EDWARDS — Colorado Mountain College is seeking approval for its third bachelor’s degree program, this one in elementary education.
Students would be able to pursue the degree at Colorado Mountain College’s Edwards and Glenwood Springs campuses. The college offers four-year degrees in business administration and sustainability studies and saw its first bachelor’s graduates last spring.
Colorado Mountain College’s proposed bachelor’s degree in nursing and one in applied science are also moving through the approval process.
The prospective Bachelor of Arts in interdisciplinary studies with a focus on elementary teacher preparation is now being considered for approval.
“I’m thrilled. It’s going to be a great asset for our communities,” said Barbara K.V. Johnson, Ph.D., Colorado Mountain College’s director of teacher education. “We’ve been working toward this since Colorado Mountain College began offering bachelor’s programs. It’s been one of the programs our students and our communities have been asking for.”
The freshman/sophomore level courses are in the catalog and are being offered beginning next semester, Johnson said. Upper levels could start in 2015.
The Bachelor of Arts in interdisciplinary studies, with an initial focus on elementary teacher preparation, still needs approval by the college’s accrediting body, the Higher Learning Commission. But Colorado Mountain College has had positive feedback so far and expects the commission’s approval in the spring or summer, Johnson said.
In designing the program, Colorado Mountain College has been working with school districts in Eagle and Garfield counties.
“This program is good for our region, our schools and our kids,” said Jason Glass, Ph.D., superintendent of Eagle County schools. “I’m proud that our district supports this vitally important endeavor.”
Right now, Colorado Mountain College students can earn an associate’s degree in elementary education but must transfer to a four-year college in Colorado to complete a bachelor’s degree.
Lorena Trejo was one of those Colorado Mountain College teacher education students. She transferred to the University of Northern Colorado and is now a teacher at Graham Mesa Elementary in Rifle.
“I graduated with honors from CMC, and then headed to UNC to finish my program,” she said. “It was hard. A lot of people have families and can’t travel out of town to make their dreams come true.”
Colorado Mountain College’s prospective program will emphasize hands-on learning and real classroom experience, Johnson said. Students would be required to complete more than 1,200 field hours during the course of their program. Those classroom experience begin in their first year.
“Too often in the past, students wouldn’t set foot in the classroom until their final year of teacher training,” Johnson said.
The program will also emphasize what they’re calling “linguistically diverse education.” While the program doesn’t require fluency in a specific foreign language, it cultivates the skills of working with English language learners and fosters the competencies that will help teachers reach students with diverse linguistic and cultural roots, Johnson said.
Both national and state employment projections highlight the need for increasing numbers of teachers at the elementary school level to serve a growing population, especially in Garfield and Eagle counties, where populations are expected to continue growing, said Brad Tyndall, Ph.D., vice president for academic affairs at Colorado Mountain College.
Three years ago, Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter signed a bill to allow Colorado Mountain College to offer up to five bachelor’s degrees.