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The Early Link Podcast

Education Podcasts

The Early Link Podcast, brought to you by Children's Institute based in Portland, Oregon, highlights national, regional, and local voices working in the field of early care and education. Written, hosted, and produced by Rafael Otto.


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The Early Link Podcast, brought to you by Children's Institute based in Portland, Oregon, highlights national, regional, and local voices working in the field of early care and education. Written, hosted, and produced by Rafael Otto.








Inclusive Early Education for All Children

In this episode of The Early Link Podcast, host Rafael Otto sits down with Liane Chappell, at the Hillsboro Early Childhood Center in Hillsboro, Oregon, to talk about Early Intervention and Early Childhood Special Education. Chappell is the principal at the Early Childhood Center, located at the Northwest Regional Education Service District (NWRESD). The goal of the Early Childhood Center is to serve kids who have delays and disabilities, and to help them make progress in the areas where they need support. Notably, their aim is to serve every child in an inclusive, natural environment – whether that’s at home, in the classroom, or running errands with their family. “I’ve always had a passion for inclusion and for wanting to see kids with disabilities be a part of their community like every other kid,” said Chappell. “That’s what has driven me throughout my time at NWRESD and even prior to that in early childhood. I’m working to see every kid be included and get the opportunities that they deserve.” We think you’ll want to hear the rest of Liane’s story. Listen now!


Nurturing Child Development Through Inclusive Stories: A Conversation with JaNay Brown-Wood

On this episode of the Early Link Podcast, host Rafael Otto sits down with JaNay Brown-Wood, an award-winning children’s author, poet, educator and scholar. She writes about stories that celebrate diversity, inclusivity, self-esteem, and learning. JaNay’s first children’s book, “Imani’s Moon,” was published in 2014 and won the NAESP Children’s Book of the Year Award, and was featured on Stephen Colbert’s “The Late Show,” and Storytime with the Metropolitan Museum of Art. During this episode, JaNay shares how her personal experiences and passion for child development and supporting children, led her to write children’s books with an emphasis on diversity, representation, and inclusivity. She also talks about the importance of engaging young children in language and how this sets the foundation for building early literacy skills. JaNay shares her creative storytelling process and offers words of wisdom to listeners about pursuing their creative dreams. Finally, she talks about infant development and her hopes and dreams for young children.


Becoming Optimistic Leaders for Children with Judy Jablon

On this episode of the Early Link Podcast, Rafael Otto speaks with Judy Jablon, founder and executive director of Leading for Children. Judy discusses her initial leap into the early learning field after working with young children at Bank Street College in New York City, an experience that piqued her curiosity and led her to a career in teaching. She shares her experiences working with educators, being a curious learner, and the importance of being leaders for children. She also talks about her book, The Five Commitments of Optimistic Leaders, and shares how early childhood educators can embrace optimistic leadership. Finally, Judy talks about how an intentional focus on equity is vital in working with adults and educators. Judy Jablon has spent more than 35 years in early childhood education, working in the classroom, and teaching at Bank Street College. Her work has focused on helping educators use their collective wisdom to support and extend learning in young children. Judy is the author of many publications and videos, including The Five Commitments of Optimistic Leaders for Children, Powerful Interactions, and Coaching with Powerful Interactions.


Taking Action to Improve Social Emotional Services for Young Children: The Power of Data and Metrics

Welcome to The Early Link Podcast. This is a special production created with our colleagues at the Oregon Pediatric Improvement Partnership (OPIP). OPIP is a public private partnership seeking to create a meaningful, long-term collaboration of stakeholders invested in child health care quality, with the common purpose of improving the health of all children and youth in Oregon. This episode explores recent developments in the health sector here in Oregon meant to improve the care for children ages zero to five. One of those developments is a social emotional health metric. This is a tool designed to shift attention to social emotional health services for children from birth to age 5 and help Oregon's Medicaid system focus on prevention and investment in young children, and the health aspects of kindergarten readiness. The other development is a data set known as health complexity data, which pulls together information about a child's medical and social conditions to better understand how systems can meet their needs. If that sounds complex, stay tuned as we break things down. In this episode, we've talked with people in the field who have gotten started using the data to help reshape community level systems so that children and families can get what they need. And some of the most exciting work is taking place where the needs are greatest. That's Douglas County, located in southern Oregon and it covers more than 5,000 square miles, from the Oregon coast reaching inland toward eastern Oregon. The data shows that Douglas County has the most socially complex children in the state, and leaders and community members have pulled together to help the systems evolve to better meet the needs of those children. We wanted to thank our guests: Taylor Dombek, the director of integrated clinical services at Umpqua Health Alliance, Colleen Reuland, the director of the Oregon Pediatric Improvement Partnership, James Lytle and Karra Crane, two parents from Douglas County, Alison Hinson, a counselor with Juniper Tree Counseling in Roseburg, and Robin Hill-Dunbar from The Ford Family Foundation. The development of the social emotional health metric began in 2018 with a partnership between the Oregon Pediatric Improvement Partnership, known to many as OPIP, Children's Institute, and the Oregon Health Authority.


