Interdisciplinary Early Childhood Education (IECE) appeals to many Ashland Community and Technical College students because of the variety of options it offers to people who want to work with children.
Whether students choose to earn a certificate, complete the associate degree or transfer for a bachelor's degree, they can find jobs at each step of the way.
"We give students a path for building their careers," said Mary Lou Forman, ACTC Professor and Program Coordinator. "Many of our students start with the goal of earning one credential for a particular job, but then they find that they enjoy the classes, and they continue for more credentials."
IECE combines child development theory with practice in working with young children. Classes include developmental ages and stages, health and safety, curriculum planning, assessment and family involvement.
The focus is on learning methods to ensure optimum intellectual, physical, emotional and social development. Students observe childcare practice in a variety of facilities, and all degree students take one semester of student teaching.
Certificates are an option for people who want a short term program that will give them an immediate edge in the job market. IECE offers five certificates: KY Child Care Provider, Child Care Assistant, Early Childhood Administrator, School Age Child Care and IECE Technical.
"The more certificates students earn, the more employable they are," Forman said. Certificate credits can be applied toward the diploma, and general education courses can be added to the diploma for the Associate in Applied Science Degree.
"IECE also offers the Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential, a national certification that is highly desired by area employers for entry level positions," Forman said. "The CDA is a first step for some students."
Boyd County resident Jewell Malik, was one of those students who started with a CDA. She had begun working for the Boyd County School System and needed the CDA to become a childcare instructor. "I discovered I really liked the program and worked on more certificates until I had a degree."
Malik is now Director of the KinderCollege, the childcare facility at ACTC, and three after school programs, all operated by the Boyd County School System. "The IECE program has been very helpful with our early childhood programs. Several of my caregivers have taken IECE classes, and two of them are current IECE students," she said.
One of those caregivers is April D. Sellers, a Catlettsburg resident and Boyd County High School graduate. "After graduating from high school, I missed going to school. I talked to my mom about going to college and chose ACTC because it was close to home'" she said.
"I originally started with a different major but realized that was not for me," Sellers continued. "After getting hired at Kindercollege, I started CDA classes and found what I wanted to do with my life." She earned her Associate degree in 2010.
Tammy R. Gibson, another Catlettsburg resident and BCHS graduate, also started working for a CDA and now plans to earn an Associate Degree. "I had always wanted to go to college, but never gave it anymore thought after I got married. Then I got divorced and needed to start over," she said.
"Jewell Malik and Professor Forman approached me about earning a CDA since I had worked in childcare, and I took that step that I never had the courage to do before," Gibson said. "I didn't put much effort into high school and didn't realize how smart I was until I started classes at ACTC. I am learning more and understanding my job more every day."
KinderCollege classes are held in the Guy and Lisa Spriggs Child Development Center that opened earlier this fall near the College Drive Campus. The 6000 square foot center has space for infants, toddlers and preschool children and offers opportunities for IECE observations and classroom participation.
The option of earning an associate degree and transferring to a four-year institution for a bachelor's degree in education appeals to some students.
IECE certificates were the first step in a career path for Jeffrey E. Evans, Jr., a Flatwoods resident who is Training Coordinator for Child Care Aware of Fivco. Child Aware is a service agency that gives technical assistance to trainers and child care providers.
"As I worked on my certificate, I found that I was more interested in dealing with the policy, regulation, and technical assistance aspects of early childhood education than being a classroom teacher," Evans said. He is now working on a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Community Support Services at Morehead State University.
"The IECE program at ACTC offers top-notch instruction, valued real-life experiences, and comprehensive technical assistance in every aspect of early childhood," Evans added. "It provided a solid foundation for my future educational and career requirements."
ACTC has transfer agreements in early childhood education with Morehead State University and Marshall University. IECE graduates may also transfer their courses to other universities and colleges throughout the region.
"Kentucky wants quality teachers in early childhood, and students who work part time or full time and take courses part time may be eligible for special scholarships," said Forman.
One of those scholarship recipients was Sandy Thomas, Star Quality Coordinator for the KY Partnership for Early Childhood Services. An Ashland resident, she received the scholarship to earn her IECE Associate Degree. "I had earned a CDA and was working full time for a child care referral service. I took classes part time and it took four years to get my degree, but it was an awesome experience."
"ACTC is a wonderful school, and all the teachers I had were terrific," Thomas said. "I now work with child care centers in six counties, and I love my job."
As part of Kentucky's KIDS Now Initiative, Early Childhood Development Scholarships are available for people who work at least 20 hours per week in early childhood facilities and who take up to nine hours of class per semester. More information is online at: kheaa.website/kheaa/ecds?main=2.
Preschool teachers are ninth in the list of Kentucky job openings to 2018, according to the Kentucky Education Cabinet Department for Workforce Investment.
"There are many job opportunities in the area, and employers know that our graduates will be quality teachers," said Forman. "Most of our graduates work in classrooms, but some work for federal and state agencies. We also have graduates, whose husbands are in the military, who teach in many other states and abroad."
Area employers include Ashland Child Development Center, Ashland Head Start, Ashland Family Resource Center, Boyd County Head Start, Boyd County School System, First Steps, First United Methodist Church Preschool (Ashland), Lawrence County Ohio Head Start, Little Luvs, Louisa East Elementary Head Start, King's Daughters Child Development Center, Our Lady of Bellefonte Child Development Center, and Wee Care Day Care.
"I would recommend ACTC to anyone serious about learning to work with children, said Misti M. Robinson, a Summit resident who is also an ICTE student and KindercCollege employee. "IECE takes a lot of time and dedication to young children, and you truly need the desire to be an educator."
Robinson entered the program with the goal "to provide a better life for my family and be a resourceful component of my community." After earning an associate degree, she plans on going on for a Bachelor's Degree
"The best experience I've had at ACTC has been learning from Professor Forman. I've found that I can do more than I ever thought possible," Robinson said.
For details on IECE, contact Professor Forman, email: email@example.com. Spring semester begins January 14, and new students must apply online at ashand.kctcs.edu.by January 7.