Promoting Self-Care For Your Staff

Now more than ever, as Head Start professionals, we are at high risk for experiencing stress, compassion fatigue, and burnout. Exposure to children and families experiencing trauma, ensuring every child’s (or family’s) basic needs are met, rising administrative demands, limited time, and competing priorities are daily realities. Still, as professionals, we show up, deliver high-quality services, day after day. But at what cost?

While we support families’ goals for better health, well-being, and education, we often neglect our plans in these areas, sending the “do as I say, not as I do” message despite our best intentions.

We have developed customized trainings, based on your program’s staff needs, that take a deep-dive into identifying areas for your professional and personal growth using sections of the Head Start Relationship-Based Competencies tool and research-based strategies to transform your health and well-being. These trainings will spark hope and give participants a real-life game-plan to be their best selves at work and at home. These training can be delivered on-site or virtually; whichever best meets the needs of your program.

As outlined in ACF-PI-HS-21-03 FY 2021 American Rescue Plan Funding Increase for Head Start Programs, ARP funds can be used for staff wellness and mental health support.

You can learn more about these and other support services online.

Please call us at (704) 277-7473 or email us at to discuss how we can support you.

On The Road Again

We are so excited to be back on the road offering in-person training.  So many of our clients have expressed the desire for in-person training and we are happy to be able to provide it.  While live virtual trainings and webinars have filled a necessary void during the pandemic there are many advantages to in-person training.

  • Your trainer has the opportunity to read nonverbal cues. They can read the audience and adapt the training to best meet your program’s needs.
  • Trainings can be more interactive. Participants have a more active role.  They can practice the content that they are learning during the training.
  • Virtual trainings can be prone to distraction. The phone may ring; someone may stop by the office, causing the participant to lose focus.
  • Team building. In-person training allows your team to come together, building comradery. They can share experiences and learn from each other.
  • Trainings should have content that is customized to the specific needs of your program. Webinars are not customized, and the information can be outdated.


We recognize that many of our clients are not yet in the position to have in-person trainings or have found that they fill a need for their program, so we will continue offering our synchronous virtual trainings.

We are currently scheduling training for both in-service and pre-service as well as live CLASS™ Observations.  For information on our training topics please contact Susan Witek at (704)277-7473 or view our services.

Creating Pathways for Economic Mobility

Family economic mobility is a core aspect of Family Well-being, one of the seven Family Outcomes in the Parent, Family, and Community Engagement (PFCE) Framework.

The Head Start Program Performance Standards state that programs must integrate parent and family engagement strategies into all services to “support family well-being” and “address prevalent needs of families” (HSPPS 1302.50). With the uncertainty and many changes surrounding the last year in our society, this support has become even more important, especially in the area of economic well-being.

The health issues of COVID-19 resulted in unemployment, reduced hours, challenging childcare situations, and other related concerns for our Head Start families. The families and children we serve, have faced economic, health and resource challenges prior to the pandemic, now our families confront a variety of additional tough situations. They need the strong and constructive support of their Home Visitors and Family Advocates more than ever.

The Essential Elements training on Economic Mobility will allow your staff to learn how to:

  1. Build capacity to support families who struggle with economic insecurity.
  2. Partner with families to set and achieve goals for financial strength.
  3. Empower their education and to inspire employment advancement.
  4. Locate resources to support further learning and development.

Through the use of the Head Start Parent, Family and Community Engagement Framework and other tools specific to Head Start families, the Essential Elements Economic Mobility training can strengthen your program and support your efforts as you work to benefit the children and families that you serve.




A Different Look at Pre-service Professional Development

classroom Pre-service season is fast approaching and here at Essential Elements, we are more than a little excited to be able to offer both in-person and virtual training for all of our training topics. Our trainers are ready to travel or meet with you virtually. We are gearing up for a very busy pre-service professional development season! We have added a few circumstantial topics to our available trainings:

  • Helping Children Feel Safe in Today’s Society: COVID-19 and Racism
  • COVID-19 impact: Strengthening Routines and Procedures as Children Return to the Classroom
  • Partnering with Families to Navigate the Challenges Presented by COVID-19


Many of our clients have identified an increased need for CLASS based training after shutdowns, staff turnover, and virtual learning. As teaching staff and children return to the classroom, there are quite a few new challenges, including within the CLASS framework. How do we continue to offer emotional support with distancing and masks? How do we support student autonomy during meals, without family style meals and the ability to have children set tables or pass out food? With cross contamination guidelines, how do we continue to offer students choice of materials?

