Website redesign announcement from the Illinois Early Learning Project (Guest blogger: Dr. Rebecca Swartz)

On behalf of the staff of the Illinois Early Learning Project , I am pleased to announce that our website has been redesigned. The Illinois Early Learning Project was started in 2001 and is funded by the Illinois State Board of Education. The web site is a source of evidence-based, reliable information on early care and education for families, caregivers, and teachers of young children in Illinois. We have resources in a variety of formats including our well known, easy to read tip sheets, videos, and information about the Project Approach. Our website includes many resources to help individuals and communities understand the Illinois Early Learning Guidelines, the Illinois Early Learning and Development Standards and most recently, the Illinois Kindergarten Learning Standards.

We hope you will find the new layout to be a user-friendly and useful resource for your teaching and for your students. We also encourage you to let the families of young children in your community know about our resources through community agencies and resource fairs. Our materials are free and can be shared via print, email, and social media. A link for ordering printed materials is here located on our homepage.

We have some new materials on the website that we want to highlight so you can integrate them into your teaching and outreach work. Our selection of graphic tip sheets has grown. These colorful, one-page tip sheets are great for posting on bulletin boards, sharing on social media, and easy to read. Teacher educators may wish to use them as prompts for assignments. Student can be encouraged to to reflect in small groups, discussion forums, or essays on how they might use the tip sheets as a tool in sharing child development and early learning information with families. Our new Early Learning Moments series is a resource for teacher educators presenting infant-toddler content. Use them for classroom instruction or assign them as self-study lessons.

During the process of our website redesign, we carefully reviewed all of the materials on our website to ensure that we are providing current, evidence-based information in up to date and useful formats. You may find that certain links have changed. We encourage you to use the “search” field located in the upper right corner of the website. You can type in keywords to search all of our project resources. If you encounter further difficulty, our project staff would be happy to assist you via email.

Another way to search our resources is to use a database search. Click to search resources by topic and you can search our data base by keyword, language, audience, and type of media. We encourage you to show your students the different ways to search the website so they can find materials that will help them in their coursework and teaching of young children. We will continue to develop new resources and welcome you to send us ideas for resources that would meet your needs as teacher educators. You can send your ideas via our user survey. We will also be at the Sharing a Vision conference in October! Our shared session with the Early Intervention Clearinghouse will provide help in searching for resources online and our new workshop, Junkyard Math will be a hands-on workshop that will introduce the redesigned website while we explore IEL’s mathematics resources. You can also visit our table to pick up printed materials, say hello, and tell us about your work and needs as teacher educators.


Dr. Rebecca Swartz, an early learning specialist for IEL, completed her doctorate in human development and family studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Rebecca’s research and outreach work focuses on infant-toddler care, home-based child care, and the social-emotional development of young children. Her goal is to help parents and early educators by providing evidence-based resources on child development and early learning.

Do early childhood educators need degrees?

Recent news such as this article, regarding new local regulations that include requirements for teachers and directors in the Early Childhood Education Community in the District of Columbia to have degrees by 2020 (Clairmont, 2017), have reignited the conversation of the value of degrees in the early childhood field.

There has been much debate about the “good” teachers without a degree versus those with a degree. Some people question if all degree programs are high quality and provide students with the knowledge, skills and disposition to be more confident and competent in their work with young children, their families and colleagues. Other people say that the question should be not the degree but the skills and knowledge that make teachers successful at supporting the growth and development of young children. Additionally, some people say that the question should be how to provide an appropriate salary that reflects the professional credentials. Other people say that the real question should be what is the cost to have teachers with degrees in Early Childhood Programs, especially in Community-based Organizations in under resourced neighborhood, who will pay the cost and How.

Here is another article, examining the idea of apprenticeships as a vehicle for addressing some of the PD, equity and pay needs for the early childhood education field (McCarthy, 2017).

What are your thoughts on this subject?


Clairmont, N. (July 11, 2017). D.C.’s misguided attempt to regulate daycar: Requiring child-care workers to have college degrees will likely widen the capital’s economic disparities. Retrieved from

McCarthy, M.A. (June, 2017). Rethinking credential requirements in early education: Equity-based strategies for professionalizing a vulnerable workforce. Retrieved from


Dr. Boh Young Lee is an assistant professor of Early Childhood Education program in the department of Curriculum and Instruction at Western Illinois University.

Message from ILAECTE President

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:
  • 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
  • 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 (, 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

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.

“I have been doing my job over 25 years, and I believe I know what I am doing”

Here is Jin, now an 8-year-old girl. She was born in America, but her parents were from China, and until the age of three, her mother took care of her at home. When she was 4, she began attending a Montessori school, and it was her very first time to attend any type of day care center. Until then, she had barely been exposed to English. She often told her mother that she didn’t want to go to school, but her mother thought that time would fix everything. Also, her teacher assured her mother, saying, “Jin is doing fine, so please do not worry.” Three months later, Jin was very sick and had to stay at home for 1 week. On her first day back at school, Jin’s mother brought Jin to class and watched Jin through the window without letting Jin know she was there. Once Jin stepped into the class, she stood still in the middle of the classroom. There were four children and two teachers. One teacher was doing an art activity with two children, the other teacher was cleaning up, and the other two children were playing in the block area. The teacher working with two children said, “Good morning, Jin, choose what you want to play” and then continued to work with the other children. Jin, speechless, just kept standing still. According to her mother, Jin stayed like that for almost 10 minutes, but no teacher came to her. Her mother told me, “You know, Jin had been absent for one week. Couldn’t they at least ask her if she was feeling better? Watching my child standing still alone for 10 minutes was just heartbreaking. I just couldn’t stand it, but I had to leave her there and go to work. Instead, when I picked her up, I told one of the teachers what I saw in the morning and how I felt. Of course, not in a straightforward way. You know what? She told me, “My teaching philosophy is to pursue child-centered, child-initiated activities and to help young children develop their independence. I do not tell my children what to do. Children will find what they want to do by themselves. I have been doing my job over 25 years, and I believe I know what I am doing. Please trust me. It’s her first time at day care, so she will need some time to adjust. That’s all. Besides, Jin knows I love her.” I had no choice but to trust her, but I still can’t forget that day.”

As an early childhood education teacher, yes, it is very important to have professional concurrent knowledge of early childhood pedagogy and state and national level of standards, policies, guidelines, and mandates. In addition, teachers’ educational backgrounds and experiences should be valued in any degree. However, teachers need to remember they cannot put anything over the value of a child. Every child is different and unique. Yes, early childhood teachers/educators know the importance of implementing child-centered, child-initiated activities. Early childhood teachers/educators believe those activities are developmentally appropriate for young children. However, if their “great” teaching skills have worked for other children, but not for one child in their classroom, then, they need to find a better way to help the child, not just simply trying to make the child fit in their way.


Dr. Boh Young Lee is an assistant professor of Early Childhood Education program in the department of Curriculum and Instruction at Western Illinois University.

Resource: photo was found at