|Limestone Offers New Early Childhood Education Degree|
Limestone College has just been granted approval (August 18) by the South Carolina State Department of Education to offer its Early Childhood Education degree program.
The first class begins Monday, August 22nd in the Extended Campus Program. Students in the traditional Day Program have until August 24th to enroll.
The Early Childhood Education program will equip students with an understanding of the needs and characteristics of small children in order to create supportive and healthy learning environments for them.
As the sixth education major at Limestone, the Early Childhood Education program joins a family of offerings committed to the highest level of national expectations and successful job placement.
Of the total number of 2011 graduates of the Elementary Education degree program, 86% have landed jobs in nine school districts in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia.
In April, Limestone's Teacher Education program received its full accreditation from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. "NCATE is the highest standard for the preparation of classroom teachers," said Dr. Shelly Meyers, Assistant Professor of Elementary Education and Director of Teacher Education. "Earning our national accreditation assures that we are graduating quality teachers who are prepared to move directly into the classroom."
Dr. Schubert designed the curriculum for the Early Childhood Education program and will serve as its coordinator. "Due to the constantly increasing number of at risk children, the initiation of this program could not have come at a better time as there is a growing demand for highly skilled early childhood educators," she said.
Dr. Schubert also credits the beginning of the program to the fact that "the community surrounding Limestone College has a diverse make up including families at the poverty level," and the major will give Limestone students the opportunity "to enter the surrounding community schools and provide young children with quality care and a strong academic foundation." There have also been multiple requests by alumni and local school districts for Limestone to offer a degree and certification program in Early Childhood Education.
Teachers in early childhood can work in both public and private schools or in other childcare sectors such as preschools and local Head Start Programs. Head Start provides enrolled children with a safe learning environment to gain the necessary skills and awareness needed to succeed in school. In fact, according to the Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center, by September 30, 2013, at least half of all Head Start teachers nationwide will be required to have a bachelor's degree or higher in either Early Childhood Education or any other discipline with coursework related to Early Childhood Education.
During course work, candidates must complete 120 hours of field experience that will place them with children ranging from infancy to third grade and provide them "with extensive opportunities to apply child development knowledge in a variety of settings," Dr. Schubert explains. As a capstone to their experience, candidates will complete a 60-day full time clinical practice (student teaching internship) in a public school.
Enrolling in the new education program is not only beneficial for undergraduates looking to go into the field. Teachers who are certified in other areas of education but are interested in early childhood learning can earn their certification just as easily. For example, an elementary education teacher can, through the extended campus program at Gaffney, register for three early childhood courses to earn his or her certification in early childhood education.
Dr. Meyers explains that "the early childhood program will offer not only a full certification route, but an add-on for teachers with existing certificates. This means Limestone will be increasing the number of highly qualified teachers in the field of early childhood and therefore helping improve the quality of education available for our community's youngest students."
Dr. Schubert characterizes successful childhood educators as individuals who are "knowledgeable about child development and consider themselves life-long learners. They positively affect the children's development with activities that are developmentally appropriate and encourage children to problem-solve and initiate their own learning." She further describes any teacher who works in the field of early childhood as a "caregiver" who "strives to educate the whole child."