Bradley to offer comprehensive childhood education program

March 7, 2011

Beginning in fall 2011, Bradley’s College of Education and Health Sciences will offer a new option for teacher education students. In addition to the separate early childhood education and elementary education programs, a new option will combine the two nationally recognized programs.

In the past, students have had to choose between the early childhood and elementary education programs or take both for an increased workload. Graduates of the new program will be fully certified to teach students from birth through fifth grade, and up through eighth grade with a middle-school endorsement.

Dr. Dean Cantu, chairman of the Department of Teacher Education, says the new program was developed in response to the requests of students and school superintendents, and will be open to current students as well as incoming freshmen and transfer students. Schools have been looking to hire teachers with a broader base of knowledge and expertise, and this program will provide that for Bradley’s students.

“Because the graduates will have a broader spectrum of knowledge, they are that much more marketable [to employers] and effective in the classroom,” he said.

The new program is designed to be completed in nine semesters, but can be completed in eight semesters for students who take some classes during January and May Interim sessions. The program focuses on providing students with a mixture of experiences. Students will take two semesters of novice teaching, one in early childhood education and one in an elementary school. They then take one semester of student teaching in one of the grades where the two programs overlap: kindergarten, first, second, or third grade.

Current faculty will teach courses in the new program designed to integrate both early childhood and elementary education. “The program includes teacher education classes and subject area concentration classes in English language arts, fine arts, foreign language, mathematics, science, or social studies,” said Dr. Sherrie Pardieck. “Plus, there is more teaching time and experiences in the birth through elementary community classrooms as preservice teachers prepare for their future educational endeavors.”

Bradley faculty began planning the program in the 2008-2009 academic year. In May 2010, Dr. Cantu, Dr. Pardieck, Dr. Hwa Lee, and Dr. David McMullen traveled to Springfield and obtained the state’s approval for the program. ETE faculty have worked throughout the current academic year to earn campus approval, which they obtained last semester, and to take the steps necessary to implement the program.

“For years, leaders in early childhood and elementary education have indicated the need to train future teachers in both areas,” said Dr. Lee. “Our candidates in this program will be one of the most qualified groups of future educators.”

Susie Stear, advising coordinator in the Department of Teacher Education, was equally enthusiastic.

“The combined program helps teachers see the whole child from the early years through middle school,” she said. “Knowing where their students have come from and where they are going is critical to seeing the big picture and giving them the best education possible.”