Mizzou Academy Sparkles at Gold Carpet Celebration 

Posted in: News

When Dean Chris Riley-Tillman of the College of Education and Human Development arrived outside the historic Missouri Theatre on September 27, he wasn’t expecting to be greeted by a velvet-roped gold carpet and event hosts in sequined gowns. But as he observed in his opening remarks for the event, you can always expect the unexpected from Mizzou Academy. 

Ceremony host Kathryn Fishman-Weaver greets Dean Riley-Tillman outside the Missouri Theater.

Riley-Tillman shared that it seemed an impossible feat when Mizzou Academy’s Executive Director Dr. Kathryn Fishman-Weaver first met with him to discuss the contract proposal of revamping DESE’s complete Office of Childhood Training Library within a year. She clarified that it was actually only 11 months. 

The Mizzou Academy team has an affinity for the seemingly impossible. In his remarks, Dr. Riley-Tillman affirmed his belief in and continued support for Mizzou Academy’s leadership. He also noted that it was outstanding to see so many groups across the college and the community join together in this important work. Associate Dean for Engagement and Outreach, Dr. Joi Moore, also spoke at the event. Both shared their sincere respect and admiration for Mizzou Academy and for the achievement of the Office of Childhood Training Library project. 

Project Background

Each year, roughly 35,000 child care providers and educators across Missouri are required to take training courses to meet continuing education and license eligibility requirements with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).

With the help of a $7.5 million grant from DESE, Mizzou Academy was contracted to redevelop DESE’s library of training courses for childhood professionals, ranging from preschool teachers and daycare staff, to paraprofessionals, childcare administrators, and after-school providers. In addition to updating the existing library with dynamic, video-based courses, Mizzou also developed courses for the state on brand new topics, such as school readiness and supporting multilingual learners. Mizzou Academy and their community and production partners teamed up to center these courses in cinematic storytelling, engagement and connection, and the core values of access and inclusion.

Ceremony hosts and attendants share a video highlight during course recognition of the ABCs of Safe Sleep

In September, Mizzou Academy celebrated the completion of the new and improved Office of Childhood Training Library with a total of thirty fully approved courses for childhood professionals across Missouri!

KOMU also featured a short story on the project and our celebration. Check it out here. 

A Gold Carpet Celebration

Celebration matters. And it was in that spirit that educators and community partners arrived on the Gold Carpet to put our own sparkly spin on “The (Mizzou) Academy Awards.” 

In Hollywood style, we gathered together the writers, producers, on-screen talent, videographers, and editors to showcase some highlights from each course series in the finished library and to honor some “Best of” awards–a theme inspired by the Oscars for categories like “Best Documentary” or “Best Full-Length Animated Feature.”  Throughout the evening, we shared video highlights from the project, celebrated the many contributors that made the library possible, and honored exceptional achievements in each course series from the library, as well as standout individual contributions to the library as a whole. 

Karen Scales, who served as Chief Editor and lead teacher for many courses on the project, shared that, “For a project born from pitch-meetings, script-writing, on-set and on-location filming, and post-production editing, a touch of glamor on the Gold Carpet–and an opportunity for many of us to ‘thank the (Mizzou) Academy’–seemed a fitting tribute. And in true Mizzou Academy fashion, the evening joyfully embraced and celebrated the important work of educators, community partnership, and belonging.”

Celebration attendees arrive on the Gold Carpet for pre-ceremony reception.

Gold Heart Awards

Jaquelyn Kay accepts the People’s Choice Project Manager Award.

Fishman-Weaver, the Principal Investigator for this project, shared that, “We know this library would not have been possible without the collaboration and partnership of so many across the college, university, and broader mid-Missouri community. We are grateful to have learned, laughed, and produced such important courses together.”

The state-wide impact this library will have on children and childhood professionals is astounding. Congratulations are in order for everyone who contributed to this project. While every film and contributor deserves a trophy, we took time to recognize a few Gold Heart Award courses and People’s Choice contributors. These courses and these professionals exemplified community collaboration, offered something brand new to the Office of Childhood Training Library, and/or went above and beyond in their illustration of the Mizzou Academy core values of Inclusion, Innovation, Partnership, and Access. 

