Struggling With Becoming “Trauma Informed?” We Have Solutions For Your Program.

According to NHSA Executive Director Yasmina Vinci, “Head Start is a safe haven for more than one million vulnerable children and families, many of whom are battling the storms of addiction and other traumatic experiences.” It takes courage and commitment to work with the most vulnerable children and families in our communities.  It’s not surprising that staff are seeing the impacts of complex developmental trauma in their classrooms, as well experiencing an increase in second-hand trauma themselves. Data confirms an increase in the number of families reporting involvement with child welfare agencies, alcohol and drug dependency, domestic violence, mental illness, grandparents raising grandchildren, poor health, and housing insecurity.

Are you interested in a highly interactive and custom designed training which addresses:

  • Contemporary research on the impact and effects and stress (including chronic stress) on the development of preschool children
  • The essential elements that build stress-responsive classrooms that support the development of children at high risk for negative outcomes of stress and trauma
  • The strategies that build a “culture of support” for children and staff; developing classroom community, building self-regulation skills, and managing second-hand trauma and compassion fatigue.

We currently have availability in April and May, or for your preservice, for your program to become more aware of the effects of trauma on young children and signs of second-hand trauma, increasing effective intervention strategies for staff and children in your care. Contact us for more information.


Why CLASS Observations In The Spring?

Spring is an ideal time to conduct CLASS observations. With more than half the school year over, education staff have had pre-service training, in-service training, and coaching from your Education Coordinators and specialists. Spring is the perfect time to evaluate not only where you are with CLASS scores, but what is working and what may not be, in terms of teacher/child interactions, as well as taking professional development to a deeper level.

CLASS observations in the spring, with direct feedback for opportunities for improvement, will identify areas where teaching staff need support and is an excellent way to identify your pre-service training needs.

Whether your staff are struggling with challenging behaviors, trauma informed care, maximizing available instructional time during transitions and routines, or asking the juicy questions for instructional support, this is the time to “take stock” and identify content area for staff training, before the new school year.

Our CLASS observations include a detailed summary for each classroom, program wide opportunities for improvement and growth, and a comprehensive debrief with management.

We currently have availability in March, April and May for CLASS observations and are reserving trainers and dates for the preservice season!

Making Accidental Learning Part of the Plan

Sadly, for many professionals in early childhood, we say “children learn through play,” but you’d be hard-pressed to find evidence that we believe it’s true. What I mean is, letting kids play all day long, how could we possibly meet all the HSPPS? There’re things to do, a curriculum to implement, big group-small groups, circle time, intentional teaching, assessments, snacks to serve, diapers to change, more diapers to change, and clean up, so much clean up. Sound familiar?

Are you interested in a training that focuses on developmentally appropriate practices for infants and toddlers? We dive deep into what it means to support learning through play authentically, create environments worthy of exploration, make learning visible through innovative documentation, and get real about what it means to be a grown-up.

Let’s find the freedom inside the HSPPS and put play at the center of everything we do with infants and toddlers.

Assessing Program Strengths

The New Year is a great time to assess your programs strengths and areas where there are opportunities for improvement. While it is a new calendar year, your Teaching staff, Policy Council, Governing Board, Family Service Workers, Management Staff and Support staff are halfway through the program year. This is the perfect time to take stock and “fine tune”.

If you have identified a need to strengthen family partnerships, assist teaching staff with challenging behaviors, create more effective transitions, increase Classroom Organization or Instructional Support scores or strengthen your staff’s ability to interpret data to drive instruction, the second half of the program year is the perfect time for an in-service training. Implementing trainings to address identified areas for improvement as they are occurring is far more effective than waiting for the next year’s pre-service trainings.

Don’t wait, schedule your training while the year’s challenges are current and fresh in the minds of staff.

