Laker Major/Minor Spotlight: Early Childhood Education Major

Bella Lee, Staff writer

When you were a kid, did you ever want to be a teacher when you grew up? Students in the Early Childhood/Special Education major took that dream and made it into a reality. The department aims to send future teachers to work with general education and special education students. The department motto is “Teach. Anyone. Anywhere.”

“Our graduates go on to become teachers but even bigger than that, we hope to truly be able to teach, anyone, anywhere,” said Su-san Johnson, Ph.D. chair of the Education Department. “This means helping students and families to achieve equity in opportunity, serving as children and families’ best allies and ensuring that the neediest communities get highly qualified teachers. Excellence doesn’t just happen; it’s intentional and so is our mission to get there.” Mercyhurst’s Education students are easily among the most involved, both on and off campus.

“Perhaps the hallmark of our programming is our robust clinical placements that begin as soon as the student’s freshman year,” said Johnson. “We ensure that pre-service teachers have experience in all types of classrooms prior to student teaching their senior year so they feel prepared to reach every student. Our students participate in significantly more hours of clinical placements than most pre-service teachers, which furthers their skill set prior to student teaching.” Additionally, there are organizations within the major, such as the Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society and the Council for Exceptional Children. In addition to this major, Mercyhurst also offers masters’ programs in special education and teaching excellence to students that choose to further their education beyond their bachelor’s.

Johnson knew she wanted to be a teacher from the time she was 5 years old. “Quite simply, teaching breathes life into me,” Johnson said. “I am at my best when I am with students in a classroom. My professional training has prepared me to teach prospective teachers about disability and the ways it manifests for children and their families. I teach so that my students can advocate for those who can’t advocate for themselves.”

Many of the students in this major share this exact same passion. Sophomore Katelynn Bizzarro wanted to pursue this career path for her brother. “My twin brother Christian has nonverbal Autism and ever since high school I have been really interested in helping people with special needs. I always thought about being a teacher so that those with autism or other disabilities have an education even if it’s different than what their peers are learning,” Bizzarro said. “I enjoy going to different events with my brother because there are always other kids with special needs, so I get to help out other kids. Talking to them is always so much fun and a great learn-ing experience.”

Sophomore Matt Schwartz entered Mercyhurst as an un-decided major, but that pas-sion for teaching was always underlying. “I ultimately chose this major because it would allow me to work with many people from different backgrounds and it allows me to be in a position where I can help someone and make a difference in someone’s life, which just makes me feel really good,” Schwartz said. “My favorite thing about this major is how practical everything feels. I feel like I’m re-ally learning a lot as part of this program and getting out there and helping at schools is super fun.”

Mercyhurst’s Education department certainly stands out among other similar programs and it is a gem on our campus. Our education students are destined to do great things when they’re at schools all over the country and even around the world!