Teachers prepared through the Early Childhood Education Program at Columbia College Chicago stand out from the crowd. That’s because they have been asked to think of themselves as professionals who think broadly and deeply from the moment that they entered our program, a program that pushes at the boundaries of convention. We ask that our students explore the arts and consider the richness that they might bring to their own lives and those of the children with whom they will work. This requires that they take risks, but making change requires risk, and early childhood students are at the beginning of careers filled with change. There is no greater change to be made than positively affecting the lives of children.
Much of what our students will do as educators has no clear-cut direction or answers. This lesson is at the heart of what we do in Early Childhood Education. Our program is about people, and people are complex. We support our students in finding artful ways of teaching, leading, and navigating these complexities. We support them in finding the balance necessary to be excellent teachers. One way in which we do this is by extensive study of the internationally recognized Reggio Emilia Approach, a sophisticated and complex philosophy that honors young children as capable, multi-faceted, and possessing many languages of learning.
Early Childhood Education graduates earn an Illinois Type 04 Teaching Certificate. Because of this there are many requirements built into the program, and students have the benefit of having faculty advisors who support their progress in the program. It is critical that students make program choices wisely based on all of the information available to them and with the assistance of their advisor.
We teach our students in small classes, moving into a cohort model at the junior level. We do so because we believe that learning is an interpersonal process and is best supported and nurtured in environments that provide ongoing, personal contact. Our faculty members are experienced teachers of young children as well as academics involved in research and writing.
Our students spend extensive time in the field observing and working with young children, implementing many of the teaching strategies that we have modeled for them. This includes a study tour in the final semester to Reggio Emilia, Italy, where, as a capstone experience, students demonstrate their understanding of the Reggio Emilia Approach. They leave the program prepared for the lead teacher role and are hired by many of the excellent programs and schools in the area.
We remain grateful to the program’s benefactors, Joan and Irving Harris, whose support has provided generous scholarships for many students and allows us to teach in state-of-the-art classrooms outfitted with all of the resources that our students might encounter as they step onto their career path.
The role of professional educator is exciting, challenging, and immensely gratifying. It is an ongoing journey, along which you will continue to grow throughout your career. It is the trip of a lifetime.
Interim Director, Early Childhood Education