Our most popular in-service training topics for mid-year:

  • Successfully Managing Challenging Behaviors.
  • Becoming Trauma Informed – Successfully Managing Difficult Behaviors.
  • In the Door and on the Floor – Best Practices for Home Visiting.
  • How to Have Hard Conversations (with families or staff).
  • Working with Challenging Families.
  • The “Well Oiled Machine” – CLASS-based Classroom Organization Training.
  • Asking the Juicy Questions – CLASS-based Instructional Support Training.
  • Interpreting Data to Drive Instruction.

You can learn more about our full list of training topics and services at

Please call us at (704) 451-3255 or email us at to discuss your mid-year in-service training needs for 2020!.


Top Ten Requested Training Topics

There are measurable benefits of in-service training and consistent professional development opportunities throughout the year.  People take in new information a little at a time.  While pre-service is a good time to provide staff with training, it is just a few days of the year. Consider instead of presenting a lot of information at once, creating multiple training opportunities for staff.  Creating a multi-layered plan to provide training to staff throughout the year, will lay a foundation of learning that can be built upon – a little at a time.  This allows for effective learning.

Having a comprehensive training plan for your staff is essential, but it’s not everything.  The training must also be highly engaging so that learning occurs.  We recommend utilizing a “learning by doing” training methodology.  Make your training highly interactive so that the participants experience the information that is being presented.  This results in high impact learning, in which the training participants take back the information that they learned and implement it immediately.

Our top ten most popular in-service training topics:

  • Creating High Quality Classrooms with a CLASS-based approach.
  • Implementing Science in the Classroom.
  • Becoming Trauma Informed – Successfully Managing Difficult Behaviors.
  • In the Door and on the Floor – Best practices for Home Visiting.
  • How to Have Hard Conversations (with families or staff).
  • Developing Significant and Supportive Relationships – CLASS-based Emotional Support Training.
  • The “Well Oiled Machine” – CLASS-based Classroom Organization Training
  • Promoting High Level Thinking – CLASS-based Instructional Support Training.
  • Building Effective Family Partnerships Using a Strength-based Case Management Approach
  • Early Learning Outcomes Framework – How to Naturally Integrate ELOF with Curriculum and Classroom Practices.

You can learn more about our full list of training topics and services at

Please call us at (704) 451-3255 or email us at to discuss your mid-year in-service training needs for the 2019-2020 school year.

The Data That Comes From CLASS Observations

Are you looking for someone to come to your program and conduct CLASS observations for the 2019-2020 school year? Are you preparing for a federal CLASS review?

At Essential Elements, we conduct CLASS observations for Head Start programs.  As outside observers, we have the objectivity needed to observe classrooms without the possibility of bias. Whether you are struggling with the complexity of the Instructional Support Domain, or you have discovered, that as you focused on raising scores in Instructional Support, your scores have slipped in Classroom Organization or Emotional Support, we can assist you!

The data that comes from CLASS observations is invaluable… provided the observations are conducted by objective certified CLASS observers and the CLASS tool is implemented with fidelity.

We conduct comprehensive CLASS observations that include the following items:

  • Certified CLASS observers with extensive live observation experience and consistent reliability using the CLASS tool. We have English-speaking and bilingual (English/Spanish) observers.
  • A debrief with each teacher is provided after the observation in order to give them immediate feedback (strengths and opportunities for improvement).
  • The opportunity for your Education Coordinator or Mentor Coach to sit in on the debriefings with teachers – for continuity purposes.
  • The opportunity for your Education Coordinator or Mentor Coach to “double code” with one of our observers to calibrate scoring.
  • A debrief with the Head Start Director (and your Management team if you wish) to discuss the results of the observations.
  • We will provide you with CLASS scores for each classroom observed, a written summary of individual classrooms, highlighting strengths and recommendations for improvements that can be used by your staff for professional development, and a list of program-wide issues that are causing lower CLASS scores, as well as recommendations to address and correct those issues.
  • In addition, we can offer a highly interactive and custom designed CLASS training based on the results of your classroom observations, that targets the domains and dimensions that scored the lowest in the CLASS observations.

