2023 RBPD Fall Retreat

Reset, reenergize, and reconnect!

Thursday, November 2, 2023, 9 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.

Maple Grove Community Center

12951 Weaver Lake Road, Maple Grove, MN

Reset, reenergize, and reconnect at the Relationship-Based Professional Development (RBPD) Fall Retreat! Strengthen your RBPD knowledge and practice alongside colleagues and the TARSS team at the Center for Early Education and Development (CEED). Learn more about RBPD.

This event is in person and Develop-approved. It is designed for coaches, advisors, consultants, and mentors who work with early childhood educators and programs.

  • Cost: $33 (Note: The required $33 fee covers a continental breakfast, full lunch, and a break. The training and awarded clock hours are provided via our grantor’s sponsorship.)
  • Earn 5 clock hours in KCF VI: Professionalism


Registration closes Wednesday, October 25, 2023. Full refunds for registration cancellation will be offered through Monday, October 23. No refunds will be given after this date.

Intended Audience

Minnesota RBPD specialists, coaches, advisors, consultants, and mentors who work with early childhood educators and programs


8:30 a.m to 9 a.m: Check-in, networking, and continental breakfast catered by Lookout Bar and Grill (menu below)

9 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.: Welcome from CEED/TARSS

9:30 – 10:45 a.m.: “An Update from DHS on the Future of RBPD and Continuous Improvement in Minnesota” — Kerry Gershone and Kathy Schwartz, Department of Human Services

10:45 – 11 a.m.: Break

11 a.m. – 12 p.m.: Plenary presentation: “Humanity Starts with You!” — Jonathan Fribley, Leading for Children (details below)

12 – 1 p.m.: Networking and lunch (menu below)

1 – 2 p.m.: Training activity: supported table reflection prompt and discussion for “Humanity Starts with You!” (details below)

2 – 2:15 p.m.: Break

2:15 – 3:15 p.m.: Plenary presentation: “Let’s Talk about It: How to Build ‘Authentic’ Relationships” — Calahena (Cal) Merrick and Nicolette (Nikki) Graf, Child Care Aware

3:15 – 3:30 p.m.: Closing activity and remarks from CEED/TARSS


“An Update from DHS on the Future of RBPD and Continuous Improvement in Minnesota” with Kerry Gershone and Kathy Schwartz, Department of Human Services

Join Kerry Gershone and Kathy Schwartz from the Minnesota Department of Human Services to learn about ongoing work to improve state services for children, families, and the professionals who support them. This session will include updates on initiatives and an opportunity to provide thoughts and reactions to potential future changes and initiatives.

“Humanity Starts with You!” with Jonathan Fribley, Leading for Children

Children’s optimal development relies on positive relationships with adults. As they grow, they listen, look and model themselves on what’s around them. All children birth to five deserve to grow and learn in thriving and collaborative communities of empowered and nurturing adults. Too often though, early learning systems are rife with inequity and mistrust among adults, which undermines a healthy growth environment for children. As early childhood professionals we have the power to make a difference in the adult communities surrounding children, to elevate the dignity and wisdom of others through mutual learning partnerships and equitable relationships. When we practice Humanity First, we support early childhood professionals and families in raising kind, self-empowered, and confident children. We honor strong adults that nurture strong children that create strong communities.

Learning Objectives:

  • Learning partners will recognize and value their power in creating thriving adult communities in which children and adults can flourish.
  • Learning partners will examine how equitable relationships support empowered adults and children.

“Let’s Talk about It: How to Build ‘Authentic’ Relationships” with Calahena (Cal) Merrick and Nicolette (Nikki) Graf, Child Care Aware

By analyzing ourselves, others, and the world around us, we can create authentic relationships across differences. Together we will prioritize reflecting on our own biases, practice changing our assumption into awareness, and navigating professional boundaries.

Learning Objectives:

  • Building awareness of individual social identities and how they intersect when building relationships.
  • Creating a social lens that lets us authentically see ourselves, others, and the world around us.


Jonathan Fribley, Program Leader, Leading for Children

Jonathan Fribley is senior program leader at Leading for Children, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring that all children aged from birth to five grow and learn in thriving communities of empowered and nurturing adults. He co-designs programs with members of the LFC team and facilitates equitable and respectful mutual learning with the adults in children’s ecosystems. Prior to joining LFC, he was an early learning consultant with educators nationally, and an early childhood educator and RBPD coach here in Minnesota.

