Two Rend Lake College employees – Tina Grounds, Early Childhood Education Associate Professor, and Paula Burris, Provider Services Coordinator for the Child Care Resource and Referral program – have been certified as Professional Development Advisors through Illinois’ Gateway to Opportunity program.

Professional Development Advisors help represent and mentor those interested in the field of Early Childhood Education. The advisors will help these people explore professional goals and objectives, decide which courses and training to take, locate available coursework and professional development opportunities, create professional development plans, understand the difference between college certificates and degrees, meet requirements for degrees in Early Childhood Education, explore financial assistance for coursework and training, and find help with basic English and math skills or support for learning the English language.

“People in this field often don’t understand their options,” said Grounds. “We can help make the process easier.” She said PDAs can help people follow the Illinois Early Care and Education Career Lattice all the way up to a Master’s Degree if that is their goal.

Grounds and Burris are two of the five Professional Development Advisors available in Southern Illinois. Grounds said more are needed to adequately serve the region.

“I’m excited about this. It was great training for myself and Paula. We hope it will bring in more students. It’s a good situation for everybody,” said Grounds.

As experienced professionals working in all types of early care and education settings, PDAs also offer assistance to individuals wanting to assemble documents for professional portfolios in order to earn the Illinois Director Credential; mentoring skills, information on trends in higher education, course articulation, and ways to develop leadership and communication skills; and up-to-date information to individuals wanting to obtain new credentials as they become available.

Grounds has worked in the field for more than 26 years, and holds a Master’s Degree in Education. Her career started in a private school for children with special needs, where she served as a preschool teacher. She later taught in an early intervention program where she worked with infant and toddler children and their families. She directed a faith-based center and helped to reconstruct the building and program.

Later, Grounds started at Rend Lake College and worked as a family literacy administrator and currently teaches Early Childhood Education there, where she was instrumental in setting up the lab school. She assisted the college in becoming the first entitled institution for the Illinois Director Credential (IDC). Grounds serves on the IDC Commission and has served as program trainer and evaluator for Even Start Programs. She holds a Level II Illinois Director Credential.

Paula Burris, who works with Project CHILD at the RLC MarketPlace in Mt. Vernon, has worked in the field for 11 years. She holds Master’s Degrees in Education and Business Administration and has worked as a preschool teacher, high school teacher, consultant / trainer and a community college instructor.

Burris has worked with all aspects of early care and education to bring quality training opportunities to Southern Illinois. In addition to providing training herself, she coordinates training opportunities in the 12 rural counties that Project CHILD serves. Burris is very involved with advocacy for children and families and provides technical assistance to child care professionals on a variety of issues.

For more information or to inquire about working with a Professional Development Advisor in Early Childhood Education, contact Grounds at (618) 437-5321, Ext. 1396, or call Gateways to Opportunity at 1-888-548-8080. Numerous resources are available on the Gateways to Opportunity Web site at www.ilgateways.com.

Photos of Grounds and Burris are available above.

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