School to offer new early childhood education program

Childcare challenges have resulted in staff members bringing their young children into school during remote learning. Lemmy Shoquist pictured here. — Courtesy Tiffiney Shoquist

Next fall, the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) will offer a new Career and Technical Education (CTE) course of study titled Early Childhood Education. The program will introduce students to the field of early education, aim to prepare them for a career in early education, and may include implementing a preschool program at the high school.

CTE Director and vice principal Dr. Barbara-jean Chauvin said, “We have a significant need on the Island to grow our own educators at every grade level, and in every subject. It is imperative our youngsters get a good start to their education in order to flourish in the best way.”

The full program will be three years and students must complete 150 hours of work with the children to be eligible for teacher assistant certification upon graduation. “[The certification] is really important for the credential for students when they graduate,” said Dr. Chauvin.

Upon graduation, students will be eligible to assist or teach in many early education programs, and Martha’s Vineyard Community Services (MVCS) has already pledged to help them.

Heather Quinn, the program director for early education at MVCS, views early education as an accessible career. “To work in early education and care you don’t have to have an advanced degree,” she said. “We always support teachers in continuing their education. If someone comes in with a high school diploma, we would support them in earning a certificate to advance their professional goals.”

Several years ago a similar program existed at the high school, which Dr. Chauvin said was more observational. Families would come in with their children and students would observe the interaction between preschoolers and their teachers. “The new early childhood education program will be a lot more focused on students’ work with the children,” she said.

The program will begin as a semester-based course for upperclassmen that will involve creating lesson plans and caring for preschoolers within the Island community. Students will then work more closely with preschool students in the second semester work-based course that follows.

Ms. Quinn said, “The most important piece is to first build a foundation in child behavior and development, which would be gained through the coursework in high school, to begin to understand the developing curriculum for children,” she said. “[The program] would be a combination of coursework at the high school and practical experience at our center.”

Eventually, preschool students may even be brought into the high school to be cared for within the building.

Art teacher Tiffiney Shoquist, who is a mother to a two-year-old, was intrigued by the potential opportunity to have her son with her in school. “If there were an option to have my kid at the place where I work, cared for by a combination of adults and students, I think it would be incredible,” she said.

Administrators from the school are currently searching for an early childhood education teacher and working with the early education community advisory group, a group of early education professionals, who meet to advise the high school on the planning of the program.

Dr. Chauvin suggests that students who are interested in the program take early education classes through Adult and Continuing Education Martha’s Vineyard (ACE MV) and Cape Cod Community College’s dual enrollment program.

“There’s lots of planning that still has to happen, but we have a vision,” she said. “We know what direction we want the program to take.”