Early Childhood Education

Teachers and educators play an essential role in the lives of their students. Early childhood education professionals are particularly vital. Their efforts can instill an interest and love of learning in young children and can help determine the educational path their students take later in life.

At Oakton Community College, we're proud to offer an Early Childhood Education Program to train and prepare students for this important job. We offer a diverse set of study options so you can choose the path that best suits you, your interests and your goals.

Our Early Childhood Education Program will educate you to assist infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and early school-age children in group situations. You'll receive hands-on instruction in college-affiliated, nationally accredited early childhood education centers that serve as field sites.

We offer several stackable certificates, starting with as few as six courses to complete through an Associate in Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree, to prepare you for a range of teaching positions from infancy through early school age. Our classes will give you the foundation you need to start or build upon a career, while our advisors and faculty will help ensure you complete the necessary coursework and field experiences to get your credentials.

Degrees and Certificates

At Oakton, we offer an A.A.S. degree in Early Childhood Education, as well as a number of specialized certificates. All certificates are stackable, in that they build upon each other so that you are always progressing towards a higher certificate or degree. Each certificate and the A.A.S. degree is aligned to an Illinois Gateways to Opportunity credential and the Illinois Network of Child Care Resource and Referral (INCCRRA).

Our program offerings include credentials geared at working with infants and toddlers, preschoolers and young school-age children in group settings and administrative credentials based on your goals and interests in the field of Early Childhood Education.

Learn More

Our Basic Early Childhood Education Certificate can be earned in 18 credit hours and completion of this certificate can lead to obtaining the Illinois Gateways to Opportunity Early Care and Education Credential Level 2.

Learn More

The Advanced Infant Toddler Certificate is a 30 credit hour course and completion of this certificate can lead to obtaining the Illinois Gateways to Opportunity Early Care and Education Credential Level 3.

You can earn the Early Childhood Education Administration Certificate in 32 credit hours and completion of this Certificate can lead to obtaining the Illinois Gateways to Opportunity Director Credential Level 1. 

Learn More

The Basic Infant Toddler Certificate is a 21 credit hour program and upon completion of this certificate can lead to obtaining the Illinois Gateways to Opportunity Infant Toddler Credential Level 2.

Learn More

You can earn your Advanced Infant Toddler Certificate in 36 credit hours, which can lead to obtaining the Illinois Gateways to Opportunity Infant Toddler Credential Level 3.

Learn More

Completion of our Basic Family Child Care Provider Certificate can lead to obtaining the Illinois Gateways to Opportunity Family Child Care Provider Credential Level 2.

Learn More

Our 36-credit hour Advanced Family Child Care Provider Certificate can help lead you to obtaining the Illinois Gateways to Opportunity Family Child Care Provider Credential Level 3.

Learn More

Job Outlook

From a career perspective, the field of Early Childhood Education is as varied as the children it serves. Those pursuing the Basic and Advanced ECE or Infant Toddler Credentials can find opportunities as assistant teachers (if they hold no other college credit hours) up to lead teachers (if they already have earned at least an Associate Degree in another field). Graduates of the A.A.S. program often go on to pursue teaching positions in community-based child care programs. Employment opportunities also exist in Head Start Programs and State Pre-Kindergarten settings.
Graduates of the A.A.S. program can continue their education towards a BA in Early Childhood Education through direct transfer to public universities in Illinois or through articulated transfer agreements with private colleges and universities. Those who complete their BA in ECE often pursue careers as lead teachers in Head Start or community-based child care centers or as Illinois licensed Early Childhood teachers in a public school setting.

Affiliation and Practicum

Students have the opportunity to observe and interact with young children throughout the program. Designated field affiliation experiences are included in ECE 104-Introduction to Early Childhood Education and ECE 255-Curriculum Design for Early Childhood Program. Students pursuing the A.A.S. degree complete ECE 257-a one-semester, 225-hour on-site practicum experience culminating in a classroom take-over week. The full course description of ECE 257 is indicated in the course catalog.

Meet Your Faculty and Experts

Oakton's Early Childhood Education faculty is made up of passionate educators who are eager to connect with you and make a difference. The Early Childhood Education Program's curriculum is guided by an expert panel of teachers, administrators and child-development specialists.

