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Local college steps in to help with early childhood educator shortage

The need for qualified teachers is growing in the Tri-States and now John Wood Community College is stepping up to help bridge the gap, especially for early childhood educators.

“Early childhood is not everyone’s calling,” said Early Childhood Director Julie Schuckman. “The little ones; you either have a gift to be with them or you don’t.”

A nationwide teacher shortage is now extending it’s hold into early childhood positions. In fact, a report on educator shortage by the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools shows 20 percent of early childhood positions in the state remain unfilled or filled by an unqualified professional.

“We’ve gone weeks with just substitutes until we can hire a qualified staff member for our para-educators,” said Schuckman.

However, there may be some relief in sight. Sheila Smith is an early childhood instructor at JWCC and has the opportunity to teach in a brand new early childhood environment, aimed at getting more people interested in education.

“There’s so much more from that one on one experience sitting in an actual block play area,” said Smith. “That’s more true to what they’re going to do in their first job than what the would get from just reading it in a text book.”

The classroom was possible thanks to a grant from the Illinois Community College Board and this school year is the first time students have the opportunity to learn in that new environment.

“Each day when we get ready to use it, I think they’re really excited and I think we’re going to see the real benefit when we take them out in the field,” said Smith. “They’re going to have so much more experience.”

“If John Wood can help us get trained staff the whole community will benefit,” said Schuckman.

JWCC also says they’re now marketing towards retired educators, stay-at-home moms and grandparents to get them interested in early childhood education. They’re also working with those already in the field to get certified.

For more information about the Early Childhood Education AAS at John Wood Community College, click here.

Kaylee Pfeiferling

Multimedia Journalist

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