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What is Early Childhood Education?

When low-income women become mothers, their chief barrier to economic autonomy and success hinges on one issue: childcare. That was the result of a 2017 survey of Utahans that was addressed by the 2018 state legislature in a bill titled, Early Care and Learning Coordination. The bill aims to help mothers with children aged birth-5 years.

In fact, according to University of Chicago's Nobel prize-winning economist, James Heckman, when communities provide care and preschool for children in this age group, they receive a benefit. Not only are the children healthier and happier, but the community sees a financial gain of up to 10%.

In fact, Utah has seen evidence of this firsthand. The state's High-Quality Preschool Program has already dramatically reduced the need for Special Education services, a fact that will save the state millions in the short-run and result in higher-producing citizens long-term.

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Steps to Become an Early Childhood Education Teacher in Utah

To become an Early Childhood Education teacher in Utah, there are a few steps. The pathway isn't so different from other states in that, you’ll need to complete a state-approved teacher-preparation program, pass a standardized examination, and provide supporting documents that attest to your character. There are a few quirks to how Utah provides licensure, so be aware of those if you are coming from out-of-state.

Teaching is a special profession. No teacher ends up in the profession without having heard a calling to work with children. Not only is the pathway to the classroom long and difficult, but the job itself is highly demanding. You need to have a true passion for working with children and have a deep desire to see them succeed, or else you will not last very long in the classroom.

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However, people seek and remain in the profession for their entire working lives because they love it. They love the special feeling that comes from those educational victories, when a student's eyes light up and their little chests swell with pride at a job well done. The victories come in a myriad of forms and are different for every teacher and student. You will know it when it happens. When it does, you'll never look back, because every other option out there will seem like a mere job.

Step 1. Earn Your Degree

The most important step along your path to the head of the classroom, is your BS degree in early childhood education. In Utah, you'll find that most schools which offer a teacher-preparation program are state-approved. This means that you will be well-prepared for lifelong success as an educator once you complete your education. The program will make sure that you take the courses required by the state and that you have a student teaching experience. The experiential learning period will pair you with a mentor who can ensure that you are ready for your own class.

During your four years in college, you'll take courses that include, but are not limited to:

  • Human Development
  • Exceptional Child
  • Classroom Management
  • Intro to Education

Finally, to complete the education portion of your licensure application, you will need a letter of recommendation from the dean of your teacher-preparation program. This will codify your academic record with an assurance that you are indeed prepared and suitable for the profession.

Step 2. Pass Your Exams

Utah, like many states, requires that you take PRAXIS examinations that stand as capstones to your education. For each content area, there is at least one PRAXIS exam. Some career tracks, such as Elementary Education, require that you take multiple subject tests. For Early Childhood Education, Utah offers a choice. You can take Early Childhood Education (PRAXIS code 5025,) which is a single two-hour exam, or you can take Elementary Education: Multiple Subjects (PRAXIS code 5001) which is comprised of four separate exams that you may take individually. These tests breakdown as such:

  • Early Childhood Education (5025) – two-hour exam
    • Language and Literacy – 30%
    • Mathematics – 25%
    • Social Studies – 14%
    • Science – 14%
    • Health and Physical Education; Creative and Performing Arts – 17%
  • Elementary Education: Multiple Subjects (5001)
    Reading and Language Arts (5002) – 90 minute exam
    • Reading – 47%
    • Writing, Speaking, and Listening – 53%
    Mathematics (5003) – 65 minute exam
    • Numbers and Operations – 40%
    • Algebraic Thinking – 30%
    • Geometry and Measurement, Data, Statistics, and Probability – 30%
    Social Studies (5004) – 60 minute exam
    • United States History – 45%
    • Geography, Anthropology, and Sociology – 30%
    • World History and Economics – 25%
    Science (5005) – 60 minute exam
    • Earth Science – 33%
    • Life Science – 33%
    • Physical Science – 33%

Note that the Multiple Subjects test may be taken all at once by selecting exam code 5001 at your testing center. However, you may take the parts individually. You will find that these tests are used for any elementary education certification level, whether that is K-3, K-6, or 1-8.

Step 3. Standards and Qualifications

Additionally, the state requires that you submit to a background check by both state and federal (FBI) law enforcement and complete an Ethics Review. This will include fingerprinting. If you have infractions on your record, you should account for those with a letter that details the nature of the incident and how you have rectified the matter. Describe how you fulfilled the court's requirements, including the completion of any community service, probation, or other sentencing, including receipts for paid fines, etc.

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For the Ethics Review, you can find that online at the Utah State Board of Education's Online License System. Look for the link to Educator Ethics Review and then follow the prompts. The review is comprised of 25 multiple-choice questions that should take no more than 30 minutes to complete.

Additional Specialization Certifications

  • Special Education:

    SPED is a broad umbrella that covers a range of services. In Utah, you can be certified to teach deaf, blind, and those with disabilities ranging from mild to profound. Note that the ‘Mild/Moderate’ is covered by a separate endorsement not covered by a ‘Severe to Profound’ endorsement.

  • Administrative/Supervisory:

    After five years in the classroom, you might wish to move into a new area of education and guide student outcomes with more of a big-picture influence. To become a principal, you will need a master's degree and the appropriate PRAXIS test scores, but then you'll mentor teachers, be a role model for all of your students, and even guide curricular decisions.

