Many Southeast Kansas residents who wish to earn a teaching degree or build on an existing elementary education degree will now have the ability to do so close to home, thanks to a new early childhood unified degree program to be offered by the Newman University Southeast Kansas Teacher Education Program.
Classes for the new program will begin this summer, and will be delivered at Independence Community College (ICC).
The degree program, called the Early Childhood Unified Education degree (ECU), is designed to prepare teachers to work with young children from birth through 3rd grade. The program will be built around the existing Elementary Education degree program already offered by the Newman Southeast Kansas Teacher Education Program, and requires an additional semester (16 credit hours) of coursework for students to earn dual licensure. Area residents already holding an education degree and teaching license may need only the additional 16 hours to earn their early childhood unified education licensure.
"There are many residents in southeast Kansas who have at least two years of college, but because of jobs, family, or other commitments are unable to go away to a four-year college," said Connie Watson, Ph.D., Newman assistant professor of education and director of the Southeast Kansas Education Program. "For these residents who desire to complete their teaching degree close to home and in the evenings, Newman University provides this opportunity on the Independence Community College campus."
Meeting a need
Newman officials said the new degree option was developed in response to a growing demand for certified early childhood educators and for teachers with a combination of early childhood unified and elementary education certification.
Karen Rogers, Ph.D., associate professor of education at the Newman University campus in Wichita where the new program will also be offered beginning this summer, said the major will develop caring, reflective practitioners who possess theoretical, practical, family and child-centered skills for the education and development of young children.
"Early Childhood education is an area that deserves our finest teachers that value individuals and recognizes potential in our youngest learners," Rogers said. "Developing a program based on caring, reflective practitioners promotes this philosophy."
"The new program is great because it also gives teachers more options," Watson added. "Teachers will have the ability to work with children from birth through grade 6. And, if they have already earned their elementary education degree, this allows them to get an additional certification and move up the pay scale with only one semester's work."
Other degree programs and benefits
The new ECU program will be part of the existing Teacher Education Program (TEP) offered by Newman University in Southeast Kansas. Residents who have completed general education requirements at a community college and who qualify for the TEP may complete the Elementary Education degree program in two years, including the teaching internship. In addition to the elementary education and early childhood unified education programs, programs are available for a Master of Science in Education degree in Curriculum and Instruction, Middle School Endorsement, and English as a Second Language (ESL) Endorsement.
Newman University also offers two online programs available in Southeast Kansas, a Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN) degree, and a Bachelor of Business Studies degree.
Watson notes that the Newman programs offer many benefits to area residents. Course credits can be easily transferred to Newman, especially for those with a bachelor's degree, associate of art degree or associate of science degree. Credits can be transferred that were earned at Independence, Allen County, Coffeyville, Labette and Neosho County Community Colleges, as well as other colleges and universities.
"Almost all programs feature evening classes on Mondays through Thursdays, which is a plus for students who work during the day or have a family," Watson said. "The majority of classes are taught locally at ICC through face-to-face instruction."
Watson added that Newman is affordable. The university offers a variety of scholarships and grants, including scholarship opportunities for students who graduated with an associate's degree from a community college in Kansas and surrounding states.
Watson said the new ECU program and other programs available through the Newman Southeast Kansas program also offer many advantages over programs in other area colleges and universities. Classes with face-to-face instruction allow for interaction among teachers and students, she said. Newman also features small class sizes, giving students more opportunities for personal attention.