NIU to offer preview in Early Childhood Studies next spring at University Center of Lake County

Stock imagery of seven young childrenTaking a preview course before starting training for a new career is a little like taking a new car for a test drive – informative and helpful.

Northern Illinois University’s Department of Special and Early Education in the College of Education is offering people the chance to “test drive” the Early Childhood Studies program by enrolling in a special preview course in the 2013 spring semester.

The preview course will be offered at the University Center of Lake County (UCLC) and will introduce potential students to the full Early Childhood Studies bachelor’s degree program that will begin at UCLC in spring 2014.

Meryl Sussman, NIU’s director of Undergraduate Programs for Adults, says that the preview course is part of a great opportunity for students in the Chicago area to earn an NIU degree close to where they live and work.

“The spring preview course and the full program, which will be offered at UCLC in spring 2014, will bring a new opportunity to the residents in and around Lake County. Students who live near Chicago previously did not have access to this premier education program – a program for which NIU is nationally known,” Sussman says.

“NIU is reaching out to students through our regional centers and our community partners to offer the same high-quality programs for students on campus, off campus and throughout Northern Illinois.”

The preview course, “Observation and Assessment of Young Children,” gives people interested in early childhood education an overview of various techniques for understanding learning needs and helps them begin to prepare for careers as teachers and advocates for young children and their families.

Meryl Sussman and Maylan Dunn-Kenney

Meryl Sussman and Maylan Dunn-Kenney

Students will learn to:

  • observe children carefully and record observations.
  • select appropriate assessment tools for different kinds of lessons and purposes.
  • keep careful and well-organized assessment results.
  • create a complete profile of a child from a portfolio of assessments.
  • understand the value and limitations of standardized tests.
  • use assessment in customizing instruction as required by the Response to Intervention mandate.

Students who enroll in the preview course can apply the credits they earn this spring toward a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education by continuing into the full program at UCLC in spring 2014 or by enrolling in the full program at NIU’s DeKalb campus in fall 2013.

Both the on- and off-campus programs were prepared by specialists in child development and early childhood education. Both programs also lead to a Letter of Approval in Preschool Special Education, which can help graduates find careers in that rapidly growing field.

According to the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), the need for Early Childhood Special Education teachers is very high. “Recent legislation has provided for more jobs,” reports the CEC, “with many grants being awarded to non-profit agencies targeted at ‘seeking out’ this population of children and serving them more effectively.”

Photo of a young child's "B" alphabet blockMaylan Dunn-Kenney, coordinator of Early Childhood Education, is excited about helping students start on the path to becoming teachers. “The Early Childhood Studies program provides students with the tools they need to help children grow, learn and thrive,” Dunn-Kenney says.

Recent graduates of NIU’s Early Childhood Studies program have found success as Pre-K through third-grade teachers, Head Start educators and administrators, school district early childhood coordinators, teaching consultants, intervention specialists and more.

Dunn-Kenney attributes that success to the wide variety of skills students learn in the program: “Students leave the program versatile, capable, and able to innovate. That’s just what you need in a dynamic field like early childhood.”

To learn more about the spring 2013 semester preview course, contact the Department of Special and Early Education immediately at (815) 753-1619 or seed@niu.edu. Applications for this course are due in early December. To meet this deadline, the College of Education’s staff are prepared to help interested people move quickly and smoothly through the application process.

To learn more about programs and careers in Early Childhood Education, visit the Department of Special & Early Education’s home page or its Academic Programs page.

by Gillian King-Cargile

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