Join us for the fourth annual Come Learn with Us conference. This one-day event will feature full- and half-day learning opportunities for early childhood educators. This year, we will be hosting dual keynote speakers, Kim Brooks and Joel Westheimer. The conference is timed to reinvigorate, inspire, and challenge educators just before they go back for the start of the school year. Each workshop will include hands-on interactive components and highlight clear, actionable takeaways.

Click the link under each session title below to register for individual workshops or use the group form to register multiple teachers together.


  • Registration and workshop details will be available on this page in the spring

  • Participants must either register for one full-day workshop or two half-day workshops

  • Both keynote speakers are included in the price of registration

  • Registration for the conference is $115

  • Registration includes a kosher lunch from 1-2 pm

  • Group registration will be available via a separate link, along with a discount for schools sending their whole teaching staff

  • Please direct all questions to Noah Hichenberg at nhichenberg@jccmanhattan.org.

Conference itinerary




9–9:20 am



9:20–10:15 am

Keynote I - Kim Brooks


10:30 am–1 pm

Workshop I

2nd floor classrooms

1–1:40 pm

Lunch buffet


1:40–2:30 pm

Keynote II - Joel Westheimer


2:40–5:15 pm

Workshop II

2nd floor classrooms

Cosponsored by the Saul and Carole Zabar Nursery School at Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan, Teaching Beyond the Square,
Jewish Early Childhood Association (JECA), The Jewish Education Project, and The Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church Day School.



Come Learn With: Megan Madison (10:30 am–5:15 pm)
Megan Pamela Ruth Madison is a doctoral candidate at Brandeis University, studying social policy. When she’s not working on finishing up her dissertation, she works part-time as a trainer for the New York Early Childhood Professional Development Institute, the Center for Racial Justice in Education (formerly Border Crossers), and the Human Root. Before graduate school, Megan worked as a preschool teacher in Chicago. This classroom experience grounds her dual passions for education and social justice. Megan holds a bachelor’s degree in studies in religion and a master’s degree in early childhood education. She serves on the governing boards of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ).

Come Learn With: Mark Horowitz and Sonya Shoptaugh (10:30 am–5:15 pm)
Mark Horowitz is vice president, director of the Sheva Center for early childhood Jewish education and engagement at JCC Association. Mark’s roots and first love are in two-year-old classrooms, where he thrived as a classroom educator for many years. The founding executive director of the Jewish Early Childhood Education Initiative (JECEI), Mark holds a master’s degree in education from SUNY at Buffalo and received ordination and an honorary doctorate from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. He served as the executive director of the Bureau of Jewish Education of Greater Buffalo, New York; the director of education and early childhood at Temple Beth Am in Williamsville, New York; assistant professor of religion and fine arts at Canisius College in Buffalo; and as supervisor of student teachers and teacher of sociology of education and field experience, also at SUNY at Buffalo. He was awarded honorable mention at the 2002 Van Cliburn Foundation’s International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs in Fort Worth, Texas.

Sonya is internationally recognized as a leading voice in early childhood education and design. She worked at a school for low income families in Washington D.C. called The Model Early Learning Center at the Capital Children’s Museum, the only school to ever be accredited by Reggio Children, Italy. She has been featured on NPR and interviewed by Newsweek and Child Magazine, among other publications. Since 1990, Sonya has consulted, lectured, and taught nationally and internationally at such places as Stanford University, Harvard Department of Education, Columbia University, Carnegie Mellon University, and the State Department of Education. She was the creative director of Where Ideas Learn to Fly, and co-designed a Reggio Inspired exhibit based on the work of teachers in Ohio. For the past 15 years, Sonya has worked closely with Jewish Education initiatives around the country, developing a constructivist approach to Jewish early childhood education. She was a lead consultant as part of JECEI (Jewish Early Childhood Education Initiative), and now works with several major Jewish organizations to promote the lived values of Judaism in the daily life of early childhood classrooms. Sonya is a prize winning photographer, and a writer. She has co-authored numerous articles and chapters in books. She is currently working on a book about artifacts from the Holocaust and the stories they tell. For further information, please check out her Creative Childhood website, creativechildhood.com.

Come Learn With: Renee Dinnerstein (10:3 0am–5:15 pm)
Renée Dinnerstein, who has over 50 years’ experience as an early childhood educator, has taught both in Italy and the US. She spent 18 years as an early childhood teacher at PS 321, one of New York City’s leading elementary schools, was teacher-director of the Children’s School Early Childhood Inclusion Annex, and also worked as an early childhood staff developer in the New York City Department of Education, Division of Instructional Support, where she wrote curriculum, led study groups and summer institutes, and helped write the New York City Prekindergarten Standards. A past member of the Teachers’ College Reading and Writing Project Early Childhood Reading “think tank,” she taught in the project’s summer institutes and presented calendar days for kindergarten and first-grade teachers. She received the Bank Street Early Childhood Educator of the Year Award in 1999. Her book, Choice Time, How to Deepen Learning Through Inquiry and Play (Prekindergarten–Second Grade) was published by Heinemann in August 2016. You can find her blog, Investigating Choice Time: Inquiry, Exploration and Play, at investigatingchoicetime.com.

