Dr. Rebecca Isbell’s Blog

I recently returned to my special place in the mountains and I reflected on how I came to love and appreciate nature and beauty.

When I was a young child, my favorite and frequent outing was to travel to the Smoky Mountains National Park about an hour from my home. The best part was jumping from rock to rock in the mountain stream that ran through the Chimney picnic area.  We would sit on boulders in the middle of the stream and eat my mother’s pimento cheese sandwiches. I was not a coordinated child, but I loved to jump from rock to rock often landing in the cold mountain water. I was never scolded for my missteps. My dear mother simply always came equipped bringing little Becky a complete change of clothes, so when the inevitable happened, she was prepared.

I was blessed to have loving parents who took me to the forest, parks, and lakes instilling in me a love for the natural world.  When we saw a beautiful site, a massive tree, a blooming flower, a fern, or a waterfall my father would always say “Take a picture in your mind of this and you will have it with you forever.”

Today I returned to that mountain stream that I took a picture of over 50 years ago. I was amazed that the picture that I often remember was the same one I had carried in my mind since that time.

Young children need to experience, explore, and treasure the outdoors and all its beautiful splendor. And that love will last them a lifetime.

Share the outdoors with a young child!

As we are getting ready for a new school year, it is important for us to think about the first impressions we make on our children, their parents, and our coworkers.

I was reminded of this critical truth this past week before I did the Keynote for the Michigan Lutheran Early Childhood Conference.  When I was first contacted by Travis, the Superintendent of the Lutheran School District in Michigan, I was impressed by his kindness as he tried to make my experience pleasant and demonstrated his concern to provide a quality professional development opportunity for his early childhood teachers. It was heartwarming to witness his sensitivity toward me as well as his teachers.  We had been communicating by email for over a year, making sure the theme, times, and arrangements were all going to work well.  Each of these interactions was positive and helpful.

I knew this was going to be an amazing conference because of the first impressions we had established in our communications.

When I arrived in Lansing, Michigan, Travis picked me up at the airport–smiling and helpful–and delivered me to my hotel. The next morning his wife, a delightful kindergarten teacher, drove me to the conference site.  I found that the early childhood teachers attending the conference were excited about the New Year, responsive to my invitations to participate, and filled with joyful expectations for their young children. We talked, shared a meal together, and told early childhood stories that made us laugh.

My positive anticipation for this conference was set by my first impressions of Travis. The teachers, the conference, and the setting were wonderful, just as I knew it would be.

Remember: When we first meet our children, talk to their parents, or join your coworkers, their first impressions of us will be established by our helpful words, personal warmth, and supportive behaviors.  Start off positively and keep the flow going!

Have a wonderful year and celebrate your creative young children!

It has been a busy month working with diverse Early Childhood Programs across the country from Texas to New York to Michigan.

At each program, I found the place and people were unique and very interesting.  At Humble School District in Texas, an energetic team was led by Jennifer who, with her dedicated team, planned and implemented an Academy for their PreK programs from 18 different sites. The Conference was held in a new middle school that was so beautiful, sleek, and massive. I was so encouraged working and interacting with these warm and responsive PreK teachers. They were so focused on finding ways to nurture young children’s thinking and providing a language-rich environment during the critical early years.  Together we explored many possibilities for integrating these 4C’s into their classroom. This strong program and dedicated teachers in Humble will have a positive impact on many young children in TX this fall and for many years.

In Grand Ledge, Michigan, we explored the skills needed for young children to thrive in the 21st Century: Creativity, Communication, Collaboration, and Critical Thinking. We suggested another important C: Confidence, which requires trying new things, taking risks, and being persistent. The capable director of this program is Breanna who was assisted by Maria and Devon. Throughout the day these amazing educators participated in small group activities that demonstrated how thinking and language skills could be integrated into their early childhood classrooms.

In one hands-on activity, participants were asked to create something from the ingredients of a clear plastic bag containing a collection of open-ended materials: a straw, pipe cleaner, PVC elbow, piece of ribbon, a nut cup, rubber band and a small twig.  These creative teachers came up with original ideas and confidently shared them with us. We ended the day with humorous stories about our experiences while working with young children. We explored the meaning of some funny recent happenings and laughed and laughed. An early childhood teacher needs a great sense of humor, and these teachers certainly had this important characteristic. The young children in these classrooms are getting off to a great start, which will last a lifetime.

When flying back home, I reflected on my wonderful adventures with these Early Childhood Teachers.  It was amazing to acknowledge our shared vision and celebrate each teacher’s importance in the lives of young children.

Together we can change our world, one child at a time!

