In a continuing effort to better the educational system in Hancock County and meet the requirements for teaching assistants in pre-K through third grade, a new program has been launched. The Early Childhood Classroom Assistant Teacher (ECCAT) program provides high school students interested in pursuing a career in Early Childhood Education an opportunity get jump start on their education.

The program is offered at both Oak Glen and Weir High School and is taught by Sara Jackson. She has taught in Hancock County for 8 years and has been teaching at the early childhood CTE for five years. She previously was the director of the Tree House Child Care Center.

“This program was designed to attract and keep high quality future teachers and assistant teachers in schools in our local communities,” said Jackson who noted the program continues to grow.

The WV legislature passed legislation that will place classroom assistant teachers in all classes from Pre-K through third grade over the next several years. The high school ECCAT program was designed to help fill these new positions with qualified applicants. Once students complete the high school ECCAT program, they can be hired immediately after graduation by the local school districts to work as Early Childhood Classroom Assistant Teachers. Additionally, students receive 12 college credit hours at West Virginia Northern Community College, if they are interested in attending college and becoming future teachers.     

According to Jackson, the program contains four courses that are completed over two school years. These courses include Early Learning Child Development, Early Learning Special Needs Inclusion, and Early Learning Literacy and Numeracy. Also, one of the requirements of the high school ECCAT program is to complete 150 hours working with children in an early childhood education setting. The students in the program gain real-world experience working with children at Allison Elementary, New Manchester Elementary and Weirton Elementary Schools as well as The Children’s Academy in Weirton, WV. Also, the students in the Oak Glen ECCAT program volunteer at the Story Hour Program at the Lynn Murray Memorial Library in Chester.

While completing the required hours, the high school students work in small groups with students, read stories, help the teachers and most importantly build bonds with the children they encounter. 

     In November, students enrolled in the program got the opportunity to attend the Educator’s Rising Fall Leadership Conference in Charleston, WV, said Jackson. Students attended networking events with other students throughout the state who are also in a high school ECCAT program. Additionally, they had the opportunity to listen to the motivational speaker, Sam Demma, who focused on the importance of goal setting in our personal and professional careers.

” It was a fantastic leadership experience that left the students excited to continue their professional education careers. Oak Glen and Weir High students will be supporting the Educator’s Rising Community Service project by donating free books to children at the local Christmas parades in Chester and Weirton,” said Jackson