Early childhood training program grows at Colorado Mountain College | SkyHiNews.com

Early childhood training program grows at Colorado Mountain College

SUMMIT COUNTY – With the culture of child care ever changing, so are its training requirements. And Colorado Mountain College is now at the forefront of teacher education for pre-school aged children locally.

“For years, working with (young) kids as a teacher required less training hours than a hair dresser,” said CMC early childhood educator Barbara Jackman. “Now the culture has changed.”

Jackman, the first full-time early childhood education instructor at Colorado Mountain College, is based in Summit County. She’s been an adjunct instructor with CMC for the past eight years.

According to Jackman, early child care is no longer just about keeping young kids safe, fed and clean. Parents expect preschools to hire people who truly understand child development and the importance of early education, along with care.

“Really young children need care in a different way than a third grader does,” she said. “They need to be nurtured and cared for, and educated.”

Locally, teachers are definitely on board with new state education requirements as well, making CMC a burgeoning hotspot on all things related to early child care.

“We’re starting to understand how important the quality of early care and education is,” said Martha Meier, the executive director for Carriage House Early Learning Center in Breckenridge. “More people need to work, and kids are in child care younger. They’re not waiting for kindergarten anymore. … I’m glad state licensing requirements have stepped up. We need to be the best we can for our kids. So much is proven to be learned in the first five years.”

New requirements

Early childhood educators are now required by the state to take two three-credit classes along with their working experience – an intro to early childhood education and another course of their choice in the same field. And then they must take 15 hours of continuing education credits each year following. Requirements for child care center directors have increased as well – they must be trained in infant care, along with special-needs education.

“These are just the beginnings of staff-training requirements,” Jackman said. “State licensing really increased the value of children and who’s teaching them. Teachers didn’t used to need any training.”

Because state licensing requirements for early childhood teachers have increased, CMC’s program have, in turn, grown significantly.

“In Summit County, we have gone from offering two early childhood education classes per year to 13 classes per year in the past two years,” said CMC spokeswoman Debbie Crawford. She said the classes are offered again at Summit Middle School in Frisco this fall.

Jackman said classes are available to local students both in the classroom and via online learning – allowing for convenience and affordability.

“We’re very nicely full,” she said. “I’m very happy with class size.”

Students in Jackman’s classes range from people already in the field to those brand new and starting to train prior to work.

“We’ve really grown in how the field is professionalized,” Jackman said. “There’s more respect for people in the field.”

CMC is also contributing to the professionalism of the early childhood education by voluntarily pursuing National Association for the Education of the Young Child accreditation for the Associate of Applied Science in early childhood education program. The program will likely apply for accreditation this coming spring.

“If professionals are trained, than it’s going to be the best outcomes for our kids,” Meier said. “Early care is not going away. It’s growing.”

Students can now take courses toward associate degrees in early childhood education at nearly all CMC locations in Colorado.

For more inforamtion, visit http://www.coloradomtn.edu.

SDN reporter Caitlin Row can be reached at (970) 668-4633 or at crow@summitdaily.com.

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