Across the state of Illinois, classrooms reflect a multiplicity of languages, abilities, and life experiences. More than 50 percent of children Pre-K to 12 are non-white. Creating a truly inclusive classroom means knowing how to build on the strengths of every student—and much more. Teachers need to be attuned to individual family dynamics and understand the systemic forces that inhibit equitable opportunities for all young children to reach their full potential. Finally, the field needs more teachers of Color. For example, in Illinois, while nearly 17% of students are Black, only 6% of their teachers are Black. While nearly 54% of students in Illinois are non-White (Black, Latinx, Asian, Indigenous, and of Color), 81.3% of Illinois’ teachers are white. (Statistical source: https://www.illinoisreportcard.com/)
To address the need for teachers who are comprehensively prepared to reach every child in their classroom and make it easier for our students to become those teachers, Erikson Institute has reimagined our teacher licensure master’s degree program. We have created the first Triple Endorsement master’s program in Illinois, which provides our students with three key credentials: Early Childhood Education, English as a Second Language (ESL)/Bilingual Education and Special Education.
Market research indicates that teachers want an alternative to the traditional method of “stacking” endorsements (earning them separately). Erikson’s program addresses this need by integrating three credentials into one program.
In the last couple of years, our Early Childhood Educator (ECE) professors and program directors have observed an influx of graduate students seeking to gain multiple endorsements to better understand children’s diverse educational needs. By streamlining endorsements into one curriculum, the program avoids the traditional method that falls short of offering a holistic approach that every child needs and deserves.
Additionally, Erikson’s teacher licensure program offers grants for qualifying students that cover all tuition and student services fees. The program is designed with working professionals in mind by allowing, whenever possible, the student teaching requirement to be done at a student’s workplace.
Erikson faculty are in the forefront of the new wave of teacher education that, rather than focus on children’s “readiness” for school, seeks to increase schools’ readiness to serve children with whatever educational capacities and challenges they bring to the classroom.
Luisiana Meléndez, Ph.D.; Crystasany Turner, Ph.D.; Lilly Padía; and Sandra L. Osorio, Ph.D. came together in our (Re)Imagining Early Childhood Teaching & Learning: Challenges and Opportunities webinar for an in-depth conversation on how teacher preparation programs can better respond to educators’ and children’s needs. As Lilly Padía said, “we hope to move away from the idea of a ‘standard child’ and take a more holistic approach, a social model perspective.” This approach would reorient towards adjusting and improving the learning environment to support all children at the intersection of all their identities.
Dr. Turner discussed the importance of diverse professors teaching culturally responsive approaches to help dismantle deficit-based understandings of culturally, linguistically, and economically diverse children and families. “Growing and learning through liberatory practices that are culturally responsive and culturally congruent to the population that they serve,” says Dr. Turner. “The goal is to make sure that teachers are ready to effectively serve their students by supporting and connecting theory to practice,” says Dr. Meléndez.
Erikson supports its students in developing awareness of systemic bias through a core component of all its graduate programs- reflective practice. Reflective practice equips students to observe their reactions to new knowledge and experiences as a way to understand themselves better so that they can use self-awareness to improve their work with young children.
Erikson’s triple endorsement master’s degree does not end at graduation; we will support new teachers by connecting them to a long-term professional learning community (PLC). Erikson’s PLC will consist of small groups that meet once a month starting post-graduation. Participants will receive professional development hours and continue their reflective practice with colleagues.
With its triple endorsements, generous financial support, flexibility, individualized approach to student teaching and post-graduation support, Erikson’s Teacher Licensure program leads the field in preparing teachers to holistically address the needs of today’s diverse classrooms.
Applications are now open for our Summer 2023 cohort. The last day to submit a complete application is April 21.
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