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New Mexico State University

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NMSU institute offers opportunities for teaching professionals

The New Mexico State University College of Education offers early childhood education professionals opportunities for development through the new Southwest Institute for Early Childhood Studies (SWECI).

The SWECI was established by the College of Education and the early childhood education program in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction to serve as a dynamic training and research center for teachers in New Mexico who serve children up to 8 years of age. Its purpose is to support, inform and improve early childhood education in the state by providing teachers with the resources needed for children's early educational experiences.

"The research activities of the institute comprise a multi-faceted core program to promote emerging research, assure dissemination of that research and create a solid connection between New Mexico, national and international researchers in early childhood issues," said Candace Kaye, associate professor of early childhood education and director of the SWECI.

There are six programs that are part of the SWECI. The enhancement of professional development support, the dissemination of resource materials and the development of the early literacy center are three of the programs.

These three programs were created to develop and implement components of professional development, such as a career planning tool for teachers and a monitoring system to make sure distance learning courses are available where needed.

Another program, the J. Paul Taylor Early Childhood Education Symposium, was held in November 2007. NMSU early childhood education students and faculty shared their research in early childhood education. The symposium and the J. Paul Taylor Endowed Chair are named for J. Paul Taylor, a retired state legislator known for his work with young children and families, schools and the bilingual community. Elizabeth Cahill, the associate academic department head of curriculum and instruction, currently holds the position of the J. Paul Taylor Endowed Chair.

The SWECI e-journal, "Cultural and Linguistic Perspectives of Emergent Literacy: An E-Journal," will be published for the first time in the fall of 2008. It will be published twice a year and is the only research-based journal focusing on emergent literacy from cultural and linguistic diversity perspectives. It will be available for anyone to read online at NMSU's College of Education Web site.

The final program will be an annual Borderlands Early Literacy Day (BELD) conference. The first BELD day will be held April 12 in O'Donnell Hall on the NMSU campus. Its theme will be "Meaningful Encounters."

"The conference is going to be held because the idea of emergent literacy is so important, especially in our borderlands population, with the importance of culture and the family needing to be emphasized," Kaye said.

Emergent literacy is defined as what children know about reading or writing before they can actually read or write. Skill such as vocabulary, narrative skills, letter knowledge and phonological sensitivity begin to develop at an early age and lay the foundation for success at an early age.

The keynote speakers will be Alma Flor Ada and Isabel Campoy, award-winning authors and illustrators of children's books. Ada also is the founder of the Journal of the National Association for Bilingual Education.

Professors and graduate students will present 24 sessions on early literacy. Bilingual sessions will be included.

The conference is open to the community, but is limited to 200 participants. Teachers, students, caregivers and families are expected to attend.

Those who would like to attend the event should register by March 22. There is a $15 pre-registration fee. After March 22, the registration fee will go up to $20. Child care services will not be provided.

For more information, please contact Michelle Saenz, program coordinator for the Alliance for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning, at (575) 646-1348 or at micsaenz@nmsu.edu.