Meeting the needs of the communities it serves is an integral part of what makes Quinsigamond Community College distinctly unique to the region. One such program that has quietly and effectively been making a difference is the college’s Dual Language Early Childhood Program. For close to five years this program has been filling a vital need for early childhood educators in the Spanish speaking community.
The program offers family childcare providers the ability to take early childhood courses that are taught in both English and Spanish, according to the needs of the students. The goal of the program is to impart early childhood content first in the student’s native language, with a gradual increase of English proficiency over a six course sequence. Students who complete this program will receive an Early Childhood Education (ECE) Birth through 8-years-old Certificate.
Unlike other program models that are presented completely in Spanish, QCC’s program is taught in both English and Spanish. According to QCC’s ECE Program Coordinator, Charlene Mara, it was imperative to keep the focus of the program as dual language.
“It’s important to remember who the childcare providers are servicing,” Ms. Mara said. “They are servicing many English speaking children, so it’s very important to be proficient in English, as well as their native language.”
According to Ms. Mara, finding someone who had an early childhood background and who was extremely proficient in both languages proved to be an initial challenge. After almost loosing heart that she would ever find someone, Ms. Mara received a phone call from Miluzka Munoz-Noriega.
Ms. Munoz-Noriega, who is from Worcester, had been teaching at Urban College in Boston and had heard about QCC’s idea of a dual language program.
“She found me through the grapevine just when I was giving up hope,” Ms. Mara said.
Today, Ms. Munoz-Noriega teaches or co-teaches all the courses in the certificate program. The program has been full with current family childcare providers since it began. One of the key elements that make this program such a success is its “mentor-like” format. A tutor (a teacher from the Children’s School) is embedded in all the classes with the students each week in order to know the content that is being covered. The tutor acts as a liaison between the students and the instructor for course assignments, individually supporting students as they develop stronger English skills. The tutor is able to offer assistance with required class reading and writing assignments, from both the literacy aspect and the early childhood aspect. On a more informal basis, stronger ECE students are often paired with students who may need a bit of extra assistance, which is a strategy that has worked in all of the ECE programs. Students are also given support out of the classroom by QCC student teachers, who visit the childcare providers to observe and offer help where it’s needed. In addition, the program is taught both day and night, giving students the flexibility they need in order to fit their schedules.
On March 13, from 6 – 7:30 p.m. the first group of students to complete this groundbreaking program will be honored at a fiesta-themed potluck event to commemorate their graduation from the Dual Language Early Childhood Program. The students will also formally graduate in QCC’s May Graduation Commencement ceremony. For more information visit QCC's Dual Language Early Childhood Program.