Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Text Me:
Turning Everyday Moments into Early Learning Experiences

Help prepare your child for success in kindergarten.

Learn more about Think Small ParentPowered Texts and get a sneak peek at the fun facts and tips.

Click here to view a video recap from this event. | Click here to view photos from this event.


Benjamin N. York Headshot Cisa Keller Headshot Cindy Hillyer Headshot

Benjamin N. York, Ph.D.

Founder and CEO of ParentPowered Public Benefit Corporation

Read Bio

Ben is a Co-Founder of Ready4K and the CEO of ParentPowered Technologies Public Benefit Corporation, which administers Ready4K. He has spent nearly a decade researching innovations in education, most recently as the Executive Director of CEPA Labs at Stanford University. Ben has expertise in early childhood and K-12 education and has worked in close partnership with many large educational organizations. He has a B.A. in economics from the University of Colorado, summa cum laude, as well as an M.A. in political science and a Ph.D. in education from Stanford. Ben’s professional experience outside of research spans the fields of investment banking, venture philanthropy, and public education.

Cisa Keller

Senior Vice President of Early Childhood Quality Development, Think Small

Read Bio

Cisa joined Think Small in 2015. Keller started her early childhood career as a toddler teacher before becoming a center director and finally being promoted to role of director of government and community relations with New Horizon Academy, where she oversaw the government and community relations efforts for over 60 child care programs in Minnesota. In this role Keller was also government relations chair for the Minnesota Child Care Association and public policy chair for the Minnesota Association for the Education of Young Children–Minnesota School Age Care Alliance. Keller was a founding member of the Minnesota’s Future Early Childhood Coalition, served on the executive committee of the MinneMinds campaign, and is currently a member of the Caring for Kids Initiative Advisory Group and the St. Paul Promise Neighborhood. Keller earned a master’s degree in early childhood education from Concordia University–St. Paul in 2008 and was invited to be an adjunct professor from 2009 until 2014 in the university’s BA and MA early childhood programs.

Cindy Hillyer

Director, Early Childhood Education, Minneapolis Public Schools

Read Bio

Cindy has 30 years of experience working in both the non-profit and public sectors in health and education. She has directed many public health and education initiatives serving urban, low-income and ethnically diverse populations. She has overseen health and human service programs in the areas of home visiting, services to homeless families and children, services to teen parents, parent education, early intervention and school readiness programs. Currently, she serves as Director, Early Childhood Education for Minneapolis Public Schools and oversees citywide programs including Early Childhood Screening, Birth-5 Central Intake and the ABCD Initiative; providing services to over 8,000 children and families each year. Cindy attended the University of Minnesota, School of Nursing and was the class speaker at her commencement. Known for her leadership in the health and education fields, she currently serves on the Hennepin County CHIP Steering Committee; the U of M Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disability Advisory Committee; the City of Minneapolis PHAC, the Mayor’s Cradle to Cabinet-Early Experiences Committee and is co-chair of the NAZ Early Childhood Action Team. Cindy has a passion for improving systems through cross-sector partnerships, use of evidence based models that drive effective, and sustainable systems change, building organizational success and timely access to services for all families and children.


Michelle Walker Headshot

Michelle J. Walker

Executive Director of Generation Next

Read Bio

Michelle Walker is a national leader who has extensive cross-sector experience in education strategy and policy including positions in Washington, DC, New York and Saint Paul. She has held leadership positions in Saint Paul Public Schools for the last nine years. Currently a doctoral candidate in the Urban Education Leaders Program at Teachers College, Columbia University, Michelle holds a double Bachelor of Arts degree in Government and Africana Studies from Cornell University (NY) and Master of Arts (Educational Administration) and Master of Education (Educational Leadership Studies) degrees from Teachers College, Columbia University (NY).


Learn more about Generation Next and their mission to harnesses the community’s knowledge, expertise and actions to ensure every child can thrive.

Video recap from this event

Text Me: Turning Everyday Moments into Early Learning Experiences was the topic of the latest Think Small Small Talks event which took place on October 10, 2017, at the Wilder Center in St. Paul. The panel presentation and discussion focused on leveraging the simplicity of text messaging to engage parents and help get children ready for school and life. Parents of children aged birth – five can sign up for the free text messaging program, Think Small ParentPowered Texts, at www.thinksmall.org/texts.


Photos from this event

Click on an image for a larger view.