About the presenters
Patricia Hunter McGrath is the Executive Director/Atelierista of Branches Atelier in Culver City, California. Over the past 20 years she has developed an innovated early childhood program inspired by the Reggio Emilia Approach. From 2005 to 2007 Patricia developed the role of the Atelierista at Bold Park Community School in Perth, Australia. From 1998 to 2005 she was the Atelierista at Evergreen Community School where she developed a unique approach to children’s symbolic languages. Using clay, wire, paint, dance, etc. children enter into relationship with the materials and express, clarify and modify their ideas and theories. She also taught at the Growing Place in Santa Monica for 7 years. Patricia is an artist and has over 28 years of experience in Early Childhood Education. Patricia has taught the Reggio Emilia Class at Santa Monica College and at Murdoch University in Perth, Australia. Patricia graduated with a Masters degree in Human development from Pacific Oaks College in Pasadena, California. She also speaks at conferences throughout the United States and abroad and has visited Reggio Emilia, Italy six times. She is also a contributing author of the book In the Spirit of the Atelierpublished by Davis Press and Insights and Inspiration from Reggio Emiliaalsopublished by Davis Press.
Christina Bianchi is the atelierista, naturalist and classroom teacher at Branches Atelier. Prior to becoming an educator at Branches Atelier, Christina worked as the Program Director for The Children’s Nature Institute bringing her passions for teaching, children and promoting environmental literacy to the agency. In addition to overseeing both the design and implementation of all new education programs and curricula; Christina also worked with Development staff on grants related to program development, managed a staff of Environmental Educators and coordinated and implemented volunteer training.
Becky Zlotoff created and has taught a preschool program at Santa Monica Synagogue for over twenty-five years. She has been a California Mentor for nine years, working in the classroom with college students, supporting the practical application of good early childhood practices. For twelve years, she was a teacher at First Presbyterian Nursery School. In addition to attending many workshops about the Reggio Approach in the United States, she has been on two learning tours to Reggio Emilia, Italy. Becky has presented her work at many local workshops and at NAEYC. With Mary Hartzell and Ami Cohen, she co-authored the chapter “Parents As Partners” in Next Steps Toward Teaching The Reggio Way.
Berenice Vallejo earned her BA Degree in Early Childhood Education from Cal State Los Angeles University. During her college years, she discovered her passion for working with children. Her teaching experiences started as a volunteer in Head Start program in East Los Angeles Occupational Center. Later she became an assistant teacher at the Vine Street and Commonwealth Elementary Schools in the LA Unified School District and then a teacher in private preschools in Downtown LA. including the Infant and Toddler Program at Hope Street Friends. While taking Reggio-inspired courses at Santa Monica College, she was a substitute teacher at Branches Atelier for a year before joining the community as a full time teacher. Berenice believes that the early years’ experiences are the core foundation to a child’s future and that together parents and educators help children build strong foundations for life.
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