Newman Early Childhood Education Program partners with USD 259

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The Early Childhood Education Program at Newman University is discovering new opportunities after building a recent partnership with Wichita public schools.

In October, Assistant Professors of Education Sandy Bequette, Ed.D., and Cindy Louthan, Ph.D., met with Shannon Benoit, the executive director of curriculum and instruction for USD 259. They discussed opportunities to assist the school district in hiring well-qualified early childhood unified (ECU) teachers that have completed or are completing the program at Newman.

The Kansas State Department of Education no longer provides licensure in early childhood or early childhood handicap. Instead, these two areas were merged into one: ECU licensure.

“There is a huge need for special education teachers in the state of Kansas,” said Bequette. “In particular, early childhood special education teachers are highly sought after. Our NU early childhood unified program provides candidates with a solid program where they learn about supporting students with diverse needs.”

Sandra Bequeath

Sandra Bequette

Bequette and Louthan plan to meet with USD 259 pre-kindergarten teachers and paraprofessionals about the Newman Early Childhood Unified and Elementary Education Program on Feb. 20. The two anticipate an audience of more than 150 teachers and paras.

“Our target market is early childhood teachers who have not completed an early childhood unified program, as well as paraprofessionals with some college hours who might be interested in earning a degree,” Bequette said. “Many schools in USD 259 are requiring that all pre-K teachers hold ECU licensure. We envision in the near future that all pre-K teachers will have an ECU background.”

Benoit, who is also head of Early Childhood Services and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), has plans to attend the Newman ECU open house on April 12. There, she will speak about the need for ECU teachers in the Wichita area.

Newman has been involved with area districts for several years, including Maize, Andover, Derby and Wichita. In addition, individuals in the ECU program work with local childcare agencies, including The Opportunity Project and Discovery Place Preschool.

The Newman ECU program also works with Child Start, a local nonprofit organization that focuses on early learning for lifelong success. In this program, ECU candidates complete a shadow assignment each summer in which they participate in a family education assignment.

“Students shadow a family educator as she (or he) works in the home with young children who have been identified as needing special services,” Bequette said. “It has been a great way to help our teacher candidates become true ECU advocates as well as spread the word about our ECU program in Wichita.”

Bequette added, “I am very proud of our ECU graduates. We have students working in various districts throughout Kansas. Many work in pre-K classrooms, others work with older grades and some work at Child Start. We are making an impact in the needs of young children in our community.”

Janee Bernal

Janee Bernal

More about the Newman ECU Program

Every summer, Newman University offers ECU certification, which includes courses both in person and online.

“Our students benefit from the expertise of current, award-winning and local early childhood educators,” said Janee Bernal, assistant professor of education at Newman. “Students also (receive the opportunity) to make connections with stakeholders and agencies that provide services for young children.”

Students experience a variety of clinical observations and experiences in infant, toddler and preschool settings. Upon completion of coursework, students are certified to teach infants through third grade in both regular education and special education classrooms.

“All of the program completers who have chosen to work in early childhood unified are currently teaching in those settings,” Bernal said. “It is a joy to see our students successfully working with early childhood students throughout southwest Kansas.”

To learn more about the Newman program, contact Bequette at (316) 942-4291, ext. 2193 or by email at bequettes@newmanu.edu.

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