This story has been modified from its original version.
Clackamas Community College is the only community college in the Portland metro area offering early childhood courses in Spanish.
Central Oregon Community College in Bend also offers early childhood courses in Spanish and has been for three years.
Recently, 32 students completed CCC's first-ever Early Childhood Education Spanish-language course. After working all week to take care of children, they attend Saturday classes to improve their knowledge and skills in working with children and earn college credits.
Salem resident Maribel Leija was one of the first students in the Spanish-language Early Childhood Education course offered by CCC. She said that she was proud to be able to call herself a teacher — finally — after 20 years of offering daycare in the Salem area. She said she was attracted to programs that help teachers get kids more prepared to go to kindergarten.
"When I started I had a child, and I wanted to be involved in them," Leija said. "Then the opportunities start coming... to get more quality care."
CCC's Education, Human Services and the Criminal Justice Department developed the coursework to provide training and education to the traditionally underserved Latino population. This population has historically had minimal access to college coursework due to child-care providers primarily being monolingual Spanish speakers.
The first course, ECE 154: Langauge and Literacy Development, was held in Salem. To date, CCC has offered two early childhood courses in Spanish, one in Hillsboro and the other in Marion County at the local education-service district in Salem. Each course has had over 30 Spanish-speaking early childhood teachers enrolled.
Education, Human Services and Criminal Justice Department chair Dawn Hendricks said CCC's program has benefited from legislation to increase the education levels of teachers working with 3- to-5-year-old children. The legislation has particularly focused on improving outcomes for traditionally underserved children by increasing the quality of the preschool teachers who teach them.
"For most of the students, this was their first time in college," Hendricks said. "They loved it so much we have another course scheduled to start for them, again in Spanish."
Maria Fernandez, Early Learning HUB Coordinator for Marion/Polk counties, helped Hendricks start up the course. Fernandez, Hendricks and Leija were recently interviewed by Raymond Rendleman, editor of the Clackamas Review/Oregon City News, for a show on Willamette Falls Media Center:
The class meets at Child Care Resource and Referral - Community Action, 2475 Center St. N.E., Salem. There are 32 Spanish-speaking early childhood providers that are enrolled in the course.
Students interested in taking the course can call Teri Olsen at 503-594-3194.
Correction: There are actually two programs offering ECE for Spanish speakers in Oregon. We apologize that an earlier version of this story online used incorrect information about CCC's uniqueness in the state.