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 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 Early Childhood 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.

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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 Illinois. This scholarship program is specifically targeted at the early childhood workforce in Illinois looking to upskill their qualifications and/or pursue further certificates, degree programs, or endorsements through a participating ECACE institution.

Oakton welcomes EC professionals 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.

ECACE Scholarship

If you are working or previously worked in an Early Childhood Education Center, Daycare Center or Preschool setting, you may be eligible for scholarship dollars to earn credentials at Oakton.

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

  • Tuition and Fees
  • Books & Supplies
  • Personal expenses (e.g. technology, transportation, childcare expenses)

More information on the scholarship is available through the Illinois Student Assistance Commission.

Apply for the ECACE Scholarship


Supplemental ECACE Funding Program

Another funding opportunity available to the Oakton EC students who are pursuing EC credentials is The Supplemental ECACE Funding Program.

Students enrolled in an ECE program of study and taking ECE courses may qualify for these funds. 

You can apply for the funding program online.

To learn more about these scholarships, contact us by filling out the form below, and an ECE Mentor Coach will contact you soon.

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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.


What's Next?

We are glad you are considering attending Oakton 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.

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.

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Enrolling at Oakton College can save you thousands of dollars and help you earn more over the course of your career. Our tuition is among the lowest in the region, and we offer many ways to bring your costs down even more.

99 percent of Oakton students graduate without debt.

To help you get there, you can apply for a scholarship, which you don’t have to pay back. We award $12 million in scholarships annually. Financial Aid includes grants, loans, and other forms of financial assistance that can reduce your costs of attending college.

We offer payment options that give you control over how you pay. Pay all at once or spread your payments over the course of the semester.

Learn more about your options for paying for your education

An Oakton College student smiles while using a computer.
As your community college, we serve students from various backgrounds. We aim to make the application process as easy and as clear as possible for everyone.

We can help you get started on a degree or certificate. Applying to Oakton is fast and easy.

Your first step before you begin your studies is filling out an admission application and completing your enrollment process.

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Oakton College students celebrate graduating in full regalia.

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

Stephanie Alban-Kako
Community College Relationship Manager
National Louis University

Laura Byes
Executive Director
Learning Bridge Early Education Center

Bettye Cohns
ECE Community Member/GoAEYC

Susan Fahey
Children's Care & Development Center

Barbara Golik
Principal / First Steps Preschool
East Maine School District 63

Marsha Hawley (Representing District 535)
Associate Director of Student Support
Illinois State Board of Education

Heather Jones
Sunny Days Child Care

Julie Lear
Niles North High School

Reagan Miller
Executive Director
Gertrude B. Nielsen Child Care & Learning Center

Nicole Ramirez
Administrative Director
Reba Early Learning Center

Sharyl Robin
Director of Trainings & Contracts
Children’s Home & Aid

Sandra Rojo
Bilingual Higher Education Organization Navigator–Oakton-assigned Navigator
Illinois Action for Children

Mindi Schryer
Adjunct Faculty, ECE Department
Northeastern Illinois University

Carol Teske
Executive Director
Evanston Childcare Network

Joanna Varda
Executive Director
Swift Child Care

Stephen Vick
Executive Director
Infant Welfare Society of Evanston

Ex-officio Members

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

Monique Hudson
Site Coordinator, ECE Center
Oakton College

Cheryl Joseph
ECE Full-Time Faculty
Oakton College

Paula Luszcz
ECE Full-Time Faculty
Oakton College

Susan Uribe
Adjunct Faculty
Oakton College

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Frequently Asked Questions

Answers to some of our most frequently asked questions.

Spring '24 Semester - Contracted Sites for Clinical Experiences

Cherry Preschool*
1418 Lake St.
Evanston, IL 60601
Debbie Boileve

Community Consolidated School District 62–Westerhold Early Learning Center
Forest Elementary School
1375 S. 5th
Des Plaines, IL 60018
Margarite Benaris

Covenant Nursery School
3637 Golf Rd.
Evanston, IL 60203
Tina Vanderwarker

Gertrude Nielsen Child Care and Learning Center*
3835 Willow Rd.
Northbrook, IL 60062
Arlene Yallelus

Glenview Community Church Nursery School*
1000 Elm St,
Glenview, IL 60025
Laura Dillon

Glenview Methodist Preschool*
727 Harlem Ave.
Glenview, IL 60025
Karen Coan

Kiddie Academy of Glenview
662 Waukegan Road
Glenview, IL 60025
Diana Coria

Kiddie Academy of Park Ridge
109 S. Washington Ave.
Park Ridge, IL 60068
Diana Coria

Learning Bridge Early Education Center*
2840 Asbury Ave.
Evanston, IL 60201
Ann Reppelt

Northbrook Community Nursery School
2700 Willow Rd.
Northbrook, IL 60062
Gail Nemoy

Oakton College*
Early Childhood Center
7701 N. Lincoln Ave.
Skokie, IL 60076
Monique Hudson

Ravinia Nursery School
686 Red Oak Ln.
Highland Park, IL 60091
Cathy Cohen

Reba Early Learning Center*
740 Custer Ave.
Evanston, IL 60602

Skokie/Morton Grove School District #69
Maier Administration Bldg–Central Office
Megan Aseltine
847-675-7666 x1074

Swift Child Care
8260 Elmwood St.
Skokie, IL 60077
Joanna Varda

Unity Preschool
827 Foster St.
Evanston, IL 60201
Eva Compisi

Wesley Child Care Center*
727 Harlem Ave.
Glenview, IL 60025
Jeanne Harman

*Sites that have previously been easier to reach and connect with.

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.

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.