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Highland’s Early Childhood Education coordinator receives national award

Melissa Johnson, coordinator for Early Childhood Education at Highland Community College, earned the Distinguished Teaching Award by EarlyEdU, an Alliance for Head Start and Early Childhood Teaching, at their annual conference held June 19 in Seattle, WA.

“Recipients are chosen based on the number of EarlyEdU courses taught, participation in Alliance activities, and other contributions to the Alliance,” said Suzanne Walker, Higher Education Coordinator for EarlyEdU at the University of Washington in Seattle. “Melissa was the outstanding faculty member in all of these categories. She taught steadily and consistently with our courses for two years now. She’s been an advocate for EarlyEdU in Illinois and has given us useful feedback about the courses. We were happy to honor her this year.”

“I am extremely honored to receive this national recognition,” Johnson said. “Anything I do for the field of early childhood education is very important to me, and to know that I was recognized among two-and four-year faculty from all over the country is an honor.”

Photo of Melissa Johnson











Melissa Johnson

EarlyEdU was founded in 2015 with funding from the Office of Head Start. As of July 1, 2017, funding comes from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Attendees of the annual conference come from all over the country, representing two-and four-year colleges and universities. EarlyEdU focuses on early childhood education and offers research-based courses to improve teaching. A team of early childhood experts from top universities developed the EarlyEdU courses offered for instruction.

Johnson is the second recipient of this award. She has been the coordinator for Early Childhood Education at Highland for the past ten years.

Johnson’s initiatives and accomplishments made during her tenure at Highland include the following: created online and hybrid courses; improved access for working professionals through the creation of various class scheduling; obtained Entitled Institution status through Gateways to Opportunity to offer ECE Credentials; piloted a new state credential (1 of 5 institutions selected); created Early Childhood transfer degree option; achieved Master of Online Teaching certificate through the Illinois Online; and, serves as co-chair for Illinois Associate Degree Early Childhood Teacher Educators.

For more information on Early Childhood Education at Highland, call 815.599.3484 or visit



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