Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Early childhood Education Online Program Fills Need


Often child-care provders have little time or money to pursue an education... You need a schedule that is flexible," Diana Abel.
Diana Abel, Rio Salado College Director of Early Childhood Education and Human Development Undergraduate Studies, was a stay-at-home mom working as a family childcare provider when she realized she wanted more.
While she was passionate about the youngsters in her home, she knew there were thousands of others she wanted to reach.
Today she’s in charge of Rio Salado’s early childhood undergraduate program. Started just over a year ago, the program already has more than 500 students and is expected to continue to grow as more and more child care providers realize that gaining college-level certificates and degrees in today’s marketplace is vital,” said Abel.
Like many of her generation, Abel dropped out of college in 1971 to raise her family. Eight years later as a childcare provider serving on a state committee she realized if she wanted to make a difference in the child care field she needed to complete her education.
While serving as the executive director of a Tempe-based non-profit Abel went back to school earning a bachelors in 1995 her masters in 1998 and her doctorate in 2001. She’s taught early childhood education at Glendale Community College and served as the faculty chair at Mesa Community College before taking on the role of director at Rio Salado. She’s quick to point out without her education her career options would have been severely limited as well as her ability to influence the field.
“Because of my background one of my greatest pleasures is to mentor others who struggle to balance family needs with professional aspirations,” said Abel.
Abel and Rio Salado College Project Manager Rene Manning, who also started as a child care provider, believe Rio’s early childhood education program has grown so quickly in part because of their understanding of those in the field and their challenges to complete their education.
“Often child care providers have little time or money to pursue an education. Online education can be a very time effective solution especially if you have childcare barriers, transportation issues and you need a schedule that is flexible,” said Abel.
“The vast majority of our students are already working with children 40 or 50 hours a week, they need to be able to go to school when they have the time not when the institution schedules it,” said Abel.
Her experience in the field is extensive including organizing a variety of non-profits and developing professional training. She was also instrumental in starting the National Association for Family Child Care. While representing Arizona lobbying for expansion of the National Child Care Food Program she and fourteen other family child care providers organized the NAFCC, the first association designed expressly for those in the industry now in its 25th year.
She also set up a nonprofit association to provide professional development training and started a group to enroll child care providers in the Child Care Food Program.
Rio Salado is the only Maricopa Community College early childhood program offering all courses necessary to complete an associates degree online. Credits are transferable to Northern Arizona, Ottawa and Northcentral universities. Courses start every Monday and the early childhood program offers certificates and degrees in Early Childhood Education and available later this spring, will be Early Childhood Business Administration or Family Life Education.
Additionally, child care providers working on national credentials such as the Child Development Associate (CDA) or the Certified Childhood Professional (CCP) can use selected coursework from Rio Salado to fulfill the educational requirements necessary to meet credentialing criteria.
For additional information regarding Early Childhood Undergraduate and Professional Development programs, contact Rio Salado College Student Enrollment Services at 480-517-8580 or visit our web site at http://www.riosalado.edu/.
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