Kerry Gershone, Professional Development Policy Specialist, Minnesota Department of Human Services

Kerry Gershone is a professional development policy specialist at the Minnesota Department of Human Services. Originally a preschool teacher, she earned her
bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Minnesota. Her work roles have centered on quality early care and education and supporting the professionals working
with young children. In her current work, she oversees statewide policy and implementation for RBPD Specialists and Trainers.
Gershone has three young sons. When she isn’t busy with them, she’s an avid baker and Muppet aficionado.

Nicolette (Nikki) Graf, Director of Equity and Inclusion, Child Care Aware of Minnesota

Graf has a deep passion for equity and advocacy work. If you asked, however, she would say that that passion found her. With the intention of being a speech pathologist, Graf started her academic career at the University of Minnesota. A few failed anatomy classes later, she took a hard detour and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in child psychology. From there, she fell in love with connecting her education to working with young children. As an early childhood teacher, she gained skills that promoted equity in the classroom and created space for activism to emerge. As a teacher, Graf completed the CARE Fellowship, a public policy cohort for early educators, which then propelled her into earning her master’s degree in advocacy and political leadership and a diversity and equity certificate.

Graf has the great privilege to facilitate and direct diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism work in Minnesota’s early childhood system. She has committed to always “asking the equity question” with an intentional focus on self and community advocacy. She is a Building Racial Consciousness Workgroup Facilitator, YWCA Racial Justice Facilitator, and an Embracing Equity Leadership Resident.

In her free time (which doesn’t happen often being a mom of five under five), she likes to spend time with her family, do anything that involves art or learning, and be active in nature.

Calahena (Cal) Merrick, Associate Director for Operations, Child Care Aware of Minnesota

Merrick is a civil servant with a passion for social justice and systems change that allow individuals and communities to live a dignified, productive, and successful life. She has experience in business management and operations, human resources, administration, and diversity, equity and inclusion. Prior to her current role, she served as the health care administrative manager at the Minnesota Department of Human Services, as the recruitment programs supervisor for the Minnesota Department of Transportation, and has held positions with North Hennepin Community College, and various law firms.

Merrick began her academic career at Xavier University of Louisiana but later graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in political science with a concentration in law and politics. She has a paralegal studies certificate from North Hennepin and an advanced certificate in equity and diversity from the University of Minnesota. In addition, she possesses a business continuity certification and is a MBTI ® Certified Practitioner and a Rule 14 Qualified Neutral Mediator. She also facilitates sessions on racial justice and family education. She serves on the Parent Advisory Board for the Northside Achievement Zone and on the Jay and Rose Phillips Foundation’s Education Advisory Committee.

During her free time, Merrick enjoys spending time with family and friends, traveling, and volunteering.

Kathy Schwartz, Early Childhood and School Age Care System Specialist, Minnesota Department of Human Services

Kathy Schwartz is the early childhood and school age care system specialist in the Child Development Services Unit at the Minnesota Department of Human Services. The unit provides state and federal resources to support initiatives that improve quality in child care settings. Schwartz’s work focuses on system development of quality initiatives to support early care and education programs including infant and toddler programs, school age care programs, inclusion services, and health and safety supports.


Please list any accessibility or other accommodations you require in your registration form. Maple Grove Community Center has a private lactation room; if you’ll need access to it, please make a note of this as well. The lactation room can be used for pumping or breastfeeding. Participants who choose to bring their babies with them to the retreat must arrange for another caregiver to be on site; because of the nature of the learning environment, we prefer that babies not be present in the sessions.

Menu provided by the Lookout Bar and Grill

Continental breakfast: Includes muffins, bagels and cream cheese, assorted pastries, fresh fruit platter, yogurt, fresh ground coffee, water, and choice of juice

Sandwich buffet: Includes shredded lettuce, sliced tomatoes, cheese (cheddar and Swiss) and sliced onions, assorted breads, mayo and mustard, ham, turkey, fruit tray, vegetable tray

Dessert/snacks: Lemon bars, cookies, kettle chips, Chex mix

Gluten-free option available if requested in registration.

Please note: to keep costs down, beverages provided will include coffee and tea only, as well as juice at breakfast. You are welcome and encouraged to bring a refillable water bottle and/or other beverages of your choice.


Contact us at tarss@umn.edu.


The RBPD Retreat is sponsored by the Trainer and Relationship-based Professional Development Specialist Support program (TARSS), funded by the Minnesota Department of Human Services, Child Development Services.