Come Learn With: Rick Ellis (10:30 am–1 pm or 2:45–5:15 pm)
Rick Ellis has been involved in the fields of early childhood and elementary education for over 45 years. He has taught infants through nine-year olds and has also worked in educational administration as a teaching coach/unit leader, mentor, administrator, and instructional computer coordinator. Trained at Bank Street College, Rider University, and The College of New Jersey, he also has served as head teacher and project director for the East Coast Migrant Head Start Project, serving infants through four-year-olds.He also participated in a weeklong seminar in the Reggio Emilia, Italy, school He teaches a course of his own design about transferring this philosophy to the American schools at Bank Street College of Education, and most recently taught this course in Stockholm, Sweden. His most recent professional growth endeavor was spending a week visiting the early childhood centers in Pistoia, Italy. He has been a staff member of Bank Street College for over 25 years and is an adjunct for Rider University, supervising student teachers.

Come Learn With: Kay Abrams (10:30 am–1 pm or 2:4–5:15 pm)
Dr. Kay Abrams is a psychologist in private practice and the parent of three young adults. She brings to us 25 plus years of experience working with children, adolescents, and families. In addition to providing individual and family therapy, her group practice, Abrams and Associates, Center for Family Psychotherapy, in Kensington and Rockville, Maryland, offers social and behavioral assessments, play therapy, teen girls groups, social skills groups, parent consultation, and marital therapy. Dr. Abrams works to bring psychology to the community through her public speaking, media work and her writing. She is the author of the "Parenting with Confidence" column in the Washington Parent Magazine. You can access many of her articles and podcasts on her website, abramsandassociates.com.

Come Learn With: Laura Sedlock and Mollie McQuarrie (10:30 am–1 pm)
Laura Sedlock has been the director of the Pre-Primary Program at Blue School in Lower Manhattan since 2014. She has worked in the field of early childhood education for almost 20 years, having taught at the Bank Street School for Children, City and Country School, P.S. 321 in Park Slope, Brooklyn, and Beginnings Nursery School. Laura was the educational director at Beginnings Nursery School from 2008-2014, and has served as an adjunct lecturer in the department of early childhood education at Hunter College. Before entering the field of childhood education, Laura taught English to adults in New York and Indonesia, where she lived for four years. She has a BA in English from Wesleyan University and a master's in early childhood and elementary education from Bank Street College.

Mollie McQuarrie is a parent, visual artist, musician, and educator specializing in aesthetic education as the Preprimary Studio and Materials Specialist at Blue School. Over the past 25 years, she has taken on many roles in education: classroom teacher, consultant, freelance gallery educator, adjunct professor, teaching artist, public school arts advocate, and arts integration specialist for public schools. Mollie holds an MFA from Queens College and an M.S.Ed from Bank Street College and believes that creativity, beauty, and fun are non-negotiable components of every education experience for every age of learner. In addition to her teaching, Mollie cooks, makes collages, gardens, hosts sing-alongs in her backyard, and plays the accordion and ukulele with the Brooklyn-based Dirty Waltz Band.

Come Learn With: Joel Westheimer (1:40–2:30 pm)
Joel Westheimer is an education columnist for CBC Radio and University Research Chair in Democracy and Education at the University of Ottawa. Author, speaker, and education advocate, he also co-directs (with John Rogers, UCLA) The Inequality Project, investigating what North American schools are teaching about economic inequality. Westheimer grew up in New York City and began his education career as a summer camp director and then middle school teacher in the New York City Public Schools before obtaining his Ph.D. from Stanford University. His books include the critically acclaimed What Kind of Citizen: Educating Our Children for the Common Good, and the award winning Pledging Allegiance: The Politics of Patriotism in America's Schools (foreword by Howard Zinn) and Among Schoolteachers: Community, Autonomy and Ideology in Teachers’ Work. He is the author of more than 75 academic and professional journal articles, book chapters, and books. He addresses radio and television audiences and has delivered more than 200 keynote speeches, nationally and internationally. He lives with his wife and two children in Ottawa where, in Winter, he ice-skates to and from work. You can visit his website at joelwestheimer.org and follow him on Twitter @joelwestheimer.