Home | Best Arts Conference


The BEST Arts (Building Educational Success through the Arts) Conference is devoted to emphasizing the importance of using the visual and performing arts in early childhood classrooms.

The 2022 Conference took place on May 7th, and was attended by over 180 early childhood educators and volunteers. Thank you to all of our presenters, volunteers, and attendees for making the conference so successful.

We hope you’ll be able to join us for the 2023 Conference. Please email bestarts@pacificoaks.edu if you are interested in being a presenter, exhibitor, or a sponsor at the 2023 BEST Arts conference.

Registration for the 2023 Conference will open in early 2023.

Pacific Oaks is committed to diversity through global perspectives, and wishes to extend a special invitation to our international community of Early Childhood Education providers, advocates, and academics to participate in the BEST Arts conference. As valued participants in the ongoing discussion of early childhood education, we will provide our international attendees with additional support if needed.

If you are an international representative interested in sponsoring or attending the conference, please contact us directly at bestarts@pacificoaks.edu.

Best Arts 2022 Featured Presentations

Below is a list of the presentations and breakout sessions.

Session One

From Trash to Treasure
Quinn Hunter McGonagle, M.S.

In this hands-on workshop, Quinn Hunter McGonagle will guide you through the creative process of transforming open-ended, recycled, and scrap materials into beautiful works of art. You will learn the power of less is more and simplicity, and the fun of playing with various materials.

Quinn Hunter McGonagle comes to us with two decades of experience working with young children. With a secondary degree in Visual Arts, units in art education, and a Master of Science degree in Child Development, Quinn’s background includes teaching preschool and college courses at Pacific Oaks College & Children’s School, consulting for family child care programs on the east coast, helping to open a preschool in downtown Chicago, and traveling to Sri Lanka to educate preschool teachers and parents in a small village. Quinn was an art teacher for preschool through middle school students for many years. Her method of art education embraces a hands-on, emergent curriculum philosophy. She is excited to share her experience and expertise at this year’s conference!

Session Two

Discovering the Arts From Inside, Outside, and Beyond
Victor Soto, M.S.

Join us as we bring elements of nature inside, outside, and beyond into the classroom  while working with young children. In this presentation/workshop, you will create your own leaf design using brayers and block printing ink on paper. If you plan to attend this session , please bring with you a variety of collected leaves from your block, neighborhood, or community.

Victor Soto is associate director for Pacific Oaks Children’s School in Pasadena, California. He has worked with young children and their families for more than 24 years in different capacities and communities. He also is an adjunct professor for Pacific Oaks College and UCLA Extension, teaching early childhood education and child development courses. In addition to sharing his early childhood education knowledge and experience with higher education students, he has presented at other conferences and led a variety of workshops for early childhood educators. Victor is excited to present at this year’s BEST Arts Conference.

 Session Three

Discover the Glory in the Story! Interactive Literacy Activities for Preschoolers
Judy Krause, Ed.D.

 A quilt under the tree, pillows on the rug … discover how to build meaningful connections while engaging young children in interactive literacy activities. This interactive presentation will get you up and moving and give you plenty of strategies to implement in your own classroom.

Dr. Judy Krause serves as executive director at Pacific Oaks Children's School and as program developer for the upcoming Doctorate in Early Childhood Education Leadership program at Pacific Oaks College. She has worked with young children and their families since 1978 and began her work with college students in 1989. Dr. Krause's research focuses on developmentally and culturally appropriate pedagogy and she enjoys presenting hands-on, interactive workshops at the national, state, and local levels. In her spare time, she takes joy in traveling along the coast with her husband, as well as spending time with her grandchildren.

Breakout Sessions
Take Your Imagination Into, Through, and Beyond a Story—With Art Explorations!
Judy Ross, M.S.

 Read alouds often invite “What if…” and “I wonder…” questions, inspiring us to create “aWmazing” artwork based on stories! Journey into, through, and beyond the text as we create a “Do-Nothing Machine”; design a flotation device to save the Gingerbread Man, imagine art using alphabet letters, explore the possibilities of a dot, and more! Story categories include maker stories; fabulous fairy tales; and letters, colors, shapes, and numbers.

