In Bartholomew County and statewide, a push has been ongoing to ensure pre-kindergarten learning is available for all students. A local school district program that places students in preschools to gain real-life work experience is helping to supply the teachers needed for early education classes.

Shelby Carter and Iracema Orlandi are two examples of what Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp.’s C4 Early Childhood Education (ECE) program wants to accomplish.

After conquering dirty diapers, nap time, and bottle feeding, they are taking the next steps to join the early childhood education workforce. Both are students at Ivy Tech Community College’s Columbus campus pursuing higher degrees in early childhood education.

“The C4 class is in a prime position to provide the talent pool that the preschools need,” said Autumne Streeval, C4 integration specialist.

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“This gives students the opportunity to observe classes, help design and implement lesson plans and projects, aid in classroom management and work directly with students,” she added.

The program is for juniors and seniors. Students from North and East high schools operate an in-house preschool. Second-year students are placed in community settings four days a week through most of the school year, said Jenny Wallace, Columbus North ECE instructor.

Many students earn paid child care positions once they turn 18, which is exactly what happened for Carter and Orlandi.

Shortly after high school, Carter (a North graduate) and Orlandi (an East grad) were offered jobs at Bright Beginnings Early Learning Center at McDowell Education Center, where they had been placed for internships while taking the ECE class.

“Shelby Carter and Iracema Orlandi proved to the director and assigned teachers that they exceeded their peers in training and preparedness for working with children,” Wallace said.

Although both students remember always having a love of kids, they enrolled in the ECE program to see if pursuing a career in the field was right for them.

“It really helped me understand that this is something I want to do,” Orlandi said. “It also helped you kind of figure out what age group you want to work with.”

Orlandi said she learned that working with infants was where she was happiest, as she enjoys watching them grow up and isn’t bothered by the messier side of caring for babies, such as diaper changing and cleaning spit-up.

Carter said she enjoys working with infants through 2-year-olds, and loves walking into the room each day and being greeted with a hug from the kids in her group.

“Infants to 2s is what I found that I can really connect with, and just seeing their milestones and helping with their milestones and everything like that is amazing to see,” Carter said.

Currently, Carter is pursuing her Associate of Applied Science degree at Ivy Tech and plans to get her bachelor’s degree in early childhood education after that.

Orlandi is seeking her associate degree in early childhood education and also plans to go for her bachelor’s soon. On top of working at Bright Beginnings and completing her education, she also works part time at kidscommons, the children’s museum in Columbus.

C4 Early Childhood Education

Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp.’s C4 Early Childhood Education program places high school juniors and seniors with an interest in early education in local preschools to gain work experience in that environment.

The program teaches students how to build lesson plans and projects, assist in classroom management and work directly with students.

Dual credit is also available through the program.

Anyone interested in the program should contact Jenny Wallace, Columbus North ECE instructor, by calling 812-371-5012 or sending an email to wallacej@bcsc.k12.in.us.

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Kaitlyn Evener is an editorial assistant for The Republic. She can be reached at kevener@therepublic.com or 812-379-5633.