Aug 7, 2017

Lyndon State’s Early Childhood Education Hybrid Degree Is Meeting Labor Force Needs In Vermont

LYNDON CENTER — The innovative Lyndon State College hybrid Early Childhood Education program is addressing a demand for licensed Vermont educators and helping teachers meet new requirements to keep their jobs.

The program, launched last fall, was developed to allow students with an associate’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Community College of Vermont to transition directly to Lyndon to earn a bachelor of science degree and meet state licensure requirements.

That makes it easier for students to meet new criteria established by Vermont’s Act 166. The act, a universal pre-kindergarten measure implemented in 2016, requires early childhood educators to have a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education and a teaching license. The requirements have posed challenges for many educators unable to finish a degree program and earn licensure while they work full time.

“We are responding to workforce needs by providing a program that students who want licensure can finish,” says Eden Haywood-Bird, who coordinates Lyndon’s early childhood programs and developed the hybrid model. “It fits their schedule and doesn’t take forever.”

Lyndon’s program can be completed in 18 months, and it’s mostly online, so students can work on assignments when it’s convenient. Lyndon’s is the first such program in the Vermont State Colleges System and Vermont’s only hybrid Early Childhood Education program.

“Particularly with the passage of Act 166, there is significant demand for licensed early childhood teachers, especially in private settings,” says Julie Cadwallader-Staub, director of Vermont’s Early Learning Challenge grant program. The grant funds projects that support early learning and development.

“Vermont’s economy depends on parents being able to work. For parents to work, they need high-quality, affordable care and education for their children. Lyndon’s program enables more early childhood practitioners to get the education and training they need to enter or stay in the field and provide high-quality care. It’s an economic development issue,” Cadwallader-Staub says.

Lyndon’s program also meets the needs of head teachers like Dawn Irwin who, to keep their job rank under separate new state requirements, must earn a bachelor’s degree and in some cases licensure, too.

“It fits into the lifestyle of a mom who works full time,” Irwin says. “Even if it’s midnight, I can get online and do my work. With a 2 ½-year-old, sometimes that’s when it gets done.”

Lyndon’s program was the only one Irwin found that allows her to meet the student-teaching requirement through her work in her current job at Stepping Stones Children’s Center in Burlington.

“No other program in Vermont allows your job to be your student teaching. As a working mom, there was no way I could take time off to apply the hours I needed for that piece of the licensure,” she says. “But with Lyndon’s program … I can still work full time and go to school and meet the requirements to get my license.”

The program’s student-teaching component is like an apprenticeship, in which students work with a coach who has a teaching license. “Research shows that students who do it through an apprenticeship model stay with the profession longer,” Haywood-Bird says.

With the apprenticeship feature and other aspects of the program, “It demonstrates the success of a new model of providing access to higher education and could be considered by other institutions,” Cadwallader-Staub says.

As with the program’s student-teaching component, the required fieldwork can be done in a student’s current job.

“Supporting our early education workforce is foundational to building the capacity of our early care and learning system,” says Aly Richards, CEO of the Permanent Fund for Vermont’s Children, which works to achieve high-quality, affordable early care and learning by 2025. “By offering a pathway to training and professional development, Lyndon’s hybrid program is elevating the quality of early care and learning environments for children.”

Irwin, 32, of Essex, earned an associate’s degree from CCV and had planned to get a bachelor’s degree eventually.

Haywood-Bird is “absolutely phenomenal. She’s so supportive. She understands all of us are full-time working professionals, and most of us have families,” Irwin says. “She listens and gives advice when she can. She really wants what’s best for us and for us to succeed and grow professionally.”

Lyndon’s program has motivated Irwin to pursue master’s and doctoral degrees someday. She wants to focus her doctoral research on multi-age educational settings. “Before the Lyndon program, I never thought anything like that would be possible,” she says. “It has really opened up my horizons, and I can’t wait to see where it goes.”

Click here to read this story on the Caledonian Record website. 

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