Bridging Gaps and Nurturing Community through Early Learning in Philomath

In this episode of the Early Link podcast, Rafael Otto joins Abby Couture and Sunny Bennett, principal and preschool teacher at Clemens Elementary in Philomath. Abby and Sunny discuss their stories of getting started in education as well as the moments they began to realize many children were missing out on early learning experiences. They go on to describe the educational environment in Philomath, where they partner with LBCC and Strengthening Rural Families to provide more opportunities for toddlers and pre-k students. Their preschool program incorporates a unique placement within the primary school, naturally connecting young students to their early elementary progression. Abby and Sunny also share their positive experience as part of Children's Institute's Early Learning Academy, highlighting the inspiring sense of community, information sharing, and resource recommendations it provided. Participating in the academy empowered them and encouraged Philomath to engage community partners, improve practices, and foster connections among stakeholders. Sunny expressed how each meeting left her feeling empowered and ready to take on the next challenge, always leaving with a positive feeling. As Philomath's early learning journey continues, the two dream of ensuring preschool access for all students in their community. They hope to create a supportive environment where families can thrive and stay connected from the earliest years onward.


The Detour, Ep. 20: Talking About Success with Kids

In partnership with Oregon Humanities, we interviewed students in second, fifth, and sixth grades from Vose Elementary and Yoncalla Elementary to see what they think about success and where their ideas of success come from. In this episode of The Detour, we captured wit, wisdom, jokes, and meaningful conversation with some incredible young peopls. Their messages are clear, thought-provoking, and chock-full of wisdom and wit. "You don't have to be the best at it to do it, but as long as you like it, you should probably keep doing it." More about The Detour Each month, host Adam Davis and guests explore tough questions about how we live together. Conversations on The Detour connect ideas and personal experiences without looking for easy solutions. Here we find the path to understanding often takes unexpected turns. The Detour is produced by Oregon Humanities.


Toward Human Centered Education: An Interview with Ulcca Joshi Hansen

In this episode of the Early Link Podcast, Rafael Otto talks to Ulcca Joshi Hansen, interim executive director and chief program officer at Grantmakers for Education, about the need for transformational change in the education system. They discuss the importance of equity and access, the role of philanthropy in creating long-term infrastructure investment, and rethinking traditional assumptions about the public school system. Joshi Hansen also shares her thoughts on the cultural discontent and dominant worldview in education, and how returning to our humanity can lead to positive change for all. She also talks about the principals laid out in her book, “The Future of Smart: How Our Education System Needs to Change to Help All Young People Thrive,” which explores how we can build an education system to nurture the unique abilities of each child and build a foundation for a more just and equitable future.


Kali Thorne Ladd interviewed on The Jefferson Exchange

Kali Thorne Ladd, Children's Institute's chief executive officer was interviewed recently on The Jefferson Exchange, Jefferson Public Radio's daily talk show focused on news and interests across Southern Oregon and Northern California. She talks about CI's priorities for kids and public policy, what it takes to build resilience in young children, Governor Kotek's budget and the latest early childhood developments in the Oregon legislature, and more. Tune in! Learn more about the episode and The Jefferson Exchange here:


Home Visiting Provides Personalized Care to New Parents & Strengthens Families

In this episode, host Rafael Otto speaks with Jennifer Gould, who currently works as a Nurse Home Visitor for the Nurse Family Partnership program with the Multnomah County Health Department. Gould discusses home visiting programs, which are essential for many families, and provide support to new parents.