We have worked with our clients’ program staff to provide tools and resources to continue to create high quality classrooms and learning environments within state and local restrictions and the CLASS framework. We can frame your training based on management observation and internal or external CLASS scores.

We have also heard from clients that their Family Service Workers and Home Visiting staff have struggled with partnering with families virtually, making an already challenging position much more difficult.

Consider a customized training that addresses both self-care for these amazing providers, and the challenges these professionals are facing in delivering needed services to families and children. Let’s address how to create that “bridge” for families to connect after the last year of restrictions and difficulties.

We at EE are so impressed with all of you who have continued to support Head Start and Early Head Start children and families during these unprecedented circumstances, often while struggling yourselves. Each of you are that touchstone, making a monumental difference in the lives of the children and families you serve.

For a complete list of training topics, please visit our training page.

Jump Start Your In-Service Training With A Virtual Boost

training topics For most of our clients, providing services to our Head Start and Early Head Start children and families has taken on a very different look than in the past. Some programs are operating on a solely virtual basis, others have reduced size classrooms while other have re-opened with a hybrid schedule. Many programs have re-opened only to have to shut down again due to COVID 19. All of our interactions with children and families have been impacted.

There are measurable benefits of in-service training and consistent professional development opportunities throughout the year. As new challenges arise during the year and new areas for growth are identified, virtual training sessions can help staff to tackle these challenges and address potential growth areas as they are occurring, instead of waiting for the pre-service season. 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, while addressing current struggles as they are happening.

Our trainings are customized to your program’s current needs and available in a virtual format. We have added some training topics to address the needs of our clients and the struggles resulting from COVID 19 restrictions. Below are some of our most requested topics from clients after reopening:

  • Facilitating Small Group Instruction – With social distancing requirements, much of classroom time is spent in small groups. This training focuses on the shift from whole group instruction to small groups and how to maximize teacher/child interactions while facilitating learning.
  • Helping Children Feel Safe in Today’s Society: Covid 19 and Racism – This training generates in-depth discussion while taking an honest look at systemic racism and its impact on children and families.
  • Increasing Instructional Support Scores Within a More Restrictive Environment – This training focuses on strategies to capitalize on opportunities that are available throughout the day, (even amid restrictions), to promote children’s higher-order thinking skills and increase learning, with facilitation of conversation and exploration of ideas, (asking those juicy questions!)
  • Change Your Questions Change Your Life – Examine your work relationships and communications with a new perspective. Do you approach interactions from a Learner or a Judger approach? Dig deeper to understand motivations, plan for difficult discussions, and create agendas based on goals that will open up communication, build collaboration and increase problem-solving.  (Certified Trainer).


See the training area of our website for more information on topics.


Is There Value in Conducting Virtual CLASS Observations?

CLASS observations The answer is yes! While most of us would prefer live observations, for many of our clients, this is not possible due to COVID 19 restrictions. Forgoing CLASS observations until such time that restrictions are lifted can have a cumulative negative impact on CLASS scores. Without the data that comes from comprehensive CLASS observations, data driven decision making is impacted. Teaching staff can drift from best teaching practices and the goals set forth from previous observations and coaching. Virtual CLASS observations will not only guard against drift; our clients have found the following additional benefits to virtual observations while operating during COVID 19:

  • Having access to uploaded video-taped teaching cycles adds an additional tool for Education Managers and Coaches to use when working with teaching staff on professional development.
  • More time to work with teaching staff using the classroom summaries, recommendations for improvement and video segments we provide, due to reduced class sizes and hours of operation.
  • The ability to target an underscoring content area of the day and obtain objective feedback from outside observers without bias. Meals are a prime example of a challenge directly related to new guidelines. For most, family style meals have been eliminated and teaching staff are struggling with how to implement meaningful teacher/child interactions as they pertain to CLASS during this time. We can provide feedback and recommendations on how to increase scores in this area within current restrictions.


