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!

    Contact Information

    For more information about this degree, offered both online and on campus, contact Dr. Nicole Schutter or call 605-626-2570. Or, contact NSU Admissions at 605-626-2544 or

    Tim Moffett

    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.

    Natasha Opp

    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.

    Courses Taught

    SPED 100 - Introduction to Persons with Exceptionalities

    SPED 210 - Teaching Students with Exceptionalities

    SPED 431 - Identification and Assessment in Special Education

    Leslie Sauder


    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…

    Nicole Schutter
    Ed.D. in Educational Leadership, University of South Dakota, Vermillion, SD (2022)
    Ed.S. in PreK-12 Administration, University of South Dakota, Vermillion, SD (2013)
    M.S. in Technology for Education and Training, University of South Dakota, Vermillion, SD (2005)
    B.S. in Elementary Education, University of South Dakota, Vermillion, SD (2003)
    Nicole D. Schutter, Ed.D., is an assistant professor of education in the teacher education department who joined NSU’s faculty in 2022.
    Courses Taught
    EDFN 102  Introduction to Education
    EDFN 440/540  Classroom Management
    EDAD 700  Models of Educational Leadership
    EDAD 715  Theoretical and Practical Framework for Instructional Leadership
    EDAD 725  The Principalship: Theory & Practice
    EDAD 745  Organizational Behavior for Student Development