  • Gifted and Talented:

    Even the smartest children need special, focused attention in order to feel engaged with their schoolwork. The standard curriculum is often not up to their needs, so you'll need to introduce challenges to keep them stimulated. Otherwise, gifted students may become bored and disaffected with education.

    To qualify for this endorsement, you will need 16 credit hours of specialized university coursework. Your courses should all be current and no older than eight years old. Further, all courses should be at the 5000 level or above. A sample of courses you might take include:

    • Identification/Assessment in Gifted Education
    • Social Emotional Needs of the Gifted
    • Creativity Course
    • Field Experience/Practicum
  • Art/Music:

    You'll need to demonstrate your abilities in your specialty area. You will need a portfolio that demonstrates your competency in your specialty area. Musicians might include video of a performance or some other recording.

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  • Alternate Routes to Licensure (ARL):

    If you have a bachelor's degree but not from a teacher-preparation program and now wish to teach in Utah schools, you may work through an alternative licensure program. You'll need to apply to the program, be hired for a teaching assignment, and begin participation in the ARL Professional Growth Plan (PGP).

Reading: To achieve this certification, you need to show that you have completed coursework that satisfies the Board in seven different areas:

  • Foundations of Literacy Instruction
  • Reading and Writing Across the Disciplines
  • Reading Assessment & Instructional Interventions
  • K-12 Literacy Processes and Practices
  • Reading Comprehension Instruction
  • Writing Instruction
  • Literature & Informational Texts for Children and Adolescents

You will also need to take and pass the Praxis Teaching Reading 5204 examination with a score of 159 or better.

Regional accreditation is offered from US department of education-approved agencies. The agency offering accreditation in Utah is called the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. You’ll want to make sure that this accreditation is part of any school in which you choose to enroll. Without this accreditation it’s unlikely you’ll be able to receive your educators license. On top of this regional accreditation you can look for accreditation from teacher accreditation agencies such as the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) or the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).

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Here are some accredited schools in Utah.

  • Brigham Young – Provo, UT
    Degrees Offered:
    • Bilingual and Multilingual Education: Dr.
    • Early Childhood Education: Bachelor's
    • Education: Master's
    • Elementary Education and Teaching: Bachelor's
    • Music Teacher: Bachelor's
    • Special Education: Bachelor's, Master's
    • ESL Teaching: Master’s

    Accreditation By:

    • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
    • Utah State Board of Education
    • TEAC
  • Southern Utah University
    Degrees Offered:
    • Elementary Education and Teaching: Master's
    • Education, general: Master's & Undergraduate Certificate
    • Special Education: Bachelor's, Master's

    Accreditation By:

    • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
    • Utah State Board of Education
    • CAEP
  • University of Utah
    Degrees Offered:
    • Early Childhood Education: Master's
    • Elementary Education: Bachelor's
    • Educational Leadership and Administration: Master's, Doctoral
    • Special Education: Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral
    • Teaching English as a Second Language: Postgraduate Certificate

    Accreditation By:

    • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
    • Utah State Board of Education
    • CAEP
  • Weber State University
    Degrees Offered:
    • Education: Associate's
    • Special Education: Bachelor's
    • Elementary Education: Bachelor's, Master's
    • Early Childhood Education: Bachelor's

    Accreditation By:

    • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
    • Utah State Board of Education
    • TEAC

Potential Careers and Salaries for Graduates

  • Preschool Teacher
    There's something special about educators who specialize in preschool. They have a chance to mold children from the very earliest days and their impact persists for a lifetime.
  • Elementary School Teacher
    Once you have a Utah elementary teaching certificate, you can teach a range of ages. In Utah, your license will initially cover grades K-6. If you'd like to expand your repertoire to includes grades 1-8, you will need a secondary endorsement.
  • Professor of Education
    Teaching college aged students presents its own level of satisfaction. That is, if you are enamored with the very act of learning and teaching, you can attain a master's or doctoral degree to teach post-secondary courses. Many teachers turn to college/university teaching later in their career, when they feel a call to share their classroom wisdom with younger generations of educators.
  • School Principal
    After five or more years in the classroom, you might decide to move up into administration. This is simply another approach to teaching children. You'll need a master's degree and the ability to manage not only a staff of professional educators, but hundreds of students, as well.
  • Special Education Teacher
    Special Education classrooms can include a wide range of students, each with profoundly different needs. Some may have emotional disturbances while others may be hearing impaired, blind, or have a profound cognitive disorder. Regardless, each student in your class is special and eager to learn and grow.
  • ESL Teacher
    Many families seek asylum in the United States. They flee oppression and other hardships at home. Their children thus need to navigate our English-dominant culture. They need language skills both for themselves and their parents, who often don't have easy access to ESL courses.
  • School Psychologist
    Even little children need an open ear to hear their problems. They may have trouble at home or with their peers. Regardless, when you can help them overcome their difficulties, their lives will open up to new possibilities.
Occupation Entry-Level Mid-Career Late-Career
Preschool Teacher $28,200 $28,800 $34,200
Elementary School Teacher $36,400 $40,000 $40,000
Professor of Education $60,200 $70,900 $99,100
Special Education Teacher $34,800 $49,000 $58,100
ESL Teacher $39,500 $40,600 $50,600
School Psychologist $54,200 $61,100 $73,300

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