HCC Early Childhood Education is one of five participating in pilot program

The Early Childhood Education program at Highland has been accepted as one of only five schools in the state of Illinois to be part of a pilot program with Gateways to Opportunity. The Technical Assistance Credential is designed to have early childhood education professionals act as mentors to new or less experienced professionals and to students working toward a degree or certification in education or child care.

Melissa Johnson, coordinator for Early Childhood Education, said she learned in June that Highland was selected to be part of the program. Highland received a stipend of $7,500 to cover the cost of the courses for the working educators who are becoming mentors to Early Childhood Education students at Highland. Eight teachers, two of whom are students, are participating in the program.

"The long-term goal of the program is to give Highland a solid base of people who have been granted credentials to be mentors to our students," Johnson said. "The mentors serve as cooperating teachers and act as supervisors to help the students who work in the field and to help guide them toward best practices in teaching. HCC has until August 2016 to get the participants through the process. They are taking classes this semester and also in the spring semester."

Johnson said the mentoring program is invaluable for Highland. The Gateways to Opportunity pilot program will provide the students with knowledge beyond books, giving them access to teachers already in the field who will offer feedback, which is key in any education program.

The Technical Assistance Credential from Gateways to Opportunity is a symbol of professional achievement that validates those who:

  • Act as a coach, mentor, consultant and/or technical assistance provider supporting early care and education and/or school-age practitioners
  • Exhibit commitment to the use of evidence-based practices when providing services to others
  • Utilize relationship-based methods to recognize and build on strengths and capacities of practitioners and programs
  • Demonstrate action in pursuit of their own professional development
  • Understand principles of adult learning

Gateways Credentials are awarded and recognized by the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) Bureau of Child Care and Development. For more information, contact Melissa Johnson at or call 815.599.3484.

2998 W. Pearl City Road
Freeport, IL 61032-9341

Fax 815-235-6130

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