Early Childhood Education

Children playing with a table

Early Childhood Education. Today. Tomorrow. Together for Our Children.

Explore and Discover a Career in Early Childhood Education

The Early Childhood Education (ECED) program aims to actively engage and thoughtfully and rigorously prepare early childhood educators to develop culturally responsive, anti-bias, and anti-racist teaching practices toward becoming a social advocate for educational equity in the primary grades (Pre-K-3) and beyond. Through coursework, field experiences, and student teaching (Residency I and II), undergraduate and graduate students gain knowledge, skills, dispositions, and strategies needed to advance equity and support young children’s learning across developmental stages (birth to age eight) within diverse contexts, leading to initial Pre-K-3 Tennessee State Teacher Certification.

The ECED program encourages and supports the development and use of culturally inclusive and culturally sustaining critical theories, perspectives, and practices to advance contextually appropriate practices developed in collaboration with local cultures and communities.

What You'll Learn

The Early Childhood Education program prepares culturally competent educators to work with young children, from birth through eight-years-old, from culturally, linguistically, and economically diverse backgrounds. The ECED degree programs will help you study:

  • Core content and critical early childhood pedagogical skills essential to educating young children from culturally, linguistically, and economically diverse backgrounds
  • Theoretical and practical experience in typical and atypical development of young children in the context of their families, cultures and communities
  • Skills for providing children with culturally responsive and responsible, child-centered educational and community environments
  • Approaches to adapting curricula, assessments, and learning environments for students with diverse needs and abilities
  • Strategies for supporting academic and social-emotional learning at all stages of development
  • Techniques for collaborating with families, communities, and other professionals
  • Knowledge and skills to advocate for children with or without disabilities
  • How to advance equity in early childhood

Hands-On Field Experiences and Student Teaching

You will have the opportunity to participate in field experiences and student teaching in early childhood general, special education, and urban education settings, such as preschools, Head Start centers, and elementary schools within Shelby County and the surrounding municipalities. You will develop expertise in child/human development, curriculum, and instruction; learn to create and adapt environments that help all children develop their promise, possibilities, and their maximum potential; and gain a deep understanding of how children grow and develop intellectually, physically, and socially/emotionally.

Develop as a Reflective Practitioner

As a prospective teacher, you will be immersed in thoughtful discussions and interactions around critical educational issues, primarily developmental, linguistic, cultural, and racial diversity and educational equity. Each course in the program is connected to either fieldwork or student teaching, generating rich and authentic reflections on and about theory, research, and practice as these relate to identity, equity, power, and justice in educational contexts including schools and communities.

Upon graduation, ECED graduates will be eligible for initial Tennessee State Teacher Certification at the early childhood level (Pre-K-grade 3) and prepared for career opportunities such as:

  • Lead teacher in public or private childcare centers, preschools, early childhood centers, and elementary schools
  • Curriculum specialist, staff developer, or program director in early childhood education
  • Public and private schools in a range of capacities
  • Preschool and childcare centers as directors, early childhood coordinators and supervisors
  • Public and private agencies as early childhood specialists
  • Higher education as researchers and faculty

Degree Programs

About Our Degree Programs

The teacher licensure and advanced degree programs for teachers and administrators are nationally recognized and accredited by the world’s largest child advocacy organization, The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).

The Teacher Education Program implemented at the University of Memphis is also nationally accredited.

Classes are offered face-to-face, online, and hybrid to meet the diverse needs of our students. Candidates are immersed in a yearlong residency where they are placed in diverse classrooms and educational settings with exceptional supervising teachers. Scholarship information is available here>.

  • Dr. Wright is the Author of an award-winning book entitled, The Brilliance of Black Boys: Cultivating School Success in the Early Grades, the winner of the 2018 NAME Philip C. Chinn Book Award. The Brilliance of Black Boys: Cultivating Schools Success in the Early Grades was also nominated for a 2020 Grawemeyer Education Award.
  • Dr. Anna Falkner received the 2019-2020 NCSS Larry Metcalf Exemplary Dissertation Award from the National Council for Social Studies. Dr. Falkner’s dissertation is titled “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around”: Learning About Race in the Early Grades.


Brian L. Wright, Ph.D., (Tufts University, 2007)

  • Associate Professor and Program Coordinator of Early Childhood Education and Coordinator of the Middle School Cohort of the African American Male Academy
  • Faculty Profile>
  • E-mail: blwrght1@memphis.edu  

Anna Falkner, PhD, (University of Texas at Austin, 2020)