Our brain is working, sorting, and making connections all day long. My world, like yours, is filled with creative work, in-depth projects, and many personal responsibilities. Some include: books to be written, selecting words to explain ideas, using conversations to build relationships, and presentations to develop. These diverse tasks are so time consuming that few moments remain for thinking creatively or nurturing an interesting idea.

Much of the literature on creativity emphasizes the need for us to take a break from all the busyness that keeps our mind on high alert, running on adrenaline, and stressed out from our high expectations. It is difficult to find a way to relax our mind, clear our heads, and experience the joy in the moment.

For the past two weeks I have had the incredible opportunity to relax, not think about deadlines, and to take in the beauty of a new place… Portugal. There is something about being in such a beautiful place, surrounded by ornate architecture built thousands of years ago, unique hand painted pottery, delicious and fresh food, and interacting with interesting people that helps relieve the stress and put our lives in perspective.

By the time I returned home my creative juices were flowing, and new projects were developing in my brain.

If you can’t go to Portugal, you can find a quiet place and take some time for yourself in a National Park, forest, or even your own backyard where you can clear your mind, turn off the phone, and simply enjoy the beauty around you. This quiet time will allow you brain to unwind, delete unnecessary junk, and open your senses to the amazing world around you. This break will give you renewed energy, and new ideas that you have not experienced in a while. You will be amazed at your creative possibilities that are lying dormant, but rise to consciousness when given a break!

I often encourage teachers, my students, and colleagues to take some time off during breaks. If you are going to work during the break, take a few days to disconnect and immerse yourself in a different environment.

After that relaxing down time you will feel better, be filled with more creative possibilities, and finish the project you wanted to complete!

Take a brain break!

The Terri Lynne Lokoff Child Care Foundation honored 50 preschool teachers this past week in Philadelphia, PA. These award-winning teachers experienced an amazing weekend in a luxury hotel with incredible food and a festive Award Ceremony that celebrated the recipients. All of this was planned and implemented by the foundation established by Kay Lokoff in honor of her daughter who was an early childhood teacher. Today, the foundation is led by Jamie Lokoff, with his brother Robert, Sharon Bell, and a small team of competent people who have been involved since 1987.

It was my honor to be the speaker for the teacher’s breakfast and the Keynote for the Award Ceremony.  I knew this was going to be a wonderful experience for me afterall – these are my people! However, I was not prepared for how magnificent it actually was! I understood this would be a transforming experience for these early childhood teachers who are seldom recognized for their important work and their powerful impact on young children and their families. This weekend was a wonderful tribute to each of them for the important work they do.

On Saturday morning, I had the opportunity to listen to these impressive early childhood teachers speak about their work and describe the brilliant projects they had submitted as part of the application process. The 50 teachers selected for this award received a $1,000 grant with $500 to be used in implementing their projects in their classroom. The projects ranged from a Sensory Outdoor Playground, to Art Shack, and to Literacy Materials.  The other $500 in the grant was awarded to the teachers to acknowledge his or her dedication as a child care teacher. I was shocked when the teachers talked of getting their car fixed or paying a long due medical bill.  If they were paid the wages they deserve, this would not be the way to spend their awarded money. Whatever their choice was, however, I am sure it will be used well and appreciated.

The Terri Lynne Lokoff Family and Foundation have chosen to turn the terrible loss of their beloved daughter and teacher into an amazing celebration each year for a special group of early childhood teachers. To these award-winning teachers, this celebration has clearly demonstrated that their work and dedication is appreciated not just by their parents and young children, but by the National Child Care Teacher Awards! This designation will build their confidence in their abilities and inspire them to mentor other early childhood teachers. Jill M Corea was selected as the 2019 Preschool Teacher of the Year.

These 50 marvelous early childhood teachers will always remember this important day at the 2019 National Child Care Teacher Awards. My own life was enhanced by meeting these amazing teachers and working with the Foundation’s Family who chose this miraculous way to remember Terri Lynne Lokoff.

Thank you for including me,


 Please visit their website to learn more about this wonderful foundation and the application process: https://www.tllccf.org/




This past weekend I had the opportunity to see effective collaboration in action in Birmingham, Alabama.  A team of professionals from Childcare Resources were guided by a competent and caring leader, Amy Bradley. These women worked together to plan and implement a quality conference that provided professional development to many early childhood educators.

Collaborative groups share responsibilities, adapt and adjust to changes, and communicate to each other about their important contributions in their roles. It was great to observe all these things occurring during the conference. The participants at the conference felt the positive attitudes of the group, saw their effective organization demonstrated, and appreciated the sessions in the program.

How wonderful it was for me to do the keynote on 21st Century Skills which included the 4C’s – while observing Collaboration working so effectively!

As we plan professional development opportunities for your early childhood educators we need to strive to be a collaborative team – just like this fabulous group in Birmingham!

Remember the 4 C’s: Creativity, Communication, Collaboration, and Critical Thinking!

Carmen Albert, Gwenn Elmblad, Dr. Rebecca Isbell, Eva Hatfield and Corey Holcomb

I am just back from the Upper Peninsula, Michigan, where I provided the keynote and closing session for a wonderful early childhood conference – IMPACT: Instilling More Play and Creative Thinking – held at Bay College in Escanaba.  Lake Michigan was frozen but the early childhood educators at the conference were so warm and welcoming to me! The morning of my keynote we experienced an April snow – but these MI folks did not let the snow stop them!  They came, participated, collaborated, and were inspired by the excellent sessions they attended.

This conference was organized and implemented by a seven-person board. It is truly amazing what a small group of people can accomplish when they are hardworking and dedicated.  This was clearly demonstrated as these professionals shared a mission of supporting young children, their teachers, and quality programs through professional development.

One of my favorite things at conferences is chatting with the early childhood educators during the day, at lunch, and after sessions. They share their interesting stories with me about their work and ways they interact with young children.  I learned about infant teachers who respect the preferences of babies, preschool teachers who recognized the creative potential of their children, a director who strives to hold all the pieces together, and a Children’s Museum director with fascinating ideas. What a wonderful profession I am in, with so many creative and dedicated people!

I am thankful that I had the opportunity to communicate and collaborate with such special people.

A frequent suggestion for strengthening your creativity is to “do something you have never done before.”

So, inspired by the quote, I have decided to do something new and different – something I have never done before! I am participating in an ALL ONLINE Conference, “Transform Challenging Behavior” developed by Barb O’Neil.

Barb interviewed me and videotaped our conversation which will be shown during the April 3-9, 2019 conference. We discussed the importance of the development of creativity in today’s young children as well as few other topics including storytelling to young listeners.

It was an interesting experience, but the knowledge that the video would be seen by thousands was daunting. It is indeed challenging to try something new, but we benefit from the challenge and the experience.

Here’s a preview from my video:

Watch me on my very first online conference and let me know what you think and the questions you want to discuss. The conference is free, and it is just a click away!

Let’s grow more creatively every day and see you in “cyberspace!”

As we move into 2019, we have the opportunity to think about this New Year and decide how we can nurture our own creativity. In all aspects of our lives we can stretch our thinking, try new things, and find joy in the small happenings.

Ten ideas for nurturing your creativity in this new year:

  1. Notice the beautiful things in your world: Succulent plants, 3D-art or sculptures, a pattern in a scarf or wall hanging, a bow in a child’s hair, and the shining stones during a walk. (So many beautiful things if we take the time to see!).
  2. Carry a “thinking journal” with you wherever you go: Each day hundreds of ideas and possibilities fly though our conscious mind—only to be last forever because we have not documented it. If you have a small notebook or journal with you it makes it possible for you to catch and keep the idea!
  3. Wear something you have never worn before: Patterned socks, a unique hat, a brightly colored stole, or something in your closet that you thought were so beautiful, but you never had the courage to wear it.
  4. Create a quiet place in your environment where you can read, think, listen to music, or meditate. It can be a tiny, tiny space but it should contain things that you love and bring you joy. Of course, you need a comfortable place where you can lounge. Make it a habit to visit this quiet place every day.
  5. Read a book, blog, or article that will stretch your thinking: Perhaps a new topic or something you have always been interested in but couldn’t find the time to explore.
  6. Reflect on your day: At the end of your day, when things have finally quietened down, reflect by focusing on moments and events that were special, made your heart sing, and built your creative confidence.
  7. Find time to play with children, family members, or colleagues: Play is intrinsically motivating, and it allows us the freedom to try new ideas without fear of failure. After all, play is pretending, imagining, and exhilarating.
  8. Reconnect with a friend, colleague, or relative that has a positive attitude and has many amazing ideas. Collaborating with a creative person will ignite new ideas and possibilities for you. Brainstorming with others often produces a path to opportunities that you might not have generated on your own.
  9. Identify music, recordings, stations, and instruments that lift your spirits and inspire you. Listen to these when your spirits are down, or when you are thinking of having a “pity party.” Sing along, tap your toe, or just enjoy listening.
  10. Recognize that you are a Creative person filled with amazing ideas and unique opportunities. When something occurs that reminds you of your creative capabilities, treasure it, write it down, and celebrate your special talent.

As we work with young children and colleagues each day, we are demonstrating what an innovative thinker looks like. We model behaviors that show creative thinking, and we gain confidence in our creative abilities.

May 2019 be filled with Creativity and Joyful Learning!