Though Natalie Bercik is in college, her preschool teacher still plays a major influence on her life.
"The thing that really impacted me was she really made me feel special," said Bercik, 20, who is studying early childhood education at Westmoreland County Community College. "I have a practicum now, and that's my main goal. If each child felt like I wanted them to be there, I did my job."
Bercik recalled her years at the Greensburg YMCA's preschool at the prompting of education consultant Judy Jablon, the keynote speaker at "Building Blocks," an early learning conference at the Hempfield college Friday and today.
"Every one of us wants to be that person who, in 20 years, the child says, 'I remember him,' or 'I remember her,'" said Jablon, an author and curriculum expert who has taught graduate courses in early childhood education at Bank Street College of Education in New York City.
About 50 pre-school teachers, day care workers, therapists, students and others who work with young children are attending the conference, which was sponsored by Westmoreland County's Local Interagency Coordinating Council, the United Way, the Westmoreland Intermediate Unit and the Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children.
The importance of preschool is more apparent than ever, Jablon said, citing recent research that shows most of a child's brain develops before age 5. …