Southwestern Michigan College’s new elementary education partnership with Ferris State University will be available to students fall semester 2018.
Elementary education becomes the seventh Ferris State bachelor’s degree offered at SMC’s Dowagiac campus, joining accountancy, business administration, business administration-professional track, computer information technology, criminal justice and human resource management.
Early Childhood Education Program Director Heather Zile said besides the affordability of a third year of college at SMC’s lower tuition rates, her program can be a third minor to add ZS endorsement to graduates’ certification.
Michigan Department of Education’s ZS endorsement program is a specialty area for elementary teachers to obtain expertise working with young children from birth through third grade.
Ferris State’s elementary education program is designed to provide a balanced blend of theory and practice.
Students can obtain certification to teach kindergarten through fifth grade and grades 6-8 in minor subjects.
Throughout the Ferris program, students complete at least 570 hours in a variety of hands-on, field-based experiences in the K-8 classroom.
A background in state-of-the-art educational technology prepares students to integrate computer technology into instruction.
Ferris State’s elementary education program requires completion of two elementary education minors to give students a broad academic base in language arts, math or science.
“Elementary teachers who teach grades pre-K, K and 1-3 benefit from having this special certification for early childhood called a ZS endorsement,” Zile said. “When we started talking about this more than a year ago, I looked at community colleges Ferris partnered with and realized my early childhood program could serve as the minor to get the ZS without tacking on additional classes later.
“We started talking about it well over a year ago,” she said. “I got rid of one class and added a class with this relationship model in mind. It’s a good fit that aligns really well, so we presented it to C&I (curriculum and instruction committee) last winter.
As a result, students can remain in Dowagiac housing, with access to all resources on SMC’s picturesque rural campus, with no need to move more than 140 miles north to Big Rapids.
“My students just went from considering a transfer to being able to stay here, continue with elementary ed and start Ferris that third year at SMC prices,” Zile said.
“This allows us to really focus on early-learning concepts teachers need to know to teach the younger grades,” Zile said. “You’re not required to get an early childhood associate to get an elementary ed degree, it’s just an enormous knowledge bonus that you understand the early development of kids, brain research and practices at this very specific age group, 0-8.”
“If I’m hiring a first-grade teacher who has that versus one who doesn’t, and everything else is equal, I will hire the one with the endorsement because of the depth of understanding of development,” Zile said.
SMC this fall opened a Tri-County Head Start classroom on its Dowagiac campus, giving early childhood education students more observation and internship opportunities.
SMC’s other partner is Michigan State University’s Institute of Agricultural Technology.