To learn more or schedule your CLASS observation, contact Kristine Cortina at (704) 451-3255 or You can learn more about our services at

Addressing Second-Hand Trauma in the Workplace

It takes courage and commitment to work with the most vulnerable children and families in our communities. With more and more Head Start and Early Head Start programs serving higher-risk families, it’s not surprising that staff are also experiencing an increase in second-hand trauma. Data confirms an increase in the number of families reporting involvement with child welfare agencies, alcohol and drug dependency, domestic violence, mental illness, grandparents raising grandchildren, poor health, and housing insecurity. Working daily with children and families experiencing trauma profoundly affects our well-being as well as our ability to take care of ourselves and others.

This highly interactive and custom designed training will address:

  • Examine burnout, second-hand trauma, and compassion fatigue;
  • Describe how different individuals may experience stress and secondary trauma;
  • Provide an opportunity for self-assessment and personal reflection;
  • Use a multidimensional approach to prevention;
  • Explore evidence-based intervention strategies;
  • Identify signs of organizational stress and consider how to build a healthier workplace.

Becoming aware of the signs of second-hand trauma and having a toolbox of strategies to take care of yourself allows the staff take care of our at-risk children and families.

Looking for a training for your staff on “Addressing Second-Hand Trauma in the Workplace”?  Give us a call at (704) 451-3255 or email us at

Training on “Creating High Quality Classrooms”

This highly interactive training will address how to provide high quality, school readiness-focused services for Head Start children. Designing and implementing a high quality classroom requires thoughtful intention and a strong knowledge base. Of all of the “essential elements” of high quality classrooms, we find that the ones that many Head Start classrooms find challenging and need additional support include (1) Small Group Instruction; (2) Engaging Children in Conversation during Mealtimes; (3) Effective Transitions; and (4) Intentionality during Center Time.

This custom designed training will address the following topics:

  • Small Group Instruction
    Small group time can greatly benefit a child’s school readiness.  It is an opportunity for teachers to spend intentional, focused instructional time with students in specific skill areas.  We will address and model what effective small group instruction looks like in a Head Start classroom.  The key elements of small group instruction are creating groups based on need; direct instruction that is planned and based on observations and children’s data; and high levels of student engagement and interaction.  Small group time is also a critical time for teachers to assess where children are in their learning process.
  • Engaging Children in Conversation during Mealtimes
    Developing early language is essential to a child’s development as well as to school readiness. It allows children to successfully engage in socialization and learn from their natural environments.  We will focus on helping teachers develop a strong knowledge base on language development in young children. The training will empower the teaching staff in their role in supporting each child’s language development. Meals are an excellent opportunity to engage children in conversation.  We will share specific strategies to show how to effectively promote language during mealtime. Open-ended questions, repetition as well as extension and self- and parallel talk will be a part of the demonstration.
  • Effective Transitions
    Children benefit greatly from knowing what to expect throughout their day and the classroom setting demands that children move through many transitions each day. Reducing the number of transitions as well as keeping the children informed of the upcoming change helps them feel safe and in control. And, when children feel safe, they learn better and are more able to control their actions and behavior. We will leave the teachers with a transition toolkit and a variety of activities to use with children throughout the day.
  • Intentionality during Center Time
    Effective learning is achieved when children are fully engaged. This occurs when children are actively involved and energized during center time. The centers should capture children’s inquiry, promote creativity and encourage problem-solving skills. Equally important is the intention on the part of the teacher. Intentional teaching is always thinking about what you are doing and how it will foster children’s development. We will model how to interact with children during center time with children’s outcomes in mind and seek out every opportunity to help children progress on their road to school readiness.

Looking for a training for your staff on “Creating High Quality Classrooms”?  Give us a call at (704) 451-3255 or email us at

Keynote or Training: “Reflect, Renew and Re-energize … Why We Work with Head Start Children and Families

Are you looking for a keynote or training to motivate and inspire your staff regarding the important work that they do for children and families?

