Early Childhood Special Education Professor, Dr. Earnestine Kirkland, Retires

Monday, July 17, 2017

Officials at Gateway Community College recently announced that Dr. Earnestine Kirkland has retired after 44 years as professor of Early Childhood Special Education.

Kirkland also served as the Program Coordinator for the Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) Program, a groundbreaking major that was unique among the state’s 12 community college.  The ECSE major offered options for students who aspired to become pre-school teachers and teacher-assistants who would specialize in teaching children with special needs.

In a letter to the faculty and staff, GCC’s Dean of Academic Affairs, Dr. Mark Kosinski, conveyed his gratitude to Kirkland on a her “legacy in the classroom, her program, and her leadership to the greater community—specifically as a founding stakeholder in GCC’s Early Learning Center and laboratory pre-school.”

Kirkland’s wealth of experience and expertise had an indelible impact on the college’s Early Childhood programs. She was instrumental in the founding of the college’s Early Childhood Special Education track and advocated for the founding of the Early Learning Center that would serve, not only as a resource for Gateway students, but also a lab where students in Early Childhood programs could work and gain experience in their field under the tutelage of experts.

Kirkland holds a doctorate from Nova University, Sixth Year Professional Degrees in Administration and Reading (Southern Connecticut State University), Master’s in Science Degree (University of Illinios), and a Bachelor’s in Science Degree (Morris College).  She joined the faculty of South Central Community College in 1972, marking the beginning of an illustrious 44-year career that would see many changes including a merge with Greater New Haven State Technical College to become Gateway Community College (GCC), a long-awaited consolidation to one campus and the opening of a brand new, on-site Early Learning Center with a parent observation suite, and most recently, the merging of the state’s public community colleges and universities into one system, which Kirkland saw as “an opportunity to streamline our programs with the four-year universities so that our students make a seamless transfer.”

One doesn’t imagine that retirement will slow Kirkland down. She is active in the community through her church, where she directs the choir who were most recently featured at former GCC President, Dorsey Kendrick’s retirement celebration where they serenaded her with a rousing rendition of Hezekiah Walker’s Grateful.

“It brought the house down,” said GCC Director of Public Affairs, Evelyn Gard. “But it’s just as Earnestine would do.  Whatever her pursuits going forward, we know that she will continue to make an impact as she always has.”