For more than a century, the University of Northern Iowa has educated teachers of young children. Today, the Early Childhood Education division of the Curriculum & Instruction Department continues to prepare graduates for education leadership roles in Iowa, the United States, and around the world. UNI has the state’s largest undergraduate early childhood education program, graduating about 100 students each year.
The Early Childhood Education program prepares students to teach in current and future classrooms that include children in regular education, those in special education, and those who speak English as a second language. Possible careers include child care center director, prekindergarten teacher, elementary teacher (K-3rd grade), infant and toddler teacher, or special education teacher for young children with mild to moderate disabilities.
Multiple hands-on teaching opportunities
Beginning in their sophomore (second) year, students observe master teachers and participate in classrooms with children of diverse backgrounds and abilities in highly regarded UNI resource centers including:
- Freeburg Early Childhood Program on the Allen College campus in Waterloo.
- UNI Child Development Center for infants, toddlers and preschoolers.
- Malcolm Price Laboratory School with multi-age preK/K classrooms.
Hands-on learning and classroom experiences
Students have a variety of opportunities to gain the knowledge, skills and professional attitudes to become outstanding teachers, including:
- Experiencing 100 hours working with young children in classrooms before the student teaching semester.
- Developing materials for a physical science learning center that engages young children in active experimentation.
- Studying an infant or toddler and designing and teaching activities specifically for that child.
- Using a computer program to design an early childhood education classroom with furniture and materials that meet the needs of pre-kindergarten or kindergarten children.
“All faculty are willing to help you get the best education available. We have opportunities to be in Early Childhood classrooms… to really get in there and work with the children.” —ECE student
Excellence in leadership
Students are encouraged to participate in the UNI Student Association for the Education of Young Children to gain leadership experiences. Faculty members provided strong leadership in developing Iowa’s licensing requirements for early childhood education. The division also sponsored several statewide Early Childhood Education Summits for educators and others involved in Iowa’s new statewide voluntary preschool programs.
Educators who want to improve their ability to teach young children and lead programs in early childhood education will benefit from the graduate endorsement program or master’s degree in this area. Courses are typically offered in the evenings and summer, both on campus and through the Iowa Communications Network or online.