Dear Colleagues and Friends,
As we are all working feverishly to get the fall semester up and running smoothly, I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a wonderful and rewarding year! What a privilege to be able to serve you in this new role as president of ILAECTE for the next couple of years (and as past-president for many more!). I will always remember moving to Illinois five years ago with very few connections, and finding this dedicated and passionate group of early childhood teacher educators working tirelessly on behalf of their students as well as the young children and families of Illinois. I observed an authentic tenacity among the leadership team with Pat Steinhaus and Cathy Main at the helm that resonated deeply with me, and inspired me to stay connected with ILAECTE even when the demands of academic life were pulling me in many other directions. Those that have come before me as leaders of this great organization have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to supporting the work of all Illinois early childhood teacher educators, even in the midst of their own demanding lives. As a result, as we enter the 2016-2017 academic year, ILAECTE is a recognized leader and respected voice in the ongoing conversation about how to best serve the needs of young children and families in our state.
For those of us that have been in the field of early childhood education and care for more than a couple of decades, viewing the field in light of the national landscape can cause us to feel that we are moving in circles without enough forward progress, as we continue to have similar conversations year after year. However, for Illinois early childhood teacher educators, there is much to celebrate as we reflect on the past several years:
- The IBHE Early Childhood Educator Preparation Program Innovation grant program resulted in newly established and enhanced partnerships among four-year and two-year early childhood programs. These partnerships are creating a pipeline for attracting and retaining diverse teacher candidates. This great work represents a huge stride forward in early childhood workforce development, and is documented in a monograph authored by several of our members: http://ierc.education/our-research/publications/
- Many of our members completed a full revision of their early childhood teacher education programs, to include greater emphasis on preparing teachers for diverse and inclusive classroom settings. The effects of these efforts will be far-reaching as our candidates become even better equipped to meet the needs of all of the children and families they serve.
- We are now transitioning from a benchmark based model of early childhood teacher preparation to a competency based model. This work is currently underway, and has been moving forward at a remarkably rapid pace thanks to the contributions of countless ECE leaders under the leadership of ILAECTE Past President Nancy Latham and others. In her words, this transition will “…sustain and enhance…high quality preparation as well as connect ECE professional evaluation and professional development to the same competency expectations.” For more, check out Nancy’s guest blog post https://wordpress-old.wiu.edu/ilaecte/2017/03/02/standards-benchmarks-and-competencies-oh-my-guest-bloggers-nancy-latham-and-johnna-darragh-ernst/
- The Illinois National Academy of Medicine (NAM) team led by ILAECTE past-president Cathy Main conducted a state-wide Early Childhood (EC) Workforce Supply and Demand Survey Summary to examine the relationship between Illinois supply of qualified EC teachers and assistants and the demand across targeted age ranges, program types, and funding sources. The survey included perspectives and experiences from the field related to recruiting, hiring, and retaining qualified staff. Preliminary survey results will be reported at the Governor’s cabinet on Children and Youth quarterly meeting on September 7, 2017.
Each new year is an opportunity to build on previous accomplishments to continue the progress we have seen. As we survey the current EC landscape in Illinois, the ILAECTE leadership team sees the following items as priorities for the coming year:
- Continued cultivation of a community of practice, in which members inspire and encourage one another by sharing from their own experiences in program development, curriculum, school partnerships, community partnerships, research, student mentoring, consulting, etc.
- The development of creative ideas to promote ECED/ECSE programs among our own institutions (including leadership), student populations, local communities, etc.
- Continued engagement in the conversation regarding requirements for entry into EC teacher licensure programs, as well as other initiatives impacting EC teacher preparation (ex: SB 1829).
- Continued engagement in the conversation about the early childhood workforce through the leadership of Cathy Main.
- Continued work toward nurturing and strengthening the relationship between four-year and two-year programs / ACCESS.
- Collaboration on the development of recommendations regarding the creation of a Kindergarten endorsement.
Many of these issues are agenda items for state workgroups and committees. Huge thanks to our colleagues that serve as members of these groups in addition to their active participation in ILAECTE, maximizing our collaborative advocacy efforts.
As Cathy has shared previously (https://wordpress-old.wiu.edu/ilaecte/2015/12/31/message-from-ilaecte-president/), national attention on the work that we do as early childhood teacher educators is increasing, and there is much to be hopeful about as we look to the future of ECTE. I hope that you will engage with ILAECTE even more deeply this year as we work together to advocate for the most valuable and vulnerable members of our communities. I look forward to our work together!
All the best,
Rebecca Pruitt, Ph.D., is Associate Professor and director of Early Childhood Education programs at Lewis University. Before joining Lewis in the fall of 2012, she served children, families and educators for 20 years as an early childhood teacher and program director, parent educator with Healthy Families and Parents as Teachers, kindergarten literacy interventionist, university researcher, and department head of Early Care and Education at Oklahoma State University Oklahoma City. She holds a Ph.D. in Curriculum Studies, an MS in Family Relations and Child Development, and a BA in Early Childhood.