DEKALB, Ill. - The National Science Foundation has awarded a prestigious Faculty Early Career Development Program…
DeKalb, Ill. — Northern Illinois University has pledged to enroll at least 160 new students – or more – through participation in the state’s Early Childhood Access Consortium for Equity Program.
The new Huskies will complete bachelor’s degrees in either Early Childhood Education, which would qualify them to teach PreK-2 in school settings, or in Human Development and Family Sciences’ (HDFS) child development emphasis to teach, or work with, infants and young children in community-based settings.
Eligible students, who are current or former early education professionals or paraprofessionals with associate degrees from Illinois community colleges, can apply for scholarships from the Illinois Student Assistance Commission to cover their full costs of attendance.
Funded by a federal investment of $200 million for the state of Illinois, the program subsidizes additional training, mentorships and scholarships for members of the “incumbent workforce” over the next two years.
- Apply online as soon as possible! Scholarships are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.
Laurie Elish-Piper, dean of the NIU College of Education, and Lynda Ransdell, dean of the NIU College of Health and Human Sciences, are excited to provide what Elish-Piper calls “a life-changing opportunity for hard-working adults who have been unable to complete a bachelor’s degree due to financial challenges and other barriers.”
“Adults in the incumbent workforce can now earn their bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education with professional educator licensure – and with no out-of-pocket costs, courses designed for their busy schedules and a success coach to ensure they persist and graduate,” Elish-Piper said.
“We are working with partner school districts to identify their paraprofessionals who qualify for the program,” she added, “which means they will be able to keep working and being paid while completing the program.”
Young children and their families also will benefit from the funding that “will go a long way to address the shortage of early childhood teachers,” Elish-Piper said.
“Because our graduates will also earn the Special Education and ESL/Bilingual endorsements, they will be extremely well-prepared to be great teachers,” she said. “I am hopeful that the success of this program inspires additional investments in preparing teachers by making programs accessible to working adults who will help Illinois diversify and grow the teaching workforce.”
Ransdell shares that goal.
“It represents an opportunity for engagement related to a very important societal issue – the education of young children,” the dean said, “and by bringing new opportunities to individuals involved in the education of young children, we promote equity and diversity in the field of early education.”
Her college’s HDFS program also offers its students hands-on learning at the award-winning Child Development and Family Center, where one-on-one mentoring and support is provided daily by faculty and master teachers who are experts in the field.
“The center is a learning space where students can apply their knowledge to the education of young children, initiate the process of professional development and observe and engage in a variety of early education program models,” Ransdell said. “These include the implementation of an emergent curriculum model and community-level programming in the Preschool for All Expansion program.”
It also is expected to serve the needs of employers in the early childhood area and to advance racial equity.
Both of their departments are already recruiting students who might qualify for the Early Childhood Access Consortium for Equity and are seeking the opportunity to enhance their careers.
As many or most prospective students are juggling work and family responsibilities, they will enjoy the assistance of “completion coaches” who will provide support for “how to do college,” including study skills, technology training, time management and tips for taking tests.
“Many early childhood workers find themselves ‘stuck’ in relatively low-paying positions, but they stay in the field because of their dedication to, and passion for, working with young children,” Hedin said.
At the same time, she added, “they find it difficult to move forward in their careers because of the financial burden of tuition, and the difficulty of working full-time while also attending classes. The consortium eliminates the financial barrier for the incumbent workforce.”
“The professional development challenges facing individuals in the incumbent workforce are significant,” Pavkov said. “The consortium will provide both a range of options for potential students to upskill their credentials and will also provide the crucial financial support needed to pay for educational expenses for individuals who may not have adequate financial resources to further their education.”
His HDFS faculty colleagues deliver curriculum “grounded in science and what we know about early childhood development and education.”
And, thanks to the degree’s emphasis on strong relationships between teacher-and-child, parent-and-child and teacher-and-parent, graduates have the skills to engage in relationships to facilitate the development and education of young children beyond the classroom.
“Our educational philosophy embraces methodological approaches that engage young children in active learning through play and exploration guided by their interests with teachers who serve as partners in their learning,” Pavkov said. “This approach is consistent with evidence-based practice, and equips our students to become employed in high-quality early education programming where these practices are implemented.”
Media Contact: Joe King
Northern Illinois University is a student-centered, nationally recognized public research university, with expertise that benefits its region and spans the globe in a wide variety of fields, including the sciences, humanities, arts, business, engineering, education, health and law. Through its main campus in DeKalb, Illinois, and education centers for students and working professionals in Chicago, Naperville, Oregon and Rockford, NIU offers more than 100 courses of study while serving a diverse and international student body.