Dr. Marcie Hill

Dr. Marcie Hill

HANCEVILLE, Ala. — In the midst of rebuilding the Child Development program at Wallace State Community College, program director Dr. Marcie Hill created new options for students majoring in early childhood education and professionals who need to earn credentials to advance their career.

Over the last few years, state and national governments have put an emphasis on the importance of early childhood education and making it more accessible to families everywhere. Nobel prize winning economist James Heckman, who studies human development, has found that gaps that result from differences in access to education in early childhood are often never overcome, and President Obama has called for universal preschool education. Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley included a $20 million increase for Pre-K funding in the state budget earlier this year.  These proposals would step up the need for qualified early childhood educators.

To help get a head start on preparing those educators, new short-term, stackable certificates will be offered beginning in Fall 2016, with options for Infant/Toddler, Preschool/Family Child Care and Early Childhood Education to be taught in the fall and summer semesters.

Any of the three short-term certificates can provide the minimum requirements needed for those wishing to work as assistants in Pre-K or Head Start programs in the area. The Infant/Toddler and Preschool/Family Child Care short-term certificates also meet the educational components needed for those working toward their Child Development Associate (CDA) credential, a national credential earned from the Council for Professional Recognition.

Offering stackable certificates is becoming a trend among community colleges across the nation as a way to provide more pathways for students to earn marketable skills they can build on as they continue their education and/or enter the workforce. Several of Wallace State’s Allied Technologies programs have led the trend toward stackable certificates with marked success for their students.

As an added bonus for child development students and professionals seeking their credentials, all of the Child Development courses are offered online, making it open to anyone across the nation with computer access. Also, more than one certificate can be earned at a time due to overlapping courses.

“In their first semester, be it this fall or next summer, they can take a maximum of 13 hours and be eligible for three short-term certificates,” said Hill.  “That is an automatic Head Start minimum qualification, Pre-K minimum qualification, and certainly marketable toward any day care center for employment.” If they already have their CPR Certification, those hours are reduced to 12.

The Early Childhood Education short-term certificate is designed for students who are going to take advantage of Wallace State’s articulation agreement with Athens State University and transfer to their program. General Studies or Child Development students can both work toward the Early Childhood Education short-term certificate while at Wallace State, and continue their coursework for ASU at its Wallace State Center or the Athens campus.

A fourth short-term certificate is offered in the spring semester. The Child Development short-term certificate is another 9-hour certificate, with one of the three classes overlapping from the Early Childhood Education short-term certificate. A student could earn all four short-term certificates offered through Child Development in two semesters.

Hill has submitted a request to add a Child Development certificate option to her curriculum. The 38-hour certificate could be acquired in only three semesters, and Hill hopes that option will be available soon.

An Associate in Applied Science is also offered in Child Development and can be accomplished in five semesters. All of the courses required for the short-term certificates could be applied toward that degree. Beginning in the fall, that curriculum has been tweaked to exchange two biology requirements for one natural science component and one English requirement for two.

“Our goal is to provide our students with all the tools they will need to build a career in early childhood education,” Hill said, “whether they want to work in a government-funded institution or at a private child care facility.

“Each of these short-term certificates will let them get their foot in the door as they follow their chosen path toward teaching and caring for our most precious assets — our children.”

Wallace State is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. For information about the Wallace State Child Development program, contact Dr. Marcie Hill at 256.352.8383 or marcie.hill@wallacestate.edu.