Northern is the only South Dakota state university to offer a two-year early childhood education degree.
About The Program
Northern State University's associate degree in early childhood education is your gateway to an exciting and rewarding career in childcare and education.
Immediate path to qualified childcare provider
Our program equips you with the knowledge and skills needed to excel as a qualified childcare provider. You'll be making a positive impact on young minds and setting the foundation for their future success.
Launch your future career in education
Dreaming of becoming an elementary or special education teacher? With Northern's associate degree, you're on the right track. All 60 credits you earn can seamlessly transition toward a bachelor's degree in elementary education or special education right here at Northern.
Why choose this degree?
Promote Quality Childcare
Early childhood education plays a vital role in developing children's social and emotional skills. As a top-notch childcare provider, you'll benefit children of all grades, from preschool to college.
Meet Critical Demand
Since the demand for early childhood educators has reached critical levels in South Dakota, candidates with an associate degree in early childhood education are likely to be highly marketable to employers.
Boost Your Career
Whether you're new to the profession or an experienced preschool educator, Northern's program supports your career path and opens doors to new opportunities.
Your future as a childcare provider and educator begins at Northern. Apply now!
I am Northern's academic advisor for elementary and special education, as well as early childhood education and teacher apprenticeship students. Since 2015, I have greatly enjoyed working with Northern students. Before moving to South Dakota, I worked and lived in Minnesota, Illinois, Wyoming, South Korea, and Wisconsin. I graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in psychology from Eureka College (Illinois) and a master's of science in counseling (K-12 and higher education) from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
M.S. Ed. Special Education, University of North Dakota, 2023
B.S. Ed. Special education, Northern State University, 2016
Natasha Opp joined NSU’s faculty in the fall of 2023 as a special education instructor. Before returning to Northern, she taught special education for seven years in the Watertown and Webster school districts. She has experience in self-contained, resource room, and inclusive settings for pre-K to sixth-grade students.
Opp is involved in several NSU School of Education-related organizations, including the Council for Exceptional Children, the Association for the Education of Young Children, and the South Dakota Education Association, and is passionate about bringing hands-on experiences into her classrooms.
SPED 100 - Introduction to Persons with Exceptionalities
SPED 210 - Teaching Students with Exceptionalities
SPED 431 - Identification and Assessment in Special Education
Ph.D., Human Development and Educational Psychology, University of South Dakota, 2023
Ed.S., Mathematics Education, Black Hills State University, 2019
M.A., Teaching and Learning, Northern State University, 2015
B.A., Elementary Education, Mount Marty College, 2001
Dr. Leslie D. Sauder joined Northern State University with 20 years of experience teaching at the K-8 level. Her classroom experience includes preschool, kindergarten, fourth-grade, seventh-grade life science, eighth-grade pre-algebra and health, and K5 computers and technology. She focused on improving science and STEM education in elementary and middle school classrooms and incorporating technology and robotics in elementary classrooms.
As a computer and technology teacher, Dr. Sauder received a STEM grant from the South Dakota Department of Education, with which she purchased STEM building kits, STEM robots…