Whether you are looking for program-wide observations inclusive of all activities during the day or want to focus observations and feedback on times and activities that are proving the most challenging for teachers, by nature of the virtual format, we can customize your observations to fit your program needs.

We are currently conducting comprehensive CLASS observations, remotely.  Programs can videotape 20-minute cycles of their classrooms and upload the videos to a secure drive, specific to your program.  Our Certified CLASS observers with extensive live observation experience and consistent reliability using the CLASS tool, will then observe and score your videos.  We will provide you with:

  • 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.

We are also available to conduct live, in-person observations for those programs that are able to invite observers into their classrooms.

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

Beyond Training

Head start services You know what our high-quality trainings can do for your program, whether it be for your teaching staff, your family service workers or your Board of Directors and Policy Council.  We can also help you with our other services.  Your time is valuable, let us help you.

We offer the following services:

  • Grant Writing. We write your grant application. First, we collect information about your program. We then write the entirety of your grant application and tailor it to your program. We’ll highlight your strengths and include all the requirements necessary in the instructions.
  • Strategic Planning. Knowing where you are going is key to a program’s success. Our strategic planning services provide an opportunity to come together, as a team, and plan for the future.  We review your program’s mission and vision (or help you create them) as well as your guiding principles.  We work together to analyze your program’s strengths and challenges.  We work with you to create both long-term and short-term goals.
  • Annual Reports. Your Annual Report should capture the activities, experiences and accomplishments of your program. We will work with you to include all information required by the Head Start Performance Standards, as well any additional information which will highlight the successes of your program.  We will highlight your program’s mission, vision and core values.
  • Wage Comparability Studies. Being competitive when it comes to salaries and benefits is important. It ensures that you can hire, and retain, the best employees.  We review your program’s current salary and benefits structure, and then compare it data collected from comparable agencies.  We go beyond collecting the data. We analyze it and explain it using charts, graphs and narratives.  Armed with this information you can ensure that your program remains competitive.
  • Community Assessments. Your Community Assessment should do more for your program than fulfill a requirement; it should be a working document. It should be a resource when writing your Refunding Application, your Recompetition Grant Application, or when applying for other grants.  Our Community Assessments are custom designed to meet the specific needs of your program or agency, while meeting the requirements of the Head Start Performance Standards (and those of your CAP or other program regulations).  We also include information on Covid-19 and it’s impact on your program and the families that you serve.
  • Policy and Procedures Manuals. We can rewrite your Policy & Procedure Manual (PDM, Program Governance & all content areas) and turn it into a user-friendly document.  The Policy & Procedure Manual will be concise, with easy to find specific policies, and procedures and reflective of the Head Start Program Performance Standards.  We recommend that the order of the Policies & Procedures in the manual are reflective of the order of the Head Start Performance Standards.  We further recommend that your procedures are kept broad enough so that your program can accomplish them without having to change the policies. It also protects you so that, during a Review, you are never caught not following your own policies.

For more information on any of these services, or to request a sample, please contact

You’ve Reopened – Now What?

head start reopening Many of our Head Start programs have reopened, with more planning to open soon.  The rules of the game have changed and very few have the playbook.   The concerns in the classroom are real:

  • With no hugs or high fives, and smiles hidden behind masks, how can we provide a learning environment that encourages emotional connections?
  • With all of the restrictions on distance and groupings, how can we remain flexible and student-focused?
  • Routines and transitions take so much more time now, how can we make the most of that time?
  • The tendency to say “no” or “stop” is real. Teachers are feeling that they are consistently redirecting children’s behaviors.  How can we frame this in a positive manner?
  • The staff is stressed; what can we do to support them?

All of Essential Elements’ trainings are now offered virtually. As Head Start professionals welcome children back to classrooms that look far different than anyone could have imagined just a year ago, we would like to help. In addition to the topics on our website, our trainers have been developing content that is relevant to the current issues Head Start professionals are experiencing as they reopen.

