We sat down with Dr. Chrystine Mitchell, Associate Professor of Education at Alvernia University, to talk about why she helped us develop five new courses to provide an early childhood education career path. Dr. Mitchell shared her expertise and perspectives into the many benefits of a career in early childhood education and why training and earning a degree are critical for career advancement.
Q. What are the benefits of an early childhood education career path?
A. There are so many benefits. Early childhood education can lead into so many things, but of course, one of the best is working with young children. They light up so many things, in so many facets, of a person's life, and it's one of the most rewarding careers maybe outside of being a physician. It’s one of the most rewarding careers being able to teach tomorrow's future, connecting with students, and really helping them become the whole child, and then hopefully successful adults in the long run. In reality, this profession offers so many different opportunities, like going into other fields within education: working with technology or with special education students, for example. There's a myriad of things that an early childhood education career path can lead to, and one of the best, of course, is just being able to work with young students and to help them be the best that they can be.
Q. How does early education lay the foundation for a child's life?
A. When we think about the people in our lives that influence others, we obviously have parents and grandparents and friends and extended family. But teachers are with kids for the majority of the day. Myself being a parent, I let my kids off at school and they're there for eight hours a day. They're with that one teacher who is helping to shape them, hopefully helping them become a better person. So, we as teachers have the potential of helping shape who children are as people, and then, of course, laying some of the foundation – some of those pieces – that they'll then refer to as they get older. They will refer back to that teacher who taught them about what it means to be responsible or what it means to feel loved and cared for. We've seen some teacher burnout, especially because of COVID-19, so a lot of teachers are leaving the field. Each year there's about 120,000 new teaching positions becoming available. We know we need really good teachers working with tomorrow's youth who recognize that teaching positions have so much responsibility and so much potential. There are tons of positions that are opening up. It used to be that teachers were fighting for positions: you might have had 75 applicants for one job. Now school districts are holding career fairs because they're trying to get good people into the field of education. We recognize there are so many jobs, but now we have so few teachers to take those jobs, so it's really a growing profession. There are also a number of different places that career paths in early childhood education can take you with a degree. As you think about the inside of the classroom walls, there are support positions, there are teachers of special education, there are teachers of general education, you have interventionists, there are also reading specialists and math specialists, and people who work with students in small groups. Also, there are areas for growth outside of the classroom. For example, there are lots of different possibilities for sales in education working for technology companies or with online education, which is something we've seen really blossoming in the last 10 years. Also, there are sales positions for classroom and online materials, such as websites that provide books for students or access to eBooks. There are so many opportunities by just having a degree of any kind in education.
Q. Why is it important for someone to earn their Child Development Associate (CDA) certification?
A. The CDA is actually a wonderful opportunity to start to build one’s expertise in early childhood education. In particular, a CDA starts to provide some of the common language that teachers need to know and how to build the whole child by recognizing policies and procedures, general pedagogy, and how to teach young children. A CDA helps to connect new teachers to administrators in the field, and it illustrates, in a sense, that you have the prerequisite skills to be in the classroom. So, it really is a nice stepping stone potentially to another position – a more well-paying position. And again, a CDA shows the people around you that you have the credentials to be in the classroom.
Q. What are the benefits of earning an associate or bachelor's degree in education?
A. Similar to the CDA, the associate degree is going to help provide a better opportunity for career paths in early childhood education. At each certificate and degree level we recognize there are opportunities for advancement and more money. A person who receives their CDA, they're looking at about maybe $30,000 a year in salary. With an associate degree, they're looking at maybe $40,000 a year. And then, with a bachelor's degree, they have the potential of earning over $50,000. I don't think many people get into this profession for the money; that's not why we do it. We do it because we love children. We want to be there for them and help them be better people, so it's not really about the money. However, at the end of the day, we do have to pay bills, so having some of those CDA training experiences and having a degree are going to help build your financial stability.
Q. Why is the partnership between StraighterLine and ChildCare Education Institute (CCEI) important for teachers?
A. This partnership is important for teachers because now StraighterLine and CCEI are actually providing something that wasn’t always available to most people. In the past, you would normally have to go to a four-year degree program, and traditionally those classes are during the day. Now, with our new online ECE courses, students can take them anytime from anywhere. They can be working potentially in a childcare center or doing something completely different while taking these courses to gain the skill set and credits to start earning the degree that they're looking to receive. We know we need more teachers – and great teachers – so this partnership is really providing access. We now have the ability to reach out to people interested in an early childhood education career path who may not have had the opportunity prior to now to get started on one. And StraighterLine and CCEI are very committed to making training and courses for college credit accessible to all students. StraighterLine and CCEI have now merged together to provide an opportunity for teachers to bridge the gap between their state-recommended hours they need as students and the requirements of college courses. Providing this access to any student is something that is very unique and not found in many other states, so we're making it wide open to be available to anyone, not just to those who are looking for a state credential at a particular institution.
Q. What are the early childhood education courses you helped develop for this degree pathway program?
A. So far we have five courses. They begin with the Foundations of Early Childhood, we move then into Early Childhood Development, what it means Teaching Students with Exceptionalities, Classroom Management, and then finally, Language and Literacy. We have these brand-new courses that are the foundation of what all teachers who plan to work with young students need to know. We've built the courses around what the underpinnings are that future teachers need to know in order to be successful in a classroom.
Start Your Early Childhood Education Career Path with StraighterLine
Start your early childhood education teaching career today! StraighterLine offers over 65 courses that can help you get started on your path to becoming a teacher. Not only do we have general education courses that can help you earn your degree, but we also have courses specifically tailored to help you prepare for a career in the classroom. Whether you’re looking to finish your degree or just getting started, StraighterLine has the resources and courses you need. Our courses start at just $79 per class, and the credits you earn are guaranteed transferable to our over 160 partner schools. Explore the early childhood education courses we have available to jump into your teaching career today, or contact StraighterLine through our live online chat feature to speak with one of our knowledgeable Enrollment Counselors about what you need to get started.