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Heartland Equity and Inclusion Project (HEIP)

What is the Heartland Equity and Inclusion Project?

The Heartland Equity and Inclusion Project (HEIP) is a four-year project funded by the Office of Special Education Programs of the U.S. Department of Education. HEIP is designed to ensure paraprofessionals have the knowledge, skills and dispositions required to support the diverse development and learning needs of young children and their families in high-quality, inclusive classroom communities. The project addresses a significant issue in the fields of early childhood and early childhood special education today: The lack of blended community college paraprofessional programs that prepare students to support the development and learning of each and every child.

photo of a mother and two children from Heartland's Child Development Lab on the playground

What are the goals of the HEIP Project?

The goals of the HEIP Project at Heartland include:

  • Redesigning seven core courses in Heartland's early childhood education curriculum to create a fully blended curriculum that prepares practitioners to support the development and learning of children who are culturally, linguistically and ability-diverse.
  • Providing training and ongoing support to Heartland and Illinois early childhood faculty to ensure they have the knowledge, skills and dispositions needed to prepare professionals to support the development and learning of each and every child.
  • Expanding the capacity of community-based childcare to provide high-quality, inclusive programming for practicum student placement.

What are the core courses?

The seven core courses represent the efforts of early childhood general, special, and bilingual two- and four-year faculty throughout the state of Illinois. The courses represent current evidence-based practices and research and are designed to prepare practitioners at the community college level with the knowledge, skills, and dispositions they need to support each and every child within thriving classroom communities. The core courses provide a strong educational foundation, as courses are based on the Illinois Professional Teaching Standards, NAEYC Standards for Professional Preparation, the DEC Professional Preparation Standards, and are cross-walked to the Gateways to Opportunity benchmarks.

Use of the core courses ensures:

  • Continuity of course offerings and quality across the community college system
  • Ease of participation with Gateways Credential system
  • Practitioners have knowledge, skills and dispositions needed to support each and every child and their family, inclusive of diversity in culture, language and ability

The core courses are:

How do the core courses align to the Gateways Benchmarks?

What will the HEIP Web site include when it is fully developed?

For Faculty

  • Project syllabi with sample assignments, resources and rubrics
  • Community of Practice for Illinois faculty to provide input into project design and dissemination
  • Web repository of resources supporting faculty knowledge of children and families who are culturally, linguistically and ability-diverse
  • Information on upcoming Webinars and training events

For Paraprofessionals

  • Web repository of resources supporting student knowledge of children and families who are culturally, linguistically and ability-diverse
  • Information on upcoming Webinars and training events

For Practitioners

  • Web repository of resources supporting practitioners knowledge of children and families who are culturally, linguistically and ability-diverse
  • Information on upcoming Webinars and training events

For Families

  • Web repository of resources for families of children with special needs including information on the role of the family, developmental concerns, and the types of services available for children in early intervention and early childhood
photo of several toddler-age children playing around a drum in one of the Heartland Child Development Lab classrooms

Where can I find resources from the (NPDCI-IL) Faculty Summit?

The National Professional Development Center on Inclusion-Illinois (NPDCI-IL) Faculty Summit on April 17-18, 2011 provided a wealth of resources. Download the presentations and handouts from the summit.

Who is involved with the HEIP project?

Project Staff

Principle Investigator

Johnna Darragh-Ernst
Heartland Community College

Project Director

Darlene Wills
Heartland Community College

Project Assistant

Deb Presley
Heartland Community College

State Steering Committee Membership

  • Cheryl Butlat, Morton College
  • Lynette Chandler, Northern Illinois University
  • Julie Cotter, Livingston County Special Services Unit
  • Rebecca Francois, Bloomington Public Schools District 87
  • Chuck Hartseil, McLean County Unit School District 5
  • Mary-alayne Hughes, University of Illinois
  • Christy Kosharek, SPICE of marcfirst
  • Jan Maruna, Illinois Network of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies
  • Shelley Marquis, Family member, Heartland Community College
  • Carrie Nepstad, Harold Washington College
  • Debra O'Connell, Heartland Head Start
  • Pam Reising Rechner, Illinois State Board of Education, Early Childhood Division
  • Erin Rogers, Easter Seals Peoria-Bloomington
  • Teri Saxton, Heartland Community College
  • Joni Scritchlow, Illinois Network of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies
  • Joyce Weiner, Ounce of Prevention
  • Anne Wharff, IL Department of Human Services

National Steering Committee Membership

  • Camille Catlett, UNC-Frank Porter Graham
  • Susan Maude, Iowa State University
  • Susan Moore, University of Colorado
  • Tweety Yates, University of Illinois
  • Eva Thorp, George Mason University

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Funded by the Office of Special Education Programs of the U.S. Department of Education.