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Meeting state demands for early childhood educators

New partnership and online program will qualify more preschool teachers

Contact: Heather Smith

​Teaching children is anything but child's play. Consider this: The brain's capacity develops nearly 90 percent before a child turns 5.

Demand for qualified early childhood education providers in preschools, daycare centers and Head Start programs is increasing throughout Michigan following a continued push to make Michigan a "no-wait state" for low-income students enrolling in preschool.

Central Michigan University, along with Mott Community College, is taking the lead on developing a credit transfer program that meets this demand. It soon will include institutions across the state such as Grand Rapids, Lansing and Macomb community colleges.

Mott alumni earning associate's degrees in early childhood development are eligible for their degree to count toward completion of CMU's early childhood development and learning undergraduate degree. CMU's program, now offered online, leads to qualification to teach in preschools.

"CMU and Mott are the first institutions that have said we're going to prove this can happen," said Cheryl Priest, the CMU human development and family studies faculty member overseeing this credit transfer program. "We need to celebrate this partnership, but then we need to make it work with other institutions."

Transferring associate's degree credits to four-year institutions historically wasn't consistent from institution to institution. However, Priest said recent conversations addressed whether an associate's degree from a National Association for the Education of Young Children-accredited college could count toward undergraduate requirements.

CMU has been a leader in teacher education since it was founded in 1892. It has expertise in early childhood education through its Child Development and Learning Laboratory, which serves central and northern Michigan to meet the needs of young children in social, cognitive, emotional, physical and language development.

"Through this program, we truly are reaching a new group of students in Michigan and throughout the nation who otherwise wouldn't have considered an early childhood undergraduate degree was an option for them," Priest said.

Nearly 30 people had applied to the online early childhood development program less than six weeks after it was offered. One of the applicants, Kerry Boylan from Saginaw, Michigan, is opening the door for discussions into future community college agreements.

Boylan earned her associate's degree in child development from Grand Rapids Community College three years ago and is an associate teacher in a Saginaw-area Head Start classroom. Her lead teacher encouraged Boylan to pursue the online program so she could earn her degree and become qualified to serve as a lead teacher.

And maintaining a full-time job and raising her 1-year-old daughter, Boylan said it is key that the courses are offered online.

"It's so incredible when you teach the children something and you actually see it in their eyes when they get it," Boylan said. "I always had thought I was going to stick with serving as an associate teacher, but as I was looking into the program, my lead teacher said to just apply and see what happens."

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