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Elementary education will become a major at Western in fall 2024

While too late for upperclassman, the new program will benefit freshman and incoming students

A TV displaying “Welcome to the Elementary Education Department!” in Miller Hall at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wash. on April 18, 2024. Western students will be able to major in elementary education in the fall quarter of 2024. // Photo by Julia Hawkins

Western students will be able to major in elementary education in the fall quarter of 2024. While benefiting freshman and incoming students, the shift came too late for upperclassmen and alumni.

Until this fall, students can only get their teaching certification through the program, but major in their endorsements or the specialities, such as general science or English.

Washington State Law was reinterpreted last fall, according to Maria Timmons-Flores, a professor and chair of the Early Childhood Education Program Department. Initially, students had to complete 30 credits in a department separate from education, such as literacy, sociology and science in addition to the professional course sequence. Now, these credits have become a major itself.

“One benefit of having the major is it is simple for students to get started on the prerequisite classes and enter the major when ready,” said Lance Potter, an associate professor and chair of the College of Education at Eastern Washington University. “Organized and motivated students can complete their degree and gain their certificate in the four years people typically associate with the time it takes to go to college.”

However, alumni from Woodring are upset about this change, as they felt it came too late, according to Kelly Leth, who graduted from the college in March.

“It’s like a slap in the face,” Leth said. “To all these people who worked hard at their, not only education program but these 45 credit majors you had to do to get to where they want it to go.”

Western students pursuing an elementary education degree can complete their major in four years as opposed to the typical five years spent getting this degree, said Matthew Miller, a professor at Western and the incoming Director of Curriculum.

“This offers an opportunity to provide students with the elementary endorsements while also getting a [Bachelor of Arts with an Education Certification] if they choose to do that,” Miller said. “[They would] still have options to pursue their PhD degrees and other endorsements as well, if they wanted to get them at Western before moving on into their careers.” 

When students go through the education and certification to become a teacher, they become a part of a profession that serves others as a gateway to all other professions, said Dana Smith, Assistant Director, of Communications and Community Relations at Bellingham Public Schools. 

“It's also a profession that unfortunately can be kind of dismissed by society,” Smith said. “Not having any sense of the mastery and the technique that goes into being an effective kindergarten teacher and introducing kids to school and all the other things that elementary teachers do.”

Students who are early in their path at Woodring College of Education are excited to see it expand, said Jordan Castillo, a 2nd-year student at Western.

The new major will create a stronger community for teachers to have a wider knowledge of different communities, cultures and thought processes, Castillo said.

In the long term, the program will benefit freshman and future students, Leth said. They can complete the major in a shorter time, however, that does not erase the heavy credit load of the students before them. 

Julia Hawkins

Julia Hawkins (she/her) is a campus news reporter for The Front this quarter. She is a second-year journalism/public relations major. Outside of reporting, Julia enjoys hanging out in The Planet office, baking and asking random people to pet their dogs. You can reach her at 

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