Elmhurst College is preparing to launch a new licensure program in early childhood education.
Developed in response to changes in Illinois licensure rules, the College’s new major in Educating Young Children was just the second such program in the state to win approval. The major, which will replace the Early Childhood Education major, will begin accepting students for the fall of 2017.
“Elmhurst College will be one of the first schools in the state to graduate teacher candidates who are prepared to meet the new standards,” said Jeanne White, chairperson of the College’s education department. “That’s a big draw for principals who are hiring.”
The new program focuses on children from birth to second grade and incorporates a minor that encompasses the ESL and/or a bilingual endorsement—a new state requirement for programs funded by the Preschool for All grant. Students also earn the Letter of Approval for early childhood special education as part of the major.
Students also will have the option to earn an Early Intervention credential that will enable them to provide developmental therapy services in natural environments such as homes and child care centers.
“We know that districts are hiring candidates with the ESL endorsement and special education approval, so our graduates will be highly marketable,” said Linda Dauksas, director of early childhood education and special education at the College. “Our students always end up employed, often before they graduate.”
Courses in the new program will be offered in term-length “blocks,” with each block devoted to a different developmental level. The first block focuses on infants and toddlers; the second block on 3- to 5-year-olds; and the third block concentrates on the needs of children in kindergarten through second grade. The fourth block encompasses 16 weeks of full-time student-teaching experiences at two of the three developmental levels.
Even before they begin the formal student-teaching block, teacher candidates will have multiple classroom experiences, including observation hours and supervised practica in local early learning environments such as school districts, early Head Start programs or EduCare centers.
For the final student-teaching block, candidates will teach in two of the three settings in which they did their observations. To ensure that students are well prepared for the job market, one of those two placements will be with a mentor teacher who has an ESL/bilingual endorsement.
All courses will be taught by faculty members who have worked in the field as teachers and providers. “We don’t hire anyone who doesn’t have direct experience,” noted Linda Dauksas. “Our faculty members have stories and experiences that make the content come alive for students. You have to be able to blend theory and practice, and our backgrounds really lend themselves to that.”
The Educating Young Children program is one of 17 licensure programs for undergraduates at Elmhurst. Elmhurst also offers M.Ed. programs in Early Childhood Special Education and Teacher Leadership, an M.S.Ed. in Special Education and non-degree, graduate endorsement programs in English language and bilingual education, special education and teacher leadership.