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Community College Undergrads Visit, Learn Early Childhood Education Options Profs brief them kindergarten teachers will need early childhood endorsement in Illinois

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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 on December 1.

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 to the Top  initiative— 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. This BA degree will also allow the students to add an ESL endorsement to their license.

Members of NLU’s Early Childhood department, including Sherri Bressman, Ed.D. the department chair, Ayn Keneman, Ed.D., Lisa Downey, M.Ed., 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 professor Mary Rinchiuso, M.Ed., joined them 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  Sherri 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.

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  provost of National Louis, Alison Hilsabeck, Ph.D., reading an inspirational children’s book, The Dot by Peter Reynolds, to the students. The students were able to relate to the book’s theme of  a teacher’s influence on a child’s life.