About 35 Triton College students sang multicultural songs, critically examined children’s books and contemplated getting an Early Childhood Education degree at National Louis University when they visited the Chicago Campus for an Institute Day recently.
“We’re bringing more students to NLU, but we’re also supporting those students who want to obtain licensure and get going versus saying, ‘Well, I’ll never pass that hurdle, and I can’t reach my goal,'” said Sherri Bressman, Ed.D., Assistant Director of Teacher Preparation at NLU. “We need to support them so they can be competent.”
The cost of the Institute Day was underwritten by a nearly $50,000 grant NLU received in January from the Illinois Board of Higher Education as part of the federal Race for the Top — a nationwide education disbursement to spur innovation and reform. The Pathways to Excellence in Early Childhood Education grant links NLU with long-time partner Triton College to prepare community college students to be effective early childhood educators.
NLU’s early childhood program was recently revised to highlight the importance of literacy, as well as anticipate a coming shift in Illinois in which kindergarten will be handled only by teachers with an early childhood endorsement, not an elementary endorsement.
Members of NLU’s Early Childhood department, including Bressman, the department chair, Ayn Keneman, Ed.D., Lisa Downey, M.Ed., and Xiaoli Wen, Ph.D., along with Kristin Lems, Ph.D., and Jason Stegemoller, Ph.D., of the Curriculum and Instruction department, provided information about NLU during the Institute Day and taught the Triton students multicultural songs to engage toddlers and pre-K students. They also spent time reviewing early literacy strategies that work. Triton College professors and Mary Rinchiuso, MSEd, Mary Ann Olson, M.A., Kathy Cunningham, M.A., and Stephanie Bernoteit, associate director of the Illinois Board of Higher Education, joined us for the event.
The grant’s first component focused on helping Triton students pass the ACT so they can be accepted into the early childhood bachelor’s program at NLU. Students may also take the Illinois Test of Academic Proficiency to enter the program, but Bressman said the team is focusing on the ACT because of the robust preparation resources available. Passing an entrance test sets a good standard for students going forward, Keneman added.
The second component of the grant will see NLU faculty working with their Triton counterparts to deliver relevant coursework in tandem. This includes a component that can lead to an additional ESL or bilingual state endorsement to better serve diverse student populations.
Lems had everyone dancing and singing with her presentation on multicultural songs. Keneman introduced the students to an early literacy strategy that they can implement in their centers working with children. The day ended with the former provost of National Louis, Christine Quinn, Ph.D., reading an inspirational children’s book, The Dot by Peter Reynolds, to the students.
Additionally, the students were given five children’s books as gifts from the Early Childhood Education grant to spread the word about literacy and early childhood. The Institute Day was so successful that the Early Childhood Department, CIL Department members and Triton are planning another day of information, fun and learning in December at NLU for future Early Childhood students.