Judy Ross is an award-winning early childhood educator with 32 years of experience teaching preschool through second grade. She holds a Multiple Subjects Teaching Credential (Bilingual/Bicultural Emphasis) and an M.S. in Education (Curriculum and Instruction, Early Childhood Emphasis). Judy is the past recipient of the Beth A. Lake Award from the California Association for the Education of Young Children (CAEYC), the American Literacy Corporation Award, and the Docia Zavitovsky Play Matters Award from the Orange County Association for the Education of Young Children (OCAEYC). Judy writes and presents workshops for local, state, and national conferences, and organizations, including the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), the California Kindergarten Association, Region 9 Head Start Early Childhood STEM Institute, the Association of Christian Schools International, and more. Judy currently works with preschool through first-grade students in the Heights Kids children’s ministry at Heights Church in Prescott, Arizona.

One, Two, Three, Come and Read With Me! Interactive Literacy Activities for Young Children
Carlene Salinas, B.A., and Susan Nielsen, B.S.

Explore storytelling using fun, hands-on strategies. This highly interactive session is focused on giving you ideas to immediately implement in your classroom.

Carlene Salinas earned her Liberal Studies and Child Development degrees from Cerritos College and California State University, Dominguez Hills. Carlene has more than 30 years of experience in early childhood education, has mentored students from Cerritos College, and has presented at various state and local conferences. In her spare time, Carlene takes joy in attending her two teenage sons’ high school basketball games, art exhibits, and Disneyland.

Susan Nielsen holds a B.S. in Child Development from the University of La Verne as well as an associate degree in Early Childhood Education from Cerritos College. Susan has been an early childhood educator  since 1989 and her classroom has been used as a demonstration/observation place for new teachers and those who need help with teaching strategies. Susan serves as elementary director #1 on the executive board for the teachers association in her local school district, and continues to be involved with teachers from preschool to adult school. Susan has created Be GLAD strategy chants and creative curriculum to extend her students’ subject matter understanding. Susan enjoys being part of an online music therapy group where she learns, creates, and shares songs with teachers and music therapists.

Oh! The Places You’ll Go—With Sand!
Vanessa San Martin, M.S.

Sand is a part of everyday life when you get to go to the beach or a park, but not all children get a chance to do that. So let's bring sand into the classroom! Sand evokes children’s self-expression, imagination, creativity, and use of physical movement. This workshop will provide creative sand projects that focus on the sensory, cognitive, and physical development of children ages 3–5.

Vanessa San Martin has been in the early childhood field for the past 20 years. In her career, she has had the opportunity to teach preschool students in child care centers and school districts. In addition, Vanessa has overseen school-age, preschool, and special education preschool programs. Her experience includes the critical components of California Department of Education, Department of Social Services Licensing compliance, implementing best practices, and proactively leading thought-provoking professional development sessions for early education. Vanessa received both her bachelor's and master's degrees in Child Development/Early Childhood from the University of La Verne.

Cultural Songs for Dual-Language Learners
Stephanie Suastegui, B.A.

Participants will begin by exploring techniques in singing and moving to cultural songs that foster students’ first languages. The hands-on workshop will continue with an activity on how to create props using affordable materials. This will be a bilingual English/Spanish presentation.

Stephanie Suastegui has 10 years of experience as a Head Start teacher. She is the creator of English and Spanish Felt Stories and Songs. Stephanie earned her bachelor’s in Early Childhood Education from California State University, Dominguez Hills.

Working with Natural Materials to Promote Imagination, Self-Expression, and Creativity
Sylvette Frazier, M.A.

Nature provides diverse opportunities for children to develop new concepts, engage in collaborative studies and to learn about the world around them. This workshop will provide you with a few awesome projects to bring to your classroom, engaging children to develop their imagination, self-expression, and creativity. We will explore the many ways of creating a nature weave and a nature mandala.

Sylvette Frazier, an Arts & Nature Pedagogist, specializes in Early Childhood Education, utilizing the expressive arts and nature as a tool for expression and discovery in learning. She is the owner & creator of Connecting Children to Art in Nature (CCAN), an arts and nature-based business offering services in educational programing for children's schools, gardens, private and public settings, and other educational learning platforms. In addition, she enjoys guest lecturing in universities and colleges presenting professional development workshops for educators. She holds a Master of the Arts in Early Childhood/Primary Education, Bachelor of the Arts in Child Development, and has been active in the field for over 25 years.



Scheduled exhibitors include:

If you are interested in becoming an exhibitor, please contact bestarts@pacificoaks.edu.




If you are interested in becoming a sponsor, please contact bestarts@pacificoaks.edu.

The location of the 2023 BEST Arts Conference will be held at:

Pacific Oaks College
45 W. Eureka Street
Pasadena, CA 91103