This highly inspiring training will focus on helping the staff remember the incredible program that Head Start and Early Head Start is… and why they have chosen to work in this exciting field.  This highly engaging training will renew our understanding of what a high quality Head Start program is as well as reclaiming the passion and joy for the important work that the staff do every day!

This highly motivating keynote or training will address:

  • Reflect back on why we got into this field.
    We will take time to help the staff remember why they work in Head Start.  The training will help them get back in touch with the joy that they experience from working with at-risk children and families.  We will reconnect your staff with the feeling that they get when a child learns something because of their efforts, when a family reaches a goal… to assist staff in getting in touch with the impact that they have in serving the children and families.  No matter what position the staff has, they are an essential piece of the puzzle to achieve school readiness and family engagement.
  • Renew our understanding of the new requirements in Head Start.
    It’s true – the expectations for Head Start staff are different than they used to be.  Because of CLASS, data-driven decision making and Recompetition, the focus for staff has changed as well as the pressure that this brings.  Staff have to collect more data and fill out more paperwork.  The reality, however, is that there are new requirements in Head Start and it’s important to accept them.
  • Re-energize the staff to accept the changes in Head Start and reclaim their passion for delivering high quality services to children and families.
    This training will let the staff know that we acknowledge that they have different responsibilities than they did in the past.  We’ll address that, because the face of Head Start has changed, there are new expectations for staff.  While these changes are numerous and challenging, they are here to stay and it’s important that we accept and embrace them.  The training will help the staff reclaim the passion they have for their job in Head Start – to remind them of why they work in Head Start and why their daily efforts are so important in the lives of young children and families.

Looking for a keynote or training for your staff on “Reflect, Renew and Re-energize: Why We Work with Head Start Children and Families?”  Give us a call at (704) 451-3255 or email us at

Creating Realistic, Specific and Measurable Goals with Families

Family Service Workers and Home Visitors are the first point of contact for our families. Establishing a good working relationship with each family is the foundation for effective work with families. Have a good working relationship with each family is key in a successful goal setting process. As staff invite each family to participate in the goal setting process, having a partnership in place with each family is essential.

We believe that individualized Family Partnership Agreements are living documents and must be reflective of the people involved in setting the goals. It is important that Family Partnership Agreements are intentional, purposeful and based on the strengths and needs of each family. Family Partnership Agreements are about the relationship with the family – not the form it is written on.

This highly interactive training is an opportunity for your Family Service Workers and Home Visitors to learn new strategies as it pertains to effective goal setting with families – and practice those skills during the training.

This practice-based training will address how to set realistic, meaningful and measurable goals as well as create individualized Family Partnership Agreements. The training includes addressing topics such as:

  • Build the relationship first. Engage and build connection with families by allowing adequate time for conversation and listening with an open mind. Hearing what families are saying is vital. It is important that staff spend time getting to know each family member as an individual and work to establish a comfort level with each one. This time allows staff to discover what the family is all about and what is important to them. The key is to begin this relationship at application and enrollment, building it consistently and authentically.
  • Initiate “rich” conversations with families. This training teaches the participants the stages of a helping relationship. Initiate “rich” conversations with families that get to the heart of where families are and where they want to be. This includes the family’s own timeline for goals and needs. Create a safe environment for parents to share their strengths and open up about areas of challenge. Know what questions to ask families in order to gain critical information to set goals.
  • Create goals that are specific, realistic and measurable. We believe that Family Partnership Agreements are not just something to complete in order to check it off of your to-do list. Family Partnership Agreements are living documents that must be intentional and individualized for each family. As this process is often something that is uncomfortable for staff, this training includes suggested language to use when setting goals with families as well as a hands-on demonstration of the process. Staff should work in partnership with parents to create goals that are realistic and measurable – and broken down into specific steps that can be attained.

Work with parents to set them up for success throughout the goal setting process. Recognize parents’ role as their child’s first and most important teacher.

Are you looking for on-site, custom designed training on Creating Realistic, Specific and Measurable Goals with Families? Give us a call at (704) 451-3255 or email us at