  • People’s Choice Editing and Performance to Karen Scales
  • Course Recognition: Keep Calm. Keep Safe with special remarks by Dr. Rachel Thibodeau-Nielsen and Dr. Francisco Palermo
  • People’s Choice Pediatrician to Dr. Alexandra James
  • Special Performance by student leader Kian McGeralad
  • Course Recognition: Inclusion 4: Advocacy and the Americans with Disabilities Act with special remarks by Kaci Conley  
  • People’s Choice Lead Videographers to Karl Bussen and Amanda Barner
  • Course Recognition: Emergency Preparedness in Childhood Programs with special remarks by Stephanie Walter 
  • People’s Choice Project Manager to Jacquelyn Kay
  • Course Recognition: Home-Based Childcare with special remarks by Erin Baker
  • Course Recognition: Caring for Vulnerable Children with special remarks by Kelly Hill from Heart of Missouri CASA
  • People’s Choice Partner to The Center for Excellence in CHILD Well-Being with special remarks by Karen Washer and Julie Allen
  • Course Recognition: MELS 6 Physical Development in Early Childhood with special remarks by Dr. Louis Manfra
  • People’s Choice in Early Childhood Education to Child Development Lab with special remarks by Miranda Clines
  • People’s Choice for Vision and Leadership to Dr. Kathryn Fishman-Weaver 
Gold Heart trophies designed and printed by Prints for Plants

Additionally, our event hosts, Karen Scales and Kathryn Fishman-Weaver took time to note and thank all course authors, guest experts, videographers, editors, technologists, course testers, student leaders, and community partners by name in a community appreciation moment. There were special shoutouts for Dale Hargis, Greg Soden, Angie Hammons, Tami Regan, and Sarah Michaels for their above and beyond contributions.

The Power of Youth Voices

Kian McGerald performs the national anthem.

While reflecting on this library build, Fishman-Weaver shared that “one of the things I am most grateful for are the people and organizations we met along the way. Early on in this project, the McGerald family welcomed us into their home. Kian McGerald was our first youth voice to speak into this project. In fact, when our team needed a reminder about what we were hoping to accomplish, theirs was the message we replayed. We are all better for learning from them.” 

A highlight of the evening’s ceremony came when Kian–who also plays the violin, the cello, the piano, and “a wicked guitar”–joined us on stage to perform the national anthem with the most courageous instrument of all: their voice.  

We also were delighted to be joined by our youth event attendants, many of whom were featured in the course video highlights shared throughout the evening. We are so grateful for their contributions to the project and to the evening’s celebration. 

Event attendants included Aubree King, Sydney King, Emmett King, Emily Michaels, Grace Michaels, Lilia Stuhlman, Oscar Stuhlman, and Lilah Weaver.

Event attendants acknowledged with a round of applause.

Valuing Process and Play

In the course of our work on the Office of Childhood Training Library, we were consistently reminded by our early childhood partners of two essential lessons for school and life:

  1. Celebrate process over product.
  2. Never underestimate the value of play.

These themes rang true throughout the Gold Carpet Celebration. While honoring the achievements of our final product, process was clearly the big winner of the evening. The process of developing this course library was one of community, humor, and heart. The “Awards” were given not in the spirit of competition, but collaboration—each recognition honoring the many hours of dedicated professionalism, expertise, teamwork, laughter and tears, and all the stops and starts that moved the project toward that seemingly impossible finish line. And as we learned well from our early childhood mentors, a bit of glitz and glamor on occasion reminds us that playing dress-up can be fun, and that fun can be a powerful way to learn.

Throughout the evening, award recipients spoke with gratitude to how much the experience of the project was one of discovery and continued learning for those of us privileged to take part in the journey. The ceremony gave us a chance to share first-release clips from the library with our partners and contributors; to honor the many unsung and behind-the-scenes heroes to the project; and to hear from the children, families, and childhood professionals who so vitally and eloquently shared their stories and their wisdom with us all.

As the curtain closed on the evening’s festivities, hosts and attendees greeted one another again with smiles, hugs, and a renewed resolve to continue the pursuit of the unexpected, reminding each other to play–and to add a little sparkle–along the way.   

Members of the production and project team pose for a celebration photo.

All photos by Rebecca Allen Photography.