OCDE’s Early Learning Summer Institute prepares educators for incoming transitional kindergartners

The OCDE Early Learning Services team attends the Early Learning Summer Institute.
The OCDE Early Learning Services team attends the Early Learning Summer Institute in June.

By September of the 2025-26 school year, every 4-year-old in the state will be eligible to enroll in a public school transitional kindergarten program, according to the California Department of Education. 

In order to meet this need for developing early learning programs for preschool-age children, the Orange County Department of Education recently shared with educators and community partners how to best serve the youngest cohort of students at its Early Learning Summer Institute. 

Organized by OCDE’s Early Learning Services unit, the June 21 conference welcomed over 175 educators, administrators and school-based professionals from around the county to gain insights into creating effective early learning programs and how to further promote childhood literacy in their school communities. 

The Early Learning Services team provides Orange County’s early learning care programs and partnering educators with professional learning, technical assistance and funding opportunities to support 4-year-old students under the expansion of Universal PreKindergarten.

The institute kicked off with remarks from OCDE Deputy Superintendent Dr. Ramon Miramontes, who addressed the meaningful impact early educators have on children’s development and the need for expanding early learning programs. OCDE staff aimed to equip attendees with innovative research, strategies and teaching methods that foster positive learning environments by hosting 15 interactive speaker sessions on various aspects of early education. 

“The Early Learning Summer Institute was a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the hard work being done in early learning and care programs through preschool and transitional kindergarten programs while sharing the opportunity to learn from one another,” OCDE Administrator of Early Learning Services Dr. Elida Garcia said. 

Education professionals attend a session about the benefits of play on child development at the Early Learning Summer Institute.
Education professionals attend a session about the benefits of play on child development at the Early Learning Summer Institute.

The conference, themed “Every Child, Every Moment,” brought forth experienced early childhood professionals to share best practices on topics like utilizing active play to develop students’ fine motor skills, assisting parents as they prepare their children for entering preschool and helping parents identify the signs of toilet learning readiness in their child. 

During the keynote presentation, renowned public speaker and childhood education curriculum designer Rachel Giannini encouraged education professionals to reflect every day on the love, resilience and little victories they achieve to further improve the services provided for early learners.

Opportunities to network with service providers across different program settings allowed attendees to gain new approaches for leading child care and early education initiatives. In collaborating with partners from nonprofits, private centers, family child care homes, faith-based organizations, community organizations and school districts, the team at OCDE seeks to support local early learning and care services and nurture the academic, social and emotional growth among the youngest of students.  

“OCDE’s Early Learning team works to continue to have a significant impact on countywide early learning efforts by supporting all preschool and transitional kindergarten educators through knowledge sharing, professional development, networking, collaboration and engagement,” said Victoria Johnson, OCDE’s coordinator of Early Learning Services.   

“Overall, we hope that events like this conference will catalyze collective action to strengthen early learning programs throughout Orange County.”