Honoring Children with Dr. Dolores Subia BigFoot

In this episode of The Early Link Podcast, our host talks to Dr. Dolores Subia BigFoot. Dr. BigFoot is a presidential professor in the Department of Pediatrics, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, and directs the Indian Country Child Trauma Center where she is recognized for her efforts to bring traditional American Indian practices and beliefs into the formal teaching and instruction of professionals working with Native populations. She is an enrolled member of the Caddo Nation of Oklahoma with affiliation with the Northern Cheyenne Tribe where her children are enrolled.


Summer Camps Foster Kids' Social Development and Peer Connection

On our latest episode, our host Rafael Otto speaks with Dr. Christian Molstrom about the opportunities that summer camps provide for kids, and some of the challenges they may encounter before they attend.


"We can't wait," A Conversation on Oregon's Early Literacy Crisis with Angela Uherbelau

On this segment of The Early Link Podcast, host Rafael Otto talks with Angela Uherbelau, founder of Oregon Kids Read, a grassroots literacy and equity group dedicated to ending our state’s literacy crisis.


Portland's Islamic Preschool Program Connects Students to Culture & Community

Host Rafael Otto talks with Jawad Khan, chief programming officer at the Muslim Educational Trust and a member of the Trust’s board of directors.


Lacey Hays on the Power of Parent Voice & Advocacy in Early Childhood

This episode features Lacey Hays, a parent and advocate in Washington County here in Oregon. She's currently co-chair for the Early Learning Washington County Steering Committee and a member of both the Preschool for All Technical Advisory Committee and the Organizing and Outreach Committees. She is working to establish Preschool for All in Washington County.


Abogando por Preescolar para Todos con Yasmin Martinez y Bridget Cooke

En este episodio, hablamos con Bridget Cooke, la directora ejecutiva de Adelante Mujeres, cuya experiencia incluye trabajar con familias y mujeres inmigrantes y organizaciones sin fines de lucro en Oregon, California y Chile. También estamos acompañados hoy por Yasmin Martinez, una madre que aboga para los niños y las familias de su comunidad, el condado de Washington aquí en Oregon. Ambas están involucradas en el esfuerzo de traer preescolar para todos los niños de tres y cuatro años y están trabajando para llevar este empeño en la boleta electoral este noviembre.


Prioritizing Early Childhood in Oregon: A Discussion with State Rep. Karin Power and Rep. Jack Zika

On our latest episode, host Rafael Otto speaks with Representative Karin Power (D), representing Milwaukie, Sellwood, and Southeast Portland (elected in 2016) – Brentwood Darlington and Representative Jack Zika (R), Redmond (elected 2018). Both have served on the House Committee on Early Childhood, Rep. Power serving as chair and Rep. Zika serving as vice-chair. Both are retiring this year amid historic turnover in the legislature and will officially end their terms in January. Both have been early childhood champions and we are grateful for their efforts over the years.


Portland's Mxm Bloc is Eliminating Barriers for Black Moms & Their Children

Host Rafael Otto chats with Rashelle Chase-Miller, an activist, author, and mom. She’s authored many articles and works in early childhood curriculum development. She is also a founder of Mxm Bloc, a Black Mxm-led mutual aid group supporting Black families and Reproductive Rights PDX.


An Update on Preschool for All Multnomah County with Leslee Barnes

Leslee Barnes, director of the Preschool and Early Learning Division at Multnomah County, joins the podcast to provide an update about the implementation of Preschool for All. Barnes is a fourth-generation Oregonian who grew up in Northeast Portland. She is a leading figure, working alongside commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson, in the development of Preschool for All which was approved by voters in November 2020.


Building an Infrastructure for Early Learning & Care with Alyssa Chatterjee

In this episode of the Early Link Podcast, Alyssa Chatterjee, Director of Oregon's Early Learning System, joins us to talk about the new Department of Early Learning and Care, and what that means for the future of early childhood in Oregon.


A Conversation with Children's Institute CEO, Kali Thorne Ladd

In this episode, host Rafael Otto speaks with Children's Institute CEO, Kali Thorne Ladd about the organization's new mission, vision, and values, which emphasize justice for children.