Careers: Early Education Teaching

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Careers: Early Education Teaching
Learn more about how community colleges are playing a role in training early education teachers.

Dr. Maria Montessori, founder of the Montessori education model, believed that the first three years of a child's life are critical to emotional and mental development. Until recently, those who were responsible for caring for and educating these youngsters were primarily untrained and underpaid. Fortunately, the tide appears to change in training early childhood educators, and community colleges are at the forefront of the new trend. We will examine how early training impacts children and what community colleges are doing to raise a new generation of early childhood educators equipped to answer the call.

The Importance of Early Childhood Education

According to a report in Community College Week, more research continues to surface regarding the importance of the years from birth to age three. A child's brain begins connecting to his outer world during this developmental time. This age group has been historically dubbed the future of our nation. Yet, the educational system rarely invests the time, effort, and money to educate this demographic as effectively as possible. In fact, those at the front of the public education movement often regard early childhood education as an afterthought – after the more important issues like school choice, student performance, and educational standards.

A report by the New American Foundation called attention to our young's educational plight in a CCW report that stated pre-kindergarten education has "long been the poor stepchild of the education system, with fewer resources, spotty quality standards, and limited attention to children's learning outcomes. To provide children with a solid foundation for success before they enter school, we must treat pre-K as a fundamental component of the education system, not an optional add-on." The report added, "Teachers working with young children must have higher education levels that enable them to support that development.

Bringing up the Standards

To that end, many states are implementing stricter standards for the qualifications of pre-K teaching staff. Many nationwide programs require teachers at this level to have a minimum of an associate's degree in early childhood education. Head Start, a federal early childhood education program for low-income families, now requires all early childhood teachers to have an associate's degree. Lead teachers must have a bachelor's degree for that position. A new standard that goes into effect next year requires half of all Head Start teachers to have four-year degrees before they can be hired.

Some states are also beginning to tighten their requirements for early childhood educators, and many in the field predict that the standards across the country will slowly require teachers to have more education in their field to land the best jobs possible. Despite the low pay many early childhood educators face, the abundance of employment options turns many to this field while in school. Most community colleges boast a nearly 100 percent placement rate for graduates of their early childhood education programs. We have an example of some of the programs currently available at community colleges nationwide.

St. Louis Community College

This community college offers a variety of degree options for those pursuing a career in early childhood education. Training includes class lectures, observation studies, and practical fieldwork with mentor teachers. According to the college website, both certification and an associate's degree are available in this field. These credentials can help you get a good job at a daycare center, preschool, or before and after school care. The college also states that those who receive an AAS degree through their school will be able to find employment immediately after graduation.

This video describes the Early Care and Education program at Saint Louis Community College, which offers students a variety of degree options and pathways of study. Students will investigate leading theories of child development and methodologies for curriculum planning and assessment. Through class lectures, observation studies, fieldwork with mentor teachers, service learning, and opportunities for discussion with award-winning faculty, students will engage with the best practices designed for the study of early education.

Community College of Allegheny County

In Pennsylvania, those interested in a career in early childhood education can explore their options at the Community College of Allegheny County. This institution offers certification in Early Education and Child Development and an associate's degree in Education and Child Development. To expand their options, students who complete the two-year program may wish to transfer to a teacher certification program after graduation.

CCAC annually educates 33,000 credit students through 170 degree, certificate, and transfer programs and offers non-credit and workforce development courses to 30,000 students. The learning-centered institution's mission is to provide affordable access to quality education and offer a dynamic, diverse, and supportive learning environment that prepares the region's residents for academic, professional, and personal success in our changing global society. CCAC's quality programs enable students to transfer credits to 520 colleges and universities and support regional workforce needs with accessible daily, evening, weekend, and online instruction in Allegheny County and beyond.

South Mountain Community College

South Mountain Community College in Arizona is a good choice for those interested in pursuing training in the Montessori model of early childhood education. This school offers a program that is fully accredited by the Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education. The program demonstrates how to act as a guide rather than an instructor, allowing students to explore the world on their own terms..

Early childhood education appears to be getting the attention it deserves finally. If you are interested in this field, contact the community college in your area to find out if they offer you an early childhood education program.

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