Solid Starts for Children: ECE

After earning her Bachelor's degree in film from UCLA and working in the entertainment industry, Emily Taylor-Mortoff wanted to shift gears and refocus her career on teaching young children, a field known as Early Childhood Education (ECE). Santa Monica College provided the perfect foundation in this dynamic discipline to help her fulfill children's needs

Having friends who had gone through the ECE program at SMC, Taylor-Mortoff knew what to expect. "They loved it," she said. "They got a tremendous education, particularly for the value."

That value – and the programs offered – attracted Taylor-Mortoff to SMC. But one more factor clinched the deal: the faculty. "SMC has these teachers who have both tremendous life experience and stellar academic qualifications," she said.

The ECE program has been especially valuable in helping Taylor-Mortoff keep pace with how childhood education is evolving to prepare children for a rapidly changing world. "A lot of what I'm being taught relates to child-directed education," she explained, "where you're looking at overall goals for a class, but you're also looking at specific, individualized education plans for each child."

That training includes ensuring that students in the ECE program know exactly what is expected of them as professional educators – and that they meet or surpass those standards. "SMC is amazing about outlining all the requirements, not only on their website, but also in class," Taylor-Mortoff added.

Because children have diverse needs, SMC offers different educational tracks to meet them. For example, the Early Intervention Assistant Associate Degree and Certificate of Achievement prepare students to work with young children who have disabilities and other special needs, as well as children at risk of developmental delays and challenges. Students in this program build expertise in early interventions and childhood special education from a culturally sensitive, family-focused perspective.

Providing students with hands-on experience is an important component of the ECE programs at SMC. Most of the programs include intensive lab courses that require working for a specified number of hours or days in a preschool or other early childhood setting. In the lab course Observation and Assessment (ECE 21), students observe and document child development, growth, and play, and learn how to join with families and others in promoting children's success. Another lab course – Practicum in Early Childhood Education (ECE 22) – helps students turn theory into practice as they learn how to design and evaluate experiences that promote positive development and learning. This leads to a thorough understanding of children and families.

To aid students in the ECE programs, SMC offers the Teacher Resource Room, which supports students academically while encouraging budding educators to learn from each other as part of a collaborative community. The Teacher Resource Room also provides supplemental instruction in Child Growth and Development (Psychology 11) and Principles and Practices of Teaching Young Children (ECE 2), as well as a lending library and access to computer equipment.

After earning her Early Childhood Education certificate, Taylor-Mortoff plans to add a Master's degree to the solid career grounding and experience she is gaining at SMC.

"In my ideal scenario, I would eventually be running my own school," she said.

Whether pursuing certification, an Associate degree, or a Bachelor's degree, students will find that all the coursework offered at SMC meets California's stringent requirements for professional licensing. Coursework also corresponds to the childhood education programs offered through the California State University (CSU) and University of California (UC) systems and other universities, making it easier for SMC students to transfer.

SMC offers a variety of Associate degrees and Certificates of Achievement in ECE. The Associate in Science for Transfer degree in ECE gives students the opportunity to get priority admission into many CSU campuses. Associate degrees are also offered in ECE-Career, Early Intervention Assistant, and Certificates of Achievement are offered in the same areas. A Department Certificate in ECE (Core) is available and prepares students to obtain an Associate Teacher permit.

From birth to the first day of kindergarten, the human brain develops more quickly than at any other stage of life. That is why educating children early in life is so critical: ECE teachers set the course for a child's first years of formal K-12 education, and for success in later life. For more information on becoming part of this challenging, yet rewarding profession, visit www.smc.edu/ece or call (310) 434-8109.

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