Paula Luszcz, Chair
Professor of Early Childhood Education
B. A. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
M.P.H. University of Illinois at Chicago
M. A. Northeastern Illinois University
Office: 2524, Des Plaines

Cheryl Joseph
Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education
B.A. Northern Illinois University
M.S. Northern Illinois University
Office: 2811, Des Plaines

Meet our part-time faculty

Ann Gadzikowski

B.A. Northwestern University
M.Ed. Loyola University, Chicago
Certification: Illinois Director

Deanna Goldsmith
B.S. Michigan State University
M.A. Roosevelt University

Linda Hermes
B.A. Clarke College

Mindi Schryer

B.A., M.A. National Louis University
Gateways Certified Technical Assistance Advisor
Toddler/PK CLASS Certified Observer

Ginger Cacnio
B.A. National Louis University
M.A. Pacifica Graduate Institute

Bettye Cohns
B.A., M.A. Ashford University
Illinois Director

Marie Chandel Spurgeon
B.A. Kendall College
M. A. National Louis University

Sue Uribe
B.S. Northeastern Illinois University
M. Ed. Loyola University, Chicago

Bettye Cohns
ECE Community Member, Oakton Community College Lecturer

Susan Fahey
Children's Care & Development Center

Marsha Hawley
McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership

Heather Jones
Sunny Days Child Care

Julie Lear
Niles West High School

Mindi Schryer
NEIU, Oakton Community College Lecturer

Carol Teske
Evanston Childcare Network

Joanna Varda
Swift Child Care

Reagan Miller
G. Nielsen Child Care Center

Sharyl Robin
Children’s Home & Aid

Cheryl Joseph
ECE Full-Time Faculty
Oakton Community College

Marc Battista
AVP Workforce Education/Dean, Business and Career Technologies
Oakton Community College

Monique Hudson
Site Coordinator ECE Center
Oakton Community College

Paula Luszcz
ECE Full-Time Faculty
Oakton Community College

Barbara Golik
First Steps Preschool, East Maine School District 63

Stephanie Alban Kako
National Louis University

Nicole Ramirez
Reba Early Learning Center

Susan Uribe
Lecture Oakton Community College

Stephen Vick
Infant Welfare Society of Evanston

What's Next?

We are glad you are considering attending Oakton Community College. No matter where you are in your decision-making process, we are here to help you with your next steps. Whether you're ready to apply now, need information on paying for college or have questions and want to contact someone, we're here to help.


National-Louis University and Roosevelt University accept early childhood education courses within the framework of their transfer agreements with Oakton. Other schools may also accept credits; work with your advisor or the Career and Transfer Center to ensure your credits will transfer to the school of your choice.

In addition, general education credits achieved while pursuing the A.A.S. degree also should transfer. Oakton is part of the Illinois Articulation Initiative (IAI), and our curriculums are designed to allow you to transfer seamlessly to other Illinois institutions. Still, it's best you work with your advisor to be sure you're taking the proper courses required by the four-year institution you intend to transfer to. General education courses should be selected from the IAI Course List.

If you're entering this program for any certificate beyond the Basic ECE, Basic Infant Toddler, or Basic Family Child Care Provider, you should take the math and writing placement tests as soon as you apply to Oakton. These tests are required of all full-time students who plan to take any math or English courses as part of their study options. Students should place into at least EGL 090, 097, or 098 before taking Early Childhood Education program classes, as the reading and writing requirements are fairly rigorous.

After beginning the program, meet with your advisor or ECE Department Chair to discuss how to get connected with the Gateways to Opportunity website to get started to learn about credentials.

Licensure Requirements: Each state and territory has different licensure and certification requirements.  Oakton has researched and/or contacted state licensing authorities to confirm that the program meets the educational requirements leading to professional licensure.  Other licensure requirements may include professional certification exams, background checks, years of work experience, fingerprinting, etc.

Licensure information is reviewed and updated on this site in June of each year. As of July 1, 2020, we have determined that individuals that successfully complete Oakton’s Early Childhood Education Program curriculum:

Meets the education requirements leading to licensure/certification in these states and U.S. Territories: Illinois

Does NOT meet the education requirements For licensure/certification in these states and U.S. Territories: 

We have not made a determination if the program curriculum meets the requirements for licensure/certification in these states and US Territories: Alabama, Alaska, American Samoa, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Northern Mariana Islands, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming

If you intend to practice in any state other than Illinois, you should contact the appropriate licensing agency to independently verify whether Oakton’s program satisfies the educational requirements for licensure in a particular state before beginning Oakton’s program. Be aware that state licensure requirements may change from time to time and that states may have conditions for licensure in addition to educational requirements. 

This information is provided to meet the Disclosure Requirements for Academic Programs Leading to Professional Licensure or Certification.

If you work or have worked in early childhood education and you're seeking additional credentials and/or a degree in early childhood education, you may be eligible for the Early Childhood Access Consortium for Equity (ECACE) Scholarship Program.

Awards are available for undergraduate study at public and non-profit private 2- and 4-year Gateways-entitled and Early Childhood Access Consortium for Equity member institutions. For students attending community colleges and public universities, the scholarship will cover the applicant's total cost of attendance for an academic year (including summer) after other financial aid is received. 

For more information visit https://www.isac.org/ECACEscholarship

Contact Us

Paula Luszcz
Department Chair