Below are our most requested topics from programs searching for ways to support staff as their programs reopen, as well as the issues families face while addressing the very real impact and consequences the pandemic and racial tension brought to our programs across the country.

  • Emotional Support to Foster Exploration and Learning during Covid-19
  • Remaining Student-Focused Despite the Increased Need for Structure
  • The Well-Oiled Machine – Classroom Organization
  • Managing Challenging Behaviors
  • Becoming Trauma Informed and Recognizing Secondary Trauma
  • Helping Children Feel Safe in Today’s Society-COVID 19 and Racism Becoming Trauma Informed – Responsive Caregiving
  • Linking the Classroom to Home
  • How to Have Hard Conversations with Families
  • Reflect, Renew & Reenergize: Why we Work with Head Start Families
  • Self-Care: Taking Care of Yourself in Order to Serve Children and Families

For more information, contact us.

Supporting Our Staff As They Support Our Families

Given current circumstances, now more than ever, there is a need to support our Home Visitors, Family Service Workers and Center-based Teaching staff who cannot interact with their families in the conventional manner.

We have several options for training as these valuable professionals attempt to bridge the gap created by the pandemic, between families and programs. Please consider using some of your training and technical assistance funds to support staff who previously, consistently struggled with how best to reach their families and now have to grapple with restrictions, virtual visits and limited access not only to the children and families they serve, but also to solid, concrete ways to support them.

Mentor Coaching is an excellent way to support practitioners and teaching staff as they learn to navigate through new guidelines and restrictions on how they can reach their children and families and can be done virtually. Essential Elements is currently providing effective virtual mentor coaching to our clients for both teaching staff and family service staff.

At the heart of our mentor coaching services is a trusting, collaborative relationship with each Practitioner. Together, the Mentor Coach and Practitioner are active collaborators both focused on meeting the Practitioner’s individual learning needs. This begins with a commitment to be reliable to each other and a formal agreement to create measurable and meaningful individualized learning objectives together. This safe coaching relationship remains focused on the Practitioner’s learning, change, and growth.

Our mentor coaching services will meet the mentor coaching services requirements in the Head Start Program Performance Standards.  These services will guide your Practitioners toward improved implementation of best practices in your program, within the new boundaries in place for providing services during the COVID 19 pandemic

For more information, contact us by email or phone.

Re-opening In The Midst Of New Challenges And Hurdles

As our Head Start programs begin to tackle the new school year, with ever changing guidelines for re-opening, we want to offer our support and assistance.

Many program management and staff, new and veteran, have very real concerns about the children and families they serve.

  • What have our children experienced during the shutdown?
  • How have our parents fared?
  • Can they work?
  • Have our kids experienced food insecurity?
  • Have they been safe?
  • What will we need to do and what might we be faced with as we re-open?
  • How can I support my staff as children return to us?

All of Essential Elements’ trainings are now offered virtually. As Head Start professionals prepare to welcome children and families to a new school year that is not like anything any of us have previously experienced, we would like to help. We are offering virtual trainings that address the tough topics, effects of COVID 19 and the current race inequities, discussions in our communities, secondary trauma, and virtual support of families.

We are conducting virtual trainings for pre-service on most of our training topics, however, we would like to offer you additional support. Our trainers have been developing content that is relevant to current issues Head Start professional and the families they serve are experiencing.

Below are our most requested topics from programs searching for effective ways to support staff and families while addressing the very real impact and consequences the pandemic and racial tension brought to our programs across the country.

  • Managing Your Stress: Self-Care Strategies for Difficult Times
  • Working with Challenging Families During a Pandemic
  • Becoming Trauma Informed and Recognizing Secondary Trauma
  • Managing Challenging Behaviors
  • Helping Children Feel Safe in Today’s Society-COVID 19 and Racism
  • How to Have Hard Conversations with Staff
  • How to Have Hard Conversations with Families
  • Becoming Trauma Informed – Responsive Caregiving
  • Moving from Helper to Partner
  • Linking the Classroom to Home

For more information, contact us by email or give us a call.