New degree addresses demand for early childhood special education teachers
Responding to the needs of Arizona school districts, Arizona State University has introduced the state’s only bachelor’s degree program leading to certification in both early childhood education and special education.
ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College is offering the early childhood and special education (ECS) program, which prepares students for certification in early childhood education (birth through third grade) and early childhood special education (birth to age 5) as well earning a full endorsement to work with English language learners.
“The ECS degree was developed in direct response to school district needs,” said Cory Cooper Hansen, associate professor and early childhood program coordinator in Teachers College. “Districts are clamoring for early childhood special education teachers for a number of good reasons. Children who have special needs can be identified early, receive intervention sooner, and be part of inclusive classrooms with teachers who are trained to meet the needs of all children.”
Students may complete the full degree program at ASU or transfer from an accredited community college after successfully completing an approved lower-division curriculum. The degree’s curriculum emphasizes community connectedness, technology integration, administration, policy analysis and advocacy related to young children with disabilities or developmental delays and their families.
Beginning in their junior year, students complete two years of coursework specially designed to meet both regular education and special education requirements of the Arizona Department of Education. During their full-year student teaching experience, part of Teachers College’s iTeachAZ model, students will co-teach with K-3 mentors and mentors in inclusive birth to age five early childhood settings.
Josephine Jado and Katie Barr are two of the students pursuing the ECS degree.
I knew teaching was my true passion when I took child development classes in high school,” said Jado, who is enrolled at the West campus. “My journey as an aspiring teacher continued after graduation. I got a job at a daycare center and then an after-school program. I had the greatest moments working with children from 6 months to 6 years old. Special education also has a place in my heart. I have many great memories of working with children with special needs. I believe as I continue to learn and grow as a teacher I will go many places in the education world with a dual certification.”
“I am pursuing this degree because I want to be that positive first exposure that children have to learning,” said Barr, a student at the Tempe campus. “I want to be the teacher who inspires every student to have confidence in their ability to succeed. I feel the ECS degree will best prepare me to do that with every student, no matter their background. This dual certification will prepare me better to encourage and support any student’s needs.”
Hansen said creation of the ECS degree represents a collaborative effort on the part of early childhood and special education faculty members in Teachers College.
“In devising the curriculum we were fortunate to be able to draw from the expertise of a number of talented professors, many of whom have received national awards for their work in education,” she said.
ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College offers challenging education programs that prepare highly qualified and successful teachers, leaders, and researchers. Teachers College serves all four ASU campuses in metropolitan Phoenix and students across Arizona.