qué quería hacer profesionalmente, me convertí en profesora. Me gradué en México con una Licenciatura en Educación Primaria en 1999. Años después, me mudé a los Estados Unidos, donde comencé a trabajar como maestra líder en programas de educación infantil. En 2019, tuve la gran oportunidad de formar parte del equipo de Early Achievers como entrenador, lo que me ha permitido apoyar a innumerables familias, niños e individuos dedicados a la educación infantil.
Actualmente asisto a Skagit Valley College porque mi objetivo profesional es tener una licenciatura en ECE. Vivo en Mount Vernon, WA, y cuando no estoy trabajando, disfruto pasar tiempo de calidad con mi esposo y mis dos hijos.

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  • Zoom Information

    How do I sign up for Zoom?

    You can sign up for a free Zoom account at  Use the same email address that you used to register for the Focus on the Children conference

    Do I have to have a webcam to join on Zoom?

    No, but you will need either speakers or a headset connected to your computer or mobile device

    Requirements to use Zoom

    • An internet connection – recommended at 1.5Mbps/1.5Mbps (up/down)
    • Computer or mobile device like a tablet or a phone that is connected with a cable or WiFi to the internet
    • Web browser – Firefox, Chrome, Safari or Edge
    • For the best Zoom experience we recommend downloading and installing the Zoom client

     Additional information

    Link to Zoom FAQ

    Frequently asked questions – Zoom Help Center

  • Canvas Information

    Canvas will be used for workshop evaluations, handouts, announcements, etc.

    Canvas Instructions - Your username is your full SID# and your default password is the first 8 characters of your last name (for short last names, repeat from the beginning until you reach eight). Please note that you may not see the class in Canvas until closer to the start date.

    • Log in to Canvas
      Username: your full ctcLink ID number (EMPLID)
      Password: your ctcLink password (you create this when activating your ctcLink account)

    • Visit the my ctcLink account page to activate your account or change your password.
      Select “Activate Your Account” to activate your ctcLink account and set up your password.
      Select “Password Help” then “Reset Password” if you have forgotten your password. 

    •  Take the Canvas 101 tutorial course for a quick introduction to Canvas.

    • Contact eLearning at or call 360.752.8555 if you need help.

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