SIC Prepares Early Childhood Education Providers for 2016 State Requirements

December 20, 2013

Annette Raver of Gateways to Opportunity  in Bloomington visited Southeastern Illinois College recently to discuss early childhood educational opportunities for students and professionals to enhance their skills in preparing young children for success in school and life.

Gateways to Opportunity is a state program funded by the Illinois Department of Human Services Bureau of Child Care and Development, the McCormick Foundation, and Grand Victoria Foundation.  According to its website, Gateways is designed to support Illinois by offering a variety of credentials to professionals in the field of early care and education, school-age, and youth development.

The program offers credentialing, career guidance, and training resources and serves as a statewide professional development support system designed to provide guidance, encouragement, and recognition to individuals and programs serving children, youth, and families. 

Raver also explained ExceleRate Illinois, a Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) that has been established in the state for early childhood programs and educators.  The program is designed to make quality care and education a priority and to let parents know the top rated providers when making decisions on the care of their young children.

It also challenges early childhood education professionals to stay current on emerging research, practices, and training resources and keeps teachers, practitioners and administrators focused on whole child development while making quality of care an on-going priority.

Illinois is a leading state for early childhood professional development, and it is expected that other states will soon be following this lead.  These classes are essential to the providers of early care and education, as the newly established credentials will be required for facilities as of 2016.

Many working students qualify for financial aid when taking Gateway credentials, if they work at least 15 hours a week for 50 weeks of the year.  Some of these supportive classes can be taken online.

The Illinois Gateways to Opportunity Credentials for Early Childhood, Infant – Toddler and Illinois Director’s Credentials are for licensed child care centers, ISBE Preschool for All programs, Head Start programs, and licensed family child care homes.

Southeastern’s Early Childhood Education (ECE) program, under the direction of Dr. Diane King, led the state in 2009 as the first Illinois community college to offer an all-online associate degree.  King is determined to stay ahead of the game by offering the southern Illinois community, as well as the state and beyond through online courses, an opportunity to gain soon-to-be required credentials before the 2016 deadline. SIC is also a Gateways to Opportunity Entitled Credential Institution which means students achieve their credentials as they move through the coursework and King works with individual students to help them attain their educational and career goals.

“All early care and education programs in the state will be required to comply with the 2016 regulations, so it’s critical that administrators and teachers start now with the college courses necessary to acquire state-approved credentials,” said King.  “Through our online component and flexible scheduling, we are making it more convenient than ever to reach those educational and career goals,” she added.

Southeastern is a testament to the success of formal education for early childhood educators to meet the state’s standards in providing early care and education. Four graduates of its Early Childhood Education (ECE) associate in applied science degree program are currently employed by the college’s Mary Jo Oldham Child Study Center, a state-approved QRIS facility with National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) accreditation.

All four emphasize the importance of the state’s recent announcement of new regulations. One of those graduates, Amber Herrmann from Eldorado, feels that SIC’s history of staying on the cutting edge of innovation, technology, professional development, and compliance is easy to understand when one looks at its up-to-date curriculum, outstanding faculty, and accessibility to online resources.

Katlyn Lawrence, also of Eldorado, couldn’t agree more. Lawrence, who decided on early childhood education as a career because of her niece’s special needs, believes that Southeastern is the total package, complete with career counseling, four-year transfer options, student work positions, employment opportunities, and continuing education.  “The program’s attention to state compliance issues was a big part of our teacher education program,” said Lawrence.

Brittney Potter of Harrisburg and Debbie Conrad of Norris City point to the college’s ability to accommodate a variety of learning styles and a willingness to work with nontraditional students  as contributing to their educational accomplishments. Both agree that Southeastern’s personal touch, low tuition, convenient location, and exceptional track record in early childhood education made the decision to attend the institution an easy one.

The four are not surprised that SIC is taking a leading role in childhood education by offering coursework to address the state’s new standards.

Early childhood professionals interested in getting a jump on the state’s 2016 mandate, may enroll in courses now. Spring semester classes at Southeastern begin Jan. 8. For more information on these courses, contact King at 618-252-5400 ext. 2221 or  Registration is under way.