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March 21, 2024

Breakfast with a Purpose

Beth Duda, director of the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading

The excitement was palpable on a Saturday morning when 200 early learning educators gathered at the Manatee Performing Arts Center with the aspiration of improving the transition to kindergarten. Big smiles were evident as individuals entered the lobby, well ahead of the 8:00 am arrival time. While holding the door for me, Kelly*, a preschool teacher, said, “There are not many things that get me out this early on a Saturday, but I just love these breakfasts. They are always so worthwhile.”

A child’s transition from pre-K to kindergarten is an important time. It builds the foundation for academic, behavioral, and social skills and can be instrumental in establishing positive family-school connections. Studies done by the national interdisciplinary early childhood research network, the Early Learning Network, show significant misalignment in experiences children have in pre-K and kindergarten classrooms. These studies show complex governance systems and a lack of interagency collaboration as the cause of this misalignment.

Manatee County is actively addressing interagency collaboration. Manatee County’s Early Learning Task Force made up of representatives of Manatee County Schools, Step Up Suncoast, and the Early Learning Coalition of Manatee County, invited pre-K teachers, pre-K administrators, and kindergarten teachers to come together to learn new information, explore resources, and continue to build relationships. A partnership with the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, generously funded by The Patterson Foundation, provided a delicious breakfast for everyone in attendance. The content of this meeting centered around summer learning. The Early Learning Task Force plans these mornings with great intention. The seating arrangements have pre-K educators placed with kindergarten teachers from their same neighborhoods, the table decorations include resources that can be taken back to the classrooms, the speakers are highly engaging while sharing actionable content, and there is plenty of time built into the schedule for table mates to get to know each other while working together on planned activities.

I visited several tables to gather feedback for use in this blog post. Here is a sample of what was shared:

  • “I love these breakfasts. We are building community and building knowledge.”
  • “I get new ideas every time I attend. The first time I came, I didn’t like that we couldn’t sit with our friends. But, by the time the morning ended, I was like, ‘duh’! We get stronger because we’re makingĀ new friends. Now, I look forward to seeing everyone.”
  • “I love the resources that are shared. My whole class benefits from the three hours I spend at the breakfast.”
  • “We all come together because we care about the very same thingsā€¦the success of our children and families.”
  • “We get “free stuff” and sometimes an incentive from the ELC of Manatee County. Those things get me out of bed, but it’s the content and relationships that keep me coming.
  • “I want to thank The Patterson Foundation. These breakfasts give us a chance to share our real experiences. No matter what the event, if The Patterson Foundation is involved, we know it’s going to be “top-drawer.

Manatee County’s Early Learning Taskforce has found an effective way to get pre-K and kindergarten teachers to interact, share information, and explore ways to strengthen family communication through their “Breakfast with a Purpose.”


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