College of Education & Human Services

Early Childhood Education, option

Bachelor of Science in Education in Elementary Education (Birth - Grade 2)

The  Early Childhood Education  option of the B.S.Ed. in Elementary Education has two tracks from which a student can choose. One track leads to Professional Education Licensure to teach children; graduates are qualified to teach in birth to grade three programs and classrooms, preschool, and prekindergarten programs for children with special needs. The second track (non-licensure/ECH Gateway Credential) leads to the completion of Gateway credentials, rather than teaching licensure; graduates are qualified to teach children outside of a classroom, such as day care centers and pre-kindergarten programs.

Teaching Licensure Option

If you seek a career in a public school setting that requires an Illinois teaching license, then you should choose the teaching licensure option. Graduates of this option will earn a B.S. in Education in Elementary Education, the Illinois Early Childhood Teaching Licensure, Early Childhood Special Education Approval, Gateways ECE credential level 5, and Special Education Approval. This qualifies you to work and teach in programs and classrooms for children from birth through second grade, as well as to teach special education in pre-kindergarten.

Non-Licensure Option

If you seek a career in an early childhood educational setting that does not require an Illinois teaching license, such as running your own childcare center, you should choose the non-licensure option. Graduates of this option will earn  a B.S. in Education in Elementary Education, Gateways ECE credential level 5, Gateways Infant Toddler credential level 5, Gateways Illinois Director credential level 1, and the Developmental Therapy credential in Early Intervention.

Gateways Credentials are awarded and recognized by the Illinois Department of Human Services. Credentials are required to attain higher levels of rating by Excelerate Illinois, a rating system of early childhood programs in Illinois. If you would like to work with younger children, birth to age five, and get a job in a high quality setting, or state-funded programs, you must hold a higher level of Gateways credentials. 

If you successfully complete ECH 273, ECH 276, ECH 277, SPED 250, and SPED 392 in the program, and if you complete the required EI System Overview Training, you will be qualified to apply for and receive the Developmental Therapy credential in Early Intervention. These trainings can be fulfilled through the Illinois Early Intervention Training Program using the following link  (click on training).

Entitled Gateways Program

The Early Childhood Education program is Gateways Early Childhood Education (ECE) credential level 5 entitled, Infant Toddler credential level 5 entitled, and Illinois Director credential level 1 entitled. 

Career Opportunities

In addition to teaching in state-funded pre-kindergarten, early special education, and kindergarten through grade two classrooms, candidates are employed in early intervention programs, childcare centers, Head Start programs, and private preschools. Candidates also open their own childcare center or their own business to provide early intervention services. 

As the emphasis on the importance of early childhood care and education increases throughout the country, there is a growing demand for certified early childhood teachers.

Strengths of the Early Childhood Education Program

Coursework and classroom experiences are offered to prepare future teachers to

  • utilize their understanding of children’s characteristics and needs to create developmentally appropriate learning experiences
  • use a variety of assessment tools to document children’s learning
  • employ practices that accommodate the needs of diverse groups of children
  • work with parents and the community to foster children’s learning
  • use technology to facilitate children’s engagement in learning
  • create supporting learning environments
  • reflect on their practice and engage in continuing professional renewal


During the first semester of the sophomore year, candidates explore theories and principles of child development. Later in the sophomore year, candidates examine developmentally appropriate assessment strategies for children to identify and meet individual children's needs, and learn techniques for working with and involving families and communities.

During the first semester of the junior year, candidates focus on working with pre-primary children (infants, toddlers, and preschoolers). Later in the junior year, candidates complete methods courses that prepare them to teach literacy, social studies, science, and mathematics in the primary classroom (K-2nd Grade). Candidates also acquire an in-depth understanding of teaching literacy as they complete a young children’s literature course, a course in literacy development for toddlers and preschool children, a methods course for teaching literacy in the primary grades, and a course that prepares them to assess and provide appropriate instruction for young struggling readers.

Throughout the program, future teachers learn how to integrate technology into their classroom instruction and to use assistive technology to meet the unique needs of children with specific challenges. Required coursework prepares them to work with students who have diverse learning needs, and to work with parents, families, and the community to enhance student learning.

