The new early childhood development program is affordable and includes online, virtual and face-to-face offerings. Photo: CWC

JACKSON, Wyo. — In the fall of 2021, Central Wyoming College will introduce a new bachelor’s degree option in early childhood development.

The new program is affordable and includes online, virtual and face-to-face offerings. Director of Marketing and Public Relations Lori Ridgway said the coursework combines experiential opportunities and practical skills to help students pursue local career options.

“I believe this will be a huge opportunity to provide advancement for our current workforce and for individuals who do not want to leave Wyoming, but continue to advance their professional opportunities and live and work in Fremont, Teton and Hot Springs counties,” Ridgway said.

In developing this program, Associate Professor of Education Dr. Colleen Bartlett expanded her current elementary education curriculum into the new Bachelor of Applied Science degree program in Early Childhood to further develop student skills.

“We wanted to make sure that our graduates have a deeper understanding of how young children grow, develop and learn,” Bartlett said. “We added additional upper-division courses that would address working with special needs children, families, curriculum and instruction, diversity and methods classes for teaching math, science, language arts and social studies.”

Bartlett also said the program includes practicum and student teaching experiences and that her department collaborated with field experts in order to ensure students will be equipped for rigorous careers after they complete the new program.

“We worked with the Professional Teaching Standards Board to make sure that we put together a program that would allow graduates to apply for a teaching license for PreK through third grade as well as the endorsement in early childhood special education,” she said.

The degree will provide graduates with career opportunities in areas of high regional demand including child care, public and private teaching, Child Development Services and early intervention early childhood education instruction.

Bartlett said having higher degree opportunities for students who don’t want or are unable to leave the area is one of the biggest assets of offering bachelor’s degree programs at community colleges.

“This will give students a chance to complete a four-year degree in education from wherever they live, because for some students that is the only way they will be able to finish,” Bartlett said. “They will have faculty and staff that are right here in Wyoming to help them in any way we can.”

Ridgway said these expanded degree options not only help students achieve their career goals, but it also gives the college the opportunity to enhance the regional job market.

“There are many students in our region who want the option to pursue a bachelor’s degree but cannot relocate to another area of the state or to another state,” Ridgway said. “We are serving a need for those individuals by offering bachelor’s degrees in areas where people can increase their opportunities for employment or advancement in employment through education without uprooting their families and moving to another area.”