2019 Keynotes

Visit our YouTube channel to view keynotes from previous Summer Institutes.

2019 Day 1: Living a best life: The roles early intervention and community supports play over the life course

View this keynote on our YouTube channel

Anyone working in early childhood knows experiences matter. They influence children and adults alike in making both big and small choices. They color how we engage with the larger world and pursue living our own “best life.”

In this session, we had the opportunity to hear from daughter-father duo, Amanda McDowell and Jeff Schissler. Amanda and Jeff shared their respective experiences in navigating various education and community support systems, and how these experiences have supported or challenged Amanda’s pursuit of her best life. As well, Rita Wiersma, Executive Director of Community Involvement Programs (CIP,) offered insight to the role this non-profit organization plays in supporting students currently in or those that have transitioned out of the education system to experience living their best lives.

Amanda McDowell

Amanda McDowell

Amanda McDowell was born in Minnesota, and raised in Wisconsin; she was born with a severe form of Spina Bifida. Following high school graduation in Wisconsin, Amanda returned to live in her home state of Minnesota. She enrolled in and took courses at the Minnesota School of Business. Putting her post-secondary training to use, Amanda was hired by the Advent Lutheran Church in Anoka, where she currently serves as a part-time administrative assistant. Her successful pursuit of her living her “best life” earned her Community Involvement Program’s (CIP) Greatest Life award. This award is given to one client annually in recognition of that individual’s ongoing pursuit of and engagement with self-identified, meaningful life goals. As a part of living her best life, Amanda loves volunteering at Feed My Starving Children, and advocating for people with disabilities. Amanda and her husband live in Anoka, Minnesota.

Jeffrey Schissler

Jeffrey SchisslerAmanda’s dad, Jeffrey Schissler, is an active supporter not only of Amanda, but for the youth and families in his community as well. A graduate of Anoka Ramsey community College, Jeff owns and operates Esultants Web Services. He serves as the Board Chair for the non-profit Osiris Organization. Its mission is to provide life-enhancing skills for youth and families through computer technology and entrepreneurial outreach programs. Jeff has coached football in Blaine, Minnesota for the last 14 years, and been a Lions Club member for the past 15 years.

Rita Wiersma, CEO of Community Involvement Programs (CIP)

Rita WiersmaFor 25 years Rita have been an active member of the disability community. What began because of being the parent of someone who happens to have a disability became a passion for service to people who deal with the social injustices of living with a disability or mental health issue.

While Rita has worked for school systems, county government and multiple nonprofits, her passion is to address and advocate for the systems that support people to live full lives in their communities as defined by them. Rita has been the CEO of Community Involvement Programs for almost four years. During her time with CIP she has focused the agency on helping people live their greatest lives and developing a talented workforce.

Prior to moving to CIP, she was the Executive Director of Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan for eight years. Rita is a Board Member for the ANCOR Foundation, active in Lutheran Services of America Disability Network and local ARRM efforts. She has also served as a board member of MN-CCD and PACER Center and has testified to the Medicaid Commission in Dallas, the Administration on Community Living in Detroit and for local legislative issues.

2019 Day 2: When the work matters…Attending to our emotional intelligence matters even more

View this keynote on our YouTube channel

We come together for professional development and learning because we seek a change. A change from the status quo and toward a vision we have. An overly simplistic view of change suggests that all we need is a vision, skills, incentives, resources, and an action plan. But even with these, why don’t we always see a change in practice.

Some blame the professional development we design and deliver. Others blame the lack of good leadership. Others blame the teachers and providers who staff the front lines. But even with professional development that adheres to all the research has to offer…even with a resonant leader…even with a passionate provider, we often come up short when we compare our actual practice with the ideal. Why?

One reason is that we haven’t considered the role of emotional intelligence in getting to a change in practice. We haven’t factored in that adult professionals, like children, need ongoing professional support for their own social and emotional learning. And maybe most importantly, we haven’t systematically attended to the emotional intelligence of adult professionals.

The good news is…there is a solution!

Pulling from research on resonant leadership, appreciative inquiry, and neuroscience, there are specific strategies for raising our emotional intelligence (EQ) that will allow us to implement recommended practices and achieve our desired outcomes. During this session, we explored five EQ skills and practical strategies for strengthening them. Participants left with a greater sense of how they can see the child behind the behavior, see the importance of nurturing the child’s wholeness, and be inspired to engage in their work with a new sense of hope.

Kristie Pretti-Frontczak

Kristie Pretti-FrontczakDr. Kristie Pretti-Frontczak is a {r}evolutionary speaker, researcher, and impassioned play advocate serving early childhood educators who are ready to transform their practice. Through podcasts, blogs, practical resources, and trainings, she supports the mind, body, and heart of early childhood education teams. Her work centers on raising their emotional intelligence and {r}evolutionizing early care and education by creating kinder, more equitable, and more inclusive schools.

When Kristie’s not speaking or creating solutions, she’s hanging out in her log house with her husband of 28 years and their dog Izzy.