Field Experiences

During the junior year, candidates apply their knowledge and skills as they work with children and teachers in the first semester (6 weeks in an infant/toddler classroom and 6 weeks in a preschool classroom) and in primary settings in the second semester (6 weeks in a Kindergarten classroom and 6 weeks in either a 1st or 2nd grade classroom). During the first semester of the senior year, they teach a variety of lessons in a pre-kindergarten classroom during a fourteen week (half days) field experience. 

Student Teaching

Early childhood education candidates complete a sixteen-week student teaching experience in a primary classroom. Student teaching can be completed in the following regions:

  • REGION A Chicago Suburbs (North, West and South)
  • REGION B Chicago Public Schools (City of Chicago)
  • REGION C Quad Cities (including Bettendorf/Davenport IA)
  • REGION D Western/Central Illinois (Quincy, Peoria, Macomb)

Program Requirements

  1. Coursework: Majors complete a minimum of 122 semester hours:
  2. Required Assessments (only for teaching licensure option)
  3. Grade Point Average (GPA) Requirements
    • Pre-early childhood education: cumulative GPA of 2.0 is needed to enroll in ECH 271, ECH 273, ECH 276 and ECH 277
    • Early childhood education: a cumulative and major 2.0 GPA is needed for admittance and continuation in the Teacher Education Program.
  4. Criminal Background Check
    • Prior to any field work in schools/agencies, the National Sex Offender, the Illinois Methamphetamine Manufacturer, and the Illinois State Police Child Murderer and Violent Offender Against Youth registries will be checked by the candidates education advisor.  *In addition, candidates may also need to supply a Fingerprint criminal background investigation report to each individual school district prior to any field work.  Candidates may be prohibited from completing field work if a registry check or background investigations disclose arrests and/or convictions deemed problematic.  Information may be obtained in Horrabin Hall 40; questions may be directed to the Licensure Officer; 309-298-2117. (NOTE: Federal Law requires candidates to submit a Fingerprint background investigation report to school districts prior to student teaching.) 
  5. Assessment of Professional Dispositions
    • The University Teacher Education Committee at Western Illinois University believes that well prepared teacher candidates understand and can demonstrate knowledge of professional skills and dispositions. Candidates are evaluated at least three (3) times during their program.
    • Disposition 1 Collaboration: Collaboration is valued in education. Effective collaboration means working with other members of a group (students, parents, or peers) exchanging ideas, sharing experiences and learning processes, and building communities. Group members work together toward common goals. Collaboration is valued inside and outside the classroom as a way to create strong communities.
    • Disposition 2 Commitment to Learning: Active learning and professional development create exemplary educators. Valuing research, learning in all areas of instruction, problem solving, self-reflection and personal growth creates exemplary students and educators. Through participating in professional development, learning of best practices, and actively engaging in new ideas and knowledge building, individuals show a commitment to learning in and beyond the classroom.
    • Disposition 3 Valuing Diversity and Equity: Valuing the diversity and uniqueness of all groups and using responsive non-discriminatory practices are essential in education. Individuals implement a variety of practices and strategies that meet the needs of all learners in and outside the classroom. They develop knowledge about ways in which groups and individuals are culturally, historically, economically, and socially shaped. They provide examples of the belief that all students can learn. They show respect in both words and actions for diverse groups, including students, peers, instructors, or advisors.
    • Disposition 4 Responsibility and Respect: Responsibility and respect are vital for learners and educators. Responsible individuals are prepared, act independently, demonstrate accountability, reliability, and sound judgment. Respectful individuals are empathetic, respect others’ views, and demonstrates integrity.  They prioritize health and safety to minimize absences and illness. They accurately report information and take initiative in learning, professional, and personal environments (i.e. online presence). They are engaged, on-task, and responsible in all educational and professional environments. They make ethical decisions, are reflective in all learning experiences and situations, and are responsible for their behaviors and choices. They demonstrate respect for others, including peers, students, instructors, parents, and supervisors.
    • Candidates must demonstrate the following dispositions: