Learning Leader

Revolutionizing Infant-Toddler Care in Texas

For years there was a void in infant-toddler care. The availability and quality of programs varied greatly making it difficult for all programs to receive equal opportunities for technical assistance, professional development, and collaboration.

In 2019 the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) sought a partner to establish an Infant-Toddler Specialist Network (ITSN) in Texas. This would allow Texas, for the first time in its history, to have a network dedicated to not only improving infant and toddler care, but also programs, specialists, teachers, and directors through professional development. It is not a secret that the Children’s Learning Institute (CLI) cares about child development, so when TWC awarded us with the grant, we got to work establishing the Texas ITSN.

A key component to CLI’s proposal for the Texas ITSN was the inclusion of Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), groups of professionals that meet to share expertise and work collaboratively to improve skills and knowledge in their practices. These PLCs are crucial to the professional development of infant-toddler caretakers and specialists, providing topic-based small group coaching designed to meet the needs of participants. As research conducted by CLI and others demonstrates, individualized coaching is a promising strategy for improving the quality of children’s learning experiences. For instance, coaching models have been linked to gains in educators’ self-efficacy and can increase teachers’ use of effective instructional strategies, which, in turn, may help teachers to feel more effective and reflective in their teaching practices.

Depending on the specific needs of participants in various education settings, PLCs are organized to best support their ongoing practice. In the Texas ITSN, we use PLCs as online meetings with eight people that are facilitated by an early childhood specialist who is dedicated to their ongoing professional development. Each PLC will cover an array of topics and attendees will have opportunities to review content, reflect on their own practices, discuss challenges, and share solutions. They will also have opportunities to discuss how to plan for and apply new strategies. CLI conducted a pilot of the ITSN teacher PLCs in Spring 2020, with very positive feedback from teachers.

“I think this is an amazing opportunity for teachers to learn new skills and ideas.”

“I loved it. Thank you.”

“This PLC was informative, and I got to hear what other teachers were implementing.”

“I can’t wait to see what other new things I can learn to implement in my classroom that will help a child with their milestones.”

After months of work, and a pandemic working against us, the Texas ITSN virtual doors are now open for business and ready to recruit and elevate care across the state of Texas. Currently, there are three programs available that infant and toddler caretakers can join.

  1. Our Teacher Program was crafted for teachers and directors. Centers can join this program to increase their knowledge, improve their skills, and get access to valuable tools and resources that include:
    • Professional development courses and webinars through CLI Engage
    • Access to PLCs that network participants with a group of peers in the field
    • Clock hours for continued education
    • Opportunities to earn participation-based incentives, such as a tablet, priority registration to 2-day Foundations Training, classroom kit, and stipend

  2. The Specialist Program was designed to build specialists' knowledge and skills so that they can support teachers better than ever before. The benefits to specialists include:
    • Professional development courses through CLI Engage
    • Clock hours for continued education
    • Access to PLCs for training, support, and networking opportunities
    • Unlimited access to webinars

  3. Joining our Certified Member Program allows specialists to take the next step up in aiding programs and teachers across the state of Texas. Only 45 slots are available at this time to become a certified member. When joining this initial and influential program members will receive:
    • Professional development courses through CLI Engage
    • Clock hours for continued education
    • Access to PLCs for training, support, and networking opportunities
    • Unlimited access to webinars
    • Additional advance-track trainings
    • Recognition on the ITSN and TECPDS websites
    • Free account on the Texas Trainer Registry
    • Access to facilitator guides, PowerPoints, and many other resources to enhance trainings and coaching sessions

We are just at the start of the ITSN and cannot wait to get deeply involved with caretakers across the state of Texas to revolutionize infant-toddler care.

To learn more or join ITSN, view the Texas ITSN webpage.


visit ChildrensLearningInstitute.org



Children's Learning Institute at UTHealth
7000 Fannin, Suite 2300, Houston, TX 77030

© 2015-present The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
All rights reserved.