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, 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 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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Earn your Early Childhood Credential or Degree for Free

The Illinois Early Childhood Access Consortium for Equity (ECACE) Scholarship Program was created to address the increasing demand for highly qualified Early Childhood (EC) professionals in the State of Illinois. This scholarship program is specifically targeted at the early childhood workforce in Illinois looking to upskill their qualifications and/or pursue further certificate and degree programs through a participating ECACE institution. 

Oakton welcomes EC professionals who are interested in pursuing their Gateways Level 2, 3, or 4 Credentials in Early Childhood, Infant Toddler, or Family Child Care and those seeking the Gateways Level 1 Director Credential.

Are you working or previously worked in an Early Childhood Education Center, Daycare Center or Preschool setting? 

If so, you may be eligible for scholarship dollars to earn credentials at Oakton.

If eligible, you could receive scholarship dollars (after financial aid) to cover:

  • Tuition and Fees
  • Books & Supplies

Who's eligible?

  • Currently working or worked in the early childhood field
  • Member of Gateways to Opportunity Registry
  • Accepted for enrollment at Oakton
  • Undergraduate pursuing an ECE major or credential

Apply For an ECACE Scholarship TodayComplete Your Free FAFSA Application

More information on the scholarship is available through the Illinois Student Assistance Commission. Oakton's Financial Aid staff can help you with any FAFSA-related questions.

Do you still have questions about the scholarship? Contact us at ECE@oakton.edu.

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.


Children’s Care and Development Center
3925 Lunt Ave.
Lincolnwood  60045
Contact: Susan Fahey, 847.676.8388
Full day: Infants, Toddlers, Preschoolers
Affiliation Placement
Preschool: M - Th: 9 a.m. - 12 noon
2-3 year olds: M - Th: 9 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
Toddlers: M - Th: 9 a.m. - 12 noon; 2:30 - 5 p.m.
Infants: M - F: 7 a.m. -6 p.m.

Community Consolidated School District 62
Westerhold Early Learning Center

Forest Elementary School
1375 S. 5th Avenue
Des Plaines 60018
Contact: Margarite Benaris
Practicum and Affiliation Placements
Birth-3 and 3-5 year olds
M-F 7:00a.m.-6:00p.m.

Covenant Nursery School (Trinity Lutheran Church)
3637 Golf Road
Evanston 60203
Contact: Tina Vanderwarker, 847.675.2993
Part day program
Affiliation Placement
2 - 5 year olds
A.M. sessions (9:15 - 11:45)
Email: tinav@covenantnurseryschool.org

Evanston Montessori Children’s House
949 Ridge Ave
Evanston  60202
Contact: Basharat Ahmed, 847.890.2225
Email: basharat@evanstonmontessori.com

Gertrude Nielson Child Care and Learning Center
3835 Willow Road
Northbrook 60062
Contact: Arlene Yallelus, 847.564.3004
Full day: Infant, Toddler, Preschool, and Kindergarten
Affiliation Placement
Email: ayallelus@gbnchildcare.com

Glenview Community Church Nursery School
1000 Elm Street
Glenview 60025
Contact: Marcia Kiraly, 847.729.1440
Part day program
Affiliation Placement
2 - 5 years old
A.M. sessions
Kinderquest: A.M. and P.M.

Glenview Methodist Preschool
727 Harlem Ave.
Glenview 60025
Contact: Karen Coan, 847.729.3606
Part day: A.M. and P.M.
Affiliation Placement
9 - 11:15 a.m.
12:30 - 2:45 p.m.

Howard Area Family Center
7510 N. Ashland Ave.
Chicago 60626
Contact: Rebecca Conner, 773.764.7610
rconner@howardarea.org (primary access to contact)
Full day program: Infant, Toddler, and Preschooler
Affiliation Placement
Preschool (mixed age): 9 a.m. - 12 noon; 3 - 5 p.m.
Toddlers and 2s: 8 - 11:30 a.m.; 3 - 5 p.m.
Infants: 8 - 11:30 a.m.

JCY Northwest Family Center
1700 Weiland Road
Buffalo Grove 60089
Contact: Ruth Taxy, 847.279.0900
Full day: Infants, Toddlers, Tots, Preschool, Kindergarten, School Age (after school)
Affiliation Placement
Preschool (half day): 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Full day: 6 weeks - school age: 6:45 a.m.-  6 p.m.
Kindergarten: 9 - 11:30; 12:30 - 3

Jolly Fun House Academy
1001 Oak Ave
Prospect Heights 60070
Contact: Amber Grafman/Marianne Thein, 847.541.5577
Full day: Infants – 12 years of age
Affiliation Placement
6 weeks – 12 years
A.M. or P.M.

