INDIANAPOLIS — Butler University's new Early Childhood Educator Certificate Program aims to fill a worker shortage causing cuts in some child care facilities that serve families in need.
"We have 13 schools and about 15% of our classrooms are closed because we are unable to staff them with the quality teachers that need to be in that space," said Erin Kissling, Chief Learning Officer at Early Learning Indiana.
Early Learning Indiana isn't alone. Staff there says there are around 9,000 openings across the state for early education positions. Due to that need, they asked Indiana institutions to create a streamlined program to get people certified to teach. So, Butler University worked on creating a program.
"All the candidates are placed in an early childhood classroom,” Susan Adamson, an education professor at Butler, said. “Usually it's sort of an assistant teacher role and then they have a teacher who is mentoring them.”
Much of the course work for this program is done online and on-site at a childcare facility. However, the participants have access to tutoring, student support and regular communication with their professor.
Nia-Morgan Hays is currently in the program. She says the flexibility and accessibility is allowing her to pursue her passion by getting the certification she needs. She currently works with kids at Flanner House.
"I am a single mother of two boys so I am able to do that also while working,” Hayes said. “So, it's just easy it makes sense it's accessible to me so it was only right to take advantage of the opportunity."
The program allows students to be in the classrooms applying their course work in real-time, the center where they work agrees to support them. The hope is that once the participants complete their training they will work with participating facilities.
"Teacher feeling that support from the center from the mentor-teacher from the education of the program they are far more likely to stay in their position and grow in their position at the center,” said Liz Jackson, Associate Director for Industry Partnerships at Butler University.
Retaining teachers is another goal of the program. For those currently in it, like Hayes, the fact that she doesn't have to go in to debt to get her certification was another major plus.
"That's one of the benefits,” Hayes said. “I still have student loans from when I went to my university but luckily with this I don't that is one of the biggest blessings in it."
The 15-month program usually costs around $10,000 to complete. Butler is taking applications for the spring session where 20 students will get to complete the certification free of charge. That's thanks to scholarships that Early Learning Indiana has provided. For more information about the program and to apply click here.