Trials to Triumphs for New ECCA Education Pathway Students
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Trials to Triumphs for New ECCA Education Pathway Students

ECCA Education Pathway First Semester A Success

The newest career pathway for the Early College and Career Academy at Parkland College got off to a rocky start this fall, but program instructors and students consider its first semester a success.

Education is the eighth program under the ECCA, the dual credit joint program of Education for Employment #330 and Parkland College. This pathway provides early college training for area high school seniors who want to pursue teaching as a career path, and has been designed as a means to help fill the gap in the district's Pre K-12 teacher shortage.

In a semester filled with unforeseen challenges, program directors and instructors were tasked with finding a way to provide high-quality education for students while combating the spread of coronavirus, according to Charles Larenas, associate professor in Education and one of the ECCA Education Pathway students' instructors.

"The students asked me to teach on-campus, so I did until November 20," he said. "We respected one another; we all wore our masks, and we followed social distancing protocols, so we felt comfortable being together on-campus. If a student wasn't able to attend class, they joined us virtually on Microsoft Teams. We made it work."

Though the semester was uniquely challenging, both Larenas and EFE #330 Director Nick Elder said students rose to the challenges, stayed on course, and experienced a successful semester’s end.

"The students are amazing," Larenas said. "I think each one of them is a superstar. We had a great first semester." Elder said students now look forward to spring semester, in which they will take EDU 104, Introduction to Special Education and PSY 220, Educational Psychology. Elder noted that the two classes will continue to build on the knowledge the students gained during the fall semester and provide a great pathway to careers in education.

"The courses are very hands-on, so that gives students a better opportunity to be engaged every class period," said Larenas, adding that he feels positive his students will be excited to see him again in the spring. "I am sure they are also looking forward to another semester of my jokes."

Once students complete the Education pathway, they can expect continued support from EFE #330 and a guaranteed job interview from the students' home school district once they earn their professional educator's license, according to Elder.

"The coursework and observation experience students complete during the ECCA Education Pathway will place these students on a fast track to entering the field of education," he said. "EFE #330 is working to put a system in place so we are able to maintain contact with these students throughout their college years, with the hope that they will return to teach locally."

Launched in November 2014, the Early College and Career Academy is a collaboration of the EFE #330 K-12 career and technical education cooperative and Parkland College. At the academy, high school juniors and seniors earn dual credit for courses in certain skill-based programs: Automotive, Computer Networking, Computer Programming, Criminal Justice, Emergency Medical Services (Health Professions or Fire Service focus), Certified Nursing Assistant, Industrial Technology, and Education Pathway. The academy benefits not only area students, but also local businesses, due to the increased skill level of the incoming workforce.

For more information on the ECCA Education Pathway, contact Elder at or 217/355-1382. Visit the ECCA page to learn more about the Early College and Career Academy.
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