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Early Childhood Education program prepares Grade 12 students to work with children

early-childhood-education-2023-16x9.jpgJess Ratzlaff is one of this year's students to complete the district's Early Childhood Education program, offered in partnership with Douglas College. The ECE program is an excellent way for Grade 12 students to enter the field of early childhood learning as licensed ECE assistants. (Photo by Jacob Zinn)

The district is once again offering the Early Childhood Education (ECE) program, providing Grade 12 students with the opportunity to explore a career that contributes to the well-being children.

The 17-week program, in partnership with Douglas College, starts in February 2024, with interested applicants needing to complete their Language Arts 12 and CLC during the upcoming fall semester to qualify. Grade 12 students become licensed ECE Assistants after just one semester, with the option of pursuing an ECE certificate or diploma through the college.

Jess Ratzlaff, a Surrey student who recently completed the ECE program, said she was drawn to it both as someone who’s always held a mentorship role with younger kids, and as a stepping stone to work in the child and youth care sector.

“I’ve really connected with children from a young age. I was always the older kid saying, ‘Kids in my complex, let’s go do something!’” she said. “I’m also someone who knows what they want to do; I want to go into youth work, and I know the struggles of being a youth worker. It kind of really flowed for me and helped me prepare for what’s coming next with my career, education, everything.”

The program includes a 200-hour practicum and was developed with funding from the Ministry of Education and Child Care. The B.C. government is expecting more than 10,000 new job openings for certified ECEs and assistants in the next decade.

Ratzlaff said there is a misconception that early childhood education is daycare or babysitting, when really, it’s engaging with young students, teaching them to problem-solve independently, encouraging inquiry, fostering self expression and ensuring every child feels valued and heard.

“You connect with them. We get to learn how our perception of an individual child and children, in general, really matter,” she said. “When a child shows me their art, I first go down on their level so we are connected with eye contact and say, ‘What can you tell me about this?’ Sometimes scribbles and lines aren’t scribbles and lines, and they share what their art is and you really get to know them on a different level when you ask those questions.”

Speaking positively, thinking in ways to make things accessible, removing bias and judgment, and determining how to engage with kids are just a few ways early childhood educators create diverse indoor and outdoor learning environments. And in turn, Ratzlaff said watching students learn and grasp new concepts is incredibly rewarding.

“It’s different every day; you’re never going to go in and have the same day.”

Ratzlaff said she would recommend the program to anyone with an interest in working with children, noting it’s a small commitment to take the 11-week course and a six-week practicum.

“If there’s a small part of you that thinks you’re ready, try it out, go apply; take that chance – there’s hardly any risk to applying,” she said. “What is there to lose?”

Program Information

The program starts in February, with classes held largely online Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays and two theory classes hosted in-person at Douglas College in Coquitlam on Fridays. An additional 8 Wednesdays are spent in a supplemental learning experience at Nurturing Hearts Montessori in Langley. Students complete their practicum from late April to early June at local Montessori schools and daycare facilities.

Students will earn credits for four secondary school courses as well as four Douglas College ECE courses while still in secondary school. Additionally, students who decide to pursue a full ECE certificate or diploma may continue at Douglas College in September to finish the remaining two or three semesters respectively.

Eligible Grade 12 students must turn 18 by Dec. 31 of the calendar year in which they are taking the program, and must successfully complete Grade 12 Language Arts and other mandatory graduation requirements by the end of the first semester of the program year.

Other prerequisites include:

  • excellent attendance and punctuality
  • strong speaking, listening and communication skills
  • a Police Information Check, and
  • a medical assessment of physical and mental health.

Applications are open until October 20, 2023. and are available at your school’s Career Centre.

For more information on the ECE program, please contact the Career Education department at 604-595-6175 or

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