by Brett Spielberg
Open to candidates who do not currently hold teacher certification in New York State, this full-time, 55-credit program leads to dual certification in both early childhood education and students with disabilities (birth–second grade).
Dual certification prepares students to work with all learners: typically developing children, children with special needs and English language learners, encompassing children from diverse backgrounds.
“Early childhood is such a very comprehensive field of study, there are so many diverse career paths,” program director Dorothy Phalen said. “This prepares students to work in daycare centers; home or community-based learning opportunities; hospitals; and school districts from pre-school to second grade, both public and private, for children with both regular and special needs.”
The majority of course work will be offered at the Varick Street campus on Sunday in addition to one evening during the week. There will also be opportunities to take electives during the summer to expedite the process.
The cohort model will emphasize group education and unite students in their goal to help children with a diverse range of abilities and disabilities reach their fullest potential.
“They work together, they study together; the students themselves really become a community as they move through the system,” Ms. Phalen said. “Classes are typically capped at 25 students. We want to make sure we have enough students to run the specific courses, but not too many students that it overloads the courses.”
The program provides the perfect platform to establish collaborative relationships with the community. This ensures that fieldwork hours during the day—with 150 hours required before student teaching—take place in a variety of settings, yet ensures a commitment to flexibility.
“Fieldwork is arranged geographically depending on where the students are living or working and can vary from daycare settings to hospitals,” Ms. Phalen said. “Sundays and evening classes allow students to work while they go to school. If one student needs to do their fieldwork every Monday, that could work for them, while another might want to do theirs every day for a week.”
At the core of the teaching philosophy is the commitment to uphold the dignity of every child and to create a climate in which all children and families are both valued and respected.
The goal is to provide teachers with the skills that meet the unique needs of children and enhance their quality of life. As some children require specialized services, the program trains teachers to work in multiple settings that encourage children to become as independent as possible as well as to integrate them into a broad spectrum of activities.
“The natural environment for young children is the home, so it’s very comprehensive course work that has a family centric approach,” Ms. Phalen said. “Classes are interdisciplinary because children learn across all five senses or multi-modal learning.”
Enrolling candidates with no previous teaching experience from typically liberal arts backgrounds, the program prides itself in successfully preparing students work in countless environments.
“Students are finding good teaching jobs, often with the program sites they do their fieldwork,” Ms. Phalen said. “Those are the best results of any program.”