PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — A partnership between two Presque Isle colleges will make it easier for students planning a future as preschool teachers to meet newly revised state requirements for educators in that field.
Officials with the University of Maine at Presque Isle and Northern Maine Community College gathered at UMPI on Wednesday morning to announce a joint venture that will benefit NMCC students preparing for jobs as Head Start teachers and early childhood educators.
Recent state requirements have increased the qualifications for preschool teachers. Educators who teach children from birth to age 5 — and who earn their Maine teaching endorsement after July 1, 2009 — must have, or be working toward, a bachelor’s degree in order to teach. At this point, NMCC offers an associate degree program in early childhood education, but there are no colleges or universities in northern Maine that offer a four-year early childhood education degree.
The new partnership between the two colleges will allow NMCC students in the early childhood education program to transition easily into UMPI’s elementary education bachelor’s degree program upon graduation from NMCC.
Officials have worked for the past year to develop a new early childhood education concentration within UMPI’s elementary education degree program that will allow these students to meet the state requirements.
“This was something that officials at both colleges saw a need for, and we got together and made it happen fairly quickly,” Don Zillman, the president of UMPI, said Wednesday. “This is something that is going to make it easier for students who want to be trained in that field to meet state requirements, and it also will benefit both colleges.”
Zillman joined Tim Crowley, the president of NMCC, in announcing the partnership at UMPI’s ACAP Day care facility. The day care is located in UMPI’s Campus Center.
Zillman noted that UMPI was originally established as a teacher’s college back in 1903. He said he was happy that the new partnership “connects so strongly with our earliest work as an institution.”
Crowley noted that the joint effort “is an important opportunity for our students.”
“This agreement will provide greater opportunities for NMCC students and provide university students with access to NMCC faculty,” he said. “It is a win-win partnership, and we are pleased to be working with UMPI to make this happen.”
NMCC’s early childhood education program is designed to educate child care professionals in the skills and knowledge necessary for advanced positions in organizations and agencies that serve children.
Officials at NMCC said the program provides field experiences in child care, and several of NMCC’s early childhood education students have completed field experiences at UMPI’s ACAP Day care, where the signing ceremony was held.
Michael Sonntag, UMPI’s vice president for academic affairs, said that UMPI officials are hopeful that many NMCC students will take advantage of an opportunity to garner an education close to home and meet state requirements that will allow them to teach as preschool educators at the same time.
Graduates of NMCC’s early childhood education program will be able to transfer their college credits to UMPI and have them apply to their bachelor’s degree in elementary education. Upon completing specific courses in early childhood education, professional education and liberal arts, students will earn their bachelor of science degree in elementary education with a concentration in early childhood education. Officials expect it will take students about two years to complete their course work at UMPI.
In addition, new UMPI students will have the opportunity to enter UMPI’s elementary education program and take early childhood education classes at NMCC that will transfer back to their UMPI degree. Under both of these options, courses will be taught by qualified UMPI and NMCC faculty.
Zillman said Wednesday that UMPI’s elementary education program is a popular one that sees strong student enrollment numbers. He said he didn’t think the new partnership would require that UMPI hire additional teachers or modify its budget in any way.
This is not the first time that UMPI and NMCC have joined together. NMCC launched one of the nation’s first wind power technology programs in 2008, and UMPI has a 600-kilowatt wind turbine. To gain firsthand experience and training in wind power technology, NMCC students climb the UMPI tower. Instructors at the two schools also share lectures and visits, and the two schools often partner to promote educational initiatives.
Zillman said Wednesday that he thinks the newest partnership will only open doors wider for additional joint ventures in the future.