Jolly Fun House Playschool
7559 W. Addison Street
Chicago 60634
Contact: Gigi Bowie, 773.637.6115
Full day: Toddlers - 5 years of age
Affiliation Placement
15 months - 5 years of age
A.M. or P.M.

Learning Bridge Early Education Center
1840 Asbury Ave.
Evanston 60201
Contact: Ann Reppelt

Little Hands Child Development Center
2755 Sanders Road
Northbrook 60062
Contact: Sarah Perna, 847.326.9500
Full day: Infants, Toddlers, Preschoolers
Affiliation Placement
Infants through Preschool
8 - 11 a.m.; 3 - 6 p.m.

Little Ones Preschool Nursery School
3433 Walters Ave.
Northbrook 60062
Contact: Sheree Feldman, 847.272.4646
Part day preschool A.M. and P.M.
Affiliation Placement
M – F: 9 - 11:15 a.m.; 12:45 - 3 p.m.

Marletta Darnall Schaumburg Child & Family Center
725 E. Schaumburg Road
Schaumburg 60194
Contact: Darleen Towns, 630.671.2400  ext. 224

Northbrook Community Nursery School
2700 Willow Road
Northbrook 60062
Contact: Gail Nemoy, 847.272.5430
Part day
Affiliation Placement
9 - 11:30 a.m.
2 – 5 years old

Oakton Community College
Skokie campus
7701 N. Lincoln Ave
Skokie 60076
Contact: Monique Hudson 847.635.1441
Classes: full day and part day (a.m. and p.m.)
Age group for both classes: 3 - 5 years old
Affiliation Placement
Part day
M/W/F: 8:30 - 11:30 a.m.; 12:30 – 3:30 p.m.
T/TH 9:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
Full day: 8:30 a.m. - 12 noon; 3:30 - 5:30 p.m.

One Hope United Child Development Center*
9375 Church Street
Des Plaines 60016
Contact: Tanya Alvarez, 847.296.0669
Full day: Infant, Toddler, Preschool, Kindergarten
Affiliation Placement
*Speak with your ECE instructor before contacting this center.

One Hope United - Wilmette Child Development Center*
3013 Illinois Road
Wilmette 60019
Contact: Kristin Pettice, 847.256.6600
Full day: Infant, Toddler, Preschool
Affiliation Placement
Preschool: 9 - 11 a.m.; 3:30 - 5:30 p.m.
Toddler: 9 - 11 a.m.; 3:30 - 5:30 p.m.
Infant: 9 - 11 a.m.; 3:30 - 5:30 p.m.
*Speak with your ECE instructor before contacting this center.

One Hope United - O'Hare Child Development Center*
2300 E. Devon, Suite 171
Des Plaines, IL 60016
Stephanie Carnduff, 847.294.7780
Full day: Infant, Toddler, Preschool, Kindergarten
Affiliation Placement
*Speak with your ECE instructor before contacting this center.

Ravinia Nursery School
686 Red Oak Lane
Highland Park 60091
Contact: Kathy Olsen, 847.831.3700
Part day: 2 year old - 5 year old
Affiliation Placement
Two year olds: T – F  9:15 - 11:15 a.m.
Three year olds: M – F  9 - 11:30 a.m.
Four year olds: M – F  12:30 - 3 p.m.

Reba Early Learning Center
740 Custer Ave.
Evanston 60202
Contact: Bettye Cohns, 847.475.6480
Full day program: 2 - 5 years old

River Grove School District 85.5
2650 Thatcher Ave.
River Grove 60171
Contact: Glenn Grieshaber, 708.453.6172

Rubber Ducky Home Day Care
898 Willson Drive
Des Plaines 60018 *DOG on premises.
Contact: Mary Masnica, 847.258.4683
Full day family childcare home: infants – school age
Affiliation Placement
8 a.m. - 12 noon; 2:30 - 5 p.m.
(Call between 12:30 - 2:30 p.m.)

Sunny Days Child Care and Preschool
1606 Fowler Ave
Evanston 60201
Contact: Heather Jones, 847.475.7495
Family child care home provider

Total Child Center - First United Methodist Church
516 Church Street
Evanston 60201
Contact: Beth Ruppe, 847.864.7100
Part day and full day
Affiliation Placement
Full day (2 - 5 year old): A.M. and P.M.
Part Day (3 - 4 year old): A.M.

Unity Nursery School
827 Foster Street
Evanston 60201
Contact: Katie Martin, 847.869.7170
Part Day: 2 - 5 year old
Affiliation Placement
Varied Times

Winnetka Public School Nursery
1155 Oak Street
Winnetka, IL 60093
Contact: Erin Booker, 847.446.5153
Affiliation Placement

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 Illinois Student Assistance Commission online.

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