EMU College of Education's early childhood education program paves the way for student's success

By Linda Hass | Published May 19, 2014

Emma Hagan is not surprised that Eastern Michigan University's (EMU) Early Childhood Education (ECE) program would successfully prepare her for the career of her dreams. Thanks to Eastern's reputation of having one of the nation's premier colleges of education, the junior felt confident she would benefit from the top-notch faculty, hands-on field experience, and lecture-based classes.

She was surprised, however, to discover that ECE paved the way to a state award. This April, the Michigan Association for the Education of Young Children (MIAEYC) chose Hagan for its 2014 Student Leadership Scholarship Award. "I was ecstatic and completely surprised," says Hagan of the award, which included a $1,000 scholarship, membership in the state association, and mentoring for the year by state leaders in the field.

"There's no doubt the ECE program contributed to my selection, from the extra-curricular activities that cultivate leadership to the faculty and staff, whose passion for their field is contagious," said Hagan, 20, an honors student and vice president for the Association for the Education of Young children-EMU. Hagan, a double major in ECE and elementary education-liberal arts, is on track to earn a bachelor's degree and elementary teaching certificate in April 2015.

"Emma's success is all her, but EMU does provide a very supportive environment that allows students to shine in many different venues," said Karen Menke Paciorek, professor and ECE undergraduate program coordinator. As a case in point, an EMU student has been chosen for five of the seven years that the Michigan Association has given a Student Leadership Award.

This sterling track record has not only made alumni proud--it's caught the attention of prospective students. "We have a very large and vibrant program and are proud of our graduates who go on to make a significant impact on the lives of young children," says Paciorek, adding that the ECE program has experienced a 50% gain in enrollment in the past year. Part of the increase is due to increased national and state focus on the importance of a quality preschool experience for all children, but especially for those at risk.

Program offerings include an undergraduate major with elementary teacher certification and a master's degree. Students who already hold elementary teacher certification can also earn the endorsement in early childhood education at the graduate level.

Other benefits of an EMU education include hands-on experience at The Children's Institute, a campus-based facility that provides care and education for children ages 18 months through 6 years, and various program funds and scholarships, made possible by the generous contributions of alumni and supporters.

ECE graduates most often seek careers as classroom teachers, childcare program directors, curriculum coordinators or other positions related to the care and education of children, birth through 8 years. Employers include corporate, private and public programs such as Head Start and the Michigan Great Start Readiness Program for at-risk 4-year-olds.

"There is a huge demand for ECE graduates," says Paciorek, noting that both President Obama and Governor Rick Snyder spoke about the importance of programs for at-risk pre-school children in their annual addresses. "At the recent EMU Teacher Job Fair, over 75% of the districts stated they were looking for elementary/early childhood teachers," she adds.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of kindergarten and elementary school teachers is projected to grow 12 percent from 2012 to 2022, due to increases in enrollment as well as declines in student–teacher ratios. The median annual wage for kindergarten teachers was $50,120 and $53,400 for elementary school teachers in May 2012. (1)

"Eastern has so much to offer. It especially shines in teaching the fundamentals," says Hagan. "Lecture-based classes are combined with field work at an early point in students' careers. This is where classroom theories come to life. I highly recommend the ECE program to prospective students!"

For more information, visit the Early Childhood Education Program's site or contact Karen Paciorek, ECE Undergraduate Program Coordinator, at [email protected] or Brigid Beaubien, ECE Graduate Program Coordinator, at [email protected].

To make a difference in the lives of future ECE students, donate to the Early Childhood Education Program Fund, or contact Christa Reid, COE Director of Development at [email protected].

  1. For the source of these statistics, visit the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics site.