ST. IGNATIUS — Two Montana Tribal Colleges, Salish Kootenai College (SKC) and Northern Cheyenne Chief Dull Knife College, are pleased to announce a new partnership with Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribe’s (CSKT) Early Childhood Services (ECS), and Head Start programs at both CSKT and Northern Cheyenne, called Jump Start, Head Start!

The goal of the SKC Jump Start, Head Start! program is to increase the number of Head Start teachers, supporting more potential teachers, while trying to alleviate the ongoing problem of ECS teacher shortages. With Jump Start, Head Start!, SKC is committed to breaking down barriers for early childhood educators employed under Head Start programs, as there can be many challenges that potential educators face to achieve certification and degrees.

The new program will create an accessible career path for current and future Head Start teachers on the Confederated Salish and Kootenai and Northern Cheyenne reservations. Strategies to make certification and degrees accessible for new teachers include modification of course schedules, online and blended approaches to courses, job-embedded courses, use of various conference platforms as ways to present courses and cohort models that will support their social and emotional needs.

“I am excited about our partnership with the Salish Kootenai College and the new Jump Start, Head Start! project,” ECS Department Head Jeanne Christopher said.  “I am looking forward to having more teachers in our classrooms. These teachers will have training and experiences that will include Indigenous language and cultural knowledge. It is important for our teachers to have this educational experience for their roles as early childhood teachers.” 

Studies have shown that preschoolers who have been a part of a Jump Start, Head Start! program, have improvements in language, reading and social-emotional development.

“It is important that we invest in our educators, and our children, with this new program,” said SKC President Sandra Boham.  “Not only are we providing critical instruction and experience for new teachers, but we want to help create a career path for current and future Head Start educators including the opportunity to attain Child Development Associate (CDA) Associate and Bachelor of Arts degrees. The Jump Start, Head Start! courses will also include culturally relevant classes, including language and field experiences. They will also have access to model Head Start classrooms.”

Early Childhood Education Department at Salish Kootenai College will provide these classes for the ECS staff. SKC waives tuition and other associated fees for all ECS students. Additionally, ECS will pay for books, mileage to and from the college, the employee’s salary while attending classes, and the cost of providing a substitute worker. ECS will continue to develop a close relationship with the SKC department of Early Childhood Education.

It is important to SKC that ECS teachers successfully complete this program. The college plans to modifying course schedules and offer online and blended approaches to courses for teachers. This will include access to various platforms and classes. Classes will also include a language and cultural foundation.

For more information about the Jump Start, Head Start! program, please call SKC Early Childhood Education Department at 406-275-4761 or CSKT Early Childhood Services at 406-745-4509, or email at headstart@cskt.org.

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