INA, Ill. – In expanding its offerings to include teaching degrees in math, science, special education and early childhood education, Rend Lake College has become a regional hot spot for learning to teach at the secondary level.
Students can now get an associate of arts in teaching degree in mathematics, science, special education and early childhood education (ECE) from Rend Lake.
“We are seeing a high level of need for more teachers as the current workforce reaches retirement age,” said Barb Davenport, chair of the math and sciences division at RLC. “These are four AAT programs are specifically designed for students who want to go into teaching a specific student at the secondary level, in early childhood or in special education.”
Upon graduating, a complete AAT degree from RLC means a complete transfer as a junior into most four-year universities. Right now, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale has classes available at the RLC MarketPlace in Mt. Vernon where students can complete the two years beyond RLC toward a bachelor’s degree in ECE, which certifies them to teach Pre-Kindergarten through third grade.
“Rend Lake College is very pleased to be a part of this collaborative program with SIUC,” said Tina Grounds, ECE associate professor at RLC. “Students can attend evening and weekend classes at the MarketPlace through the SIUC early childhood program.”
Lori Bullock of Christopher graduated with an AAT in Early Childhood Education from RLC in the spring. She is now taking classes toward her bachelor’s degree at the MarketPlace and said many of her classmates from the RLC program are right beside her two nights a week.
“We really work off of one another,” she said. “It’s nice.”
The evening format is a must for working mothers like her, she added.
“I have to work, so it’s very convenient for me. I wouldn’t be able to do it any other way.”
After graduating from one of RLC’s AAT programs, students can choose direct entry into a field with growing job potential. The programs take two years to complete, including core classes.
For example, the AAT program in early childhood education – which RLC is the only provider of in this region – contains all the general education requirements and six ECE transfer courses to familiarize students with how to teach children.
“I love watching young children learn,” Bullock said. “I love interacting with them. I think the program at RLC is great. You get real practical experience you may not get in other programs. Working with children at the children’s center puts into perspective what you learn from the textbooks.”
A great part of learning ECE at RLC is the RLC Foundation Children’s Center. Located on the main campus in Ina, the Center serves as a high-quality learning lab where ECE students learn teaching skills.
“The Children’s Center on campus appears to be one of our best-kept secrets here at Rend Lake,” Davenport said. “Only 17 percent of children there are from the community, meaning one of their parents is not a student, staff member or instructor at RLC. These children are the most important part of an effective learning lab for our ECE students and parents can rest assured they are getting the best childcare in the region when they drop their children off there for the day.”
The Center has been open for more than 10 years and is accredited through the National Association for the Advancement of Young Children, which is the top accrediting body for childcare providers. ECE students at RLC have the luxury of working closely with children from infant to pre-Kindergarten age.
Another rewarding feature of the ECE program is an electronic portfolio, which each student complete as part of their ECE coursework, Grounds explained. The electronic portfolio follows the student to his or her chosen university.
In addition to the ECE program, RLC now offers teaching degrees in math, science and special education.
“The great part about these additions are that they allow us to serve our students much more effectively,” Davenport said. “Our students are now able to hone in on what age group and subject they want to teach, and learn the skills to be successful.”