Synod Certification for Early Childhood Teachers

(Birth through Preschool)

The Conference of Presidents recognizes that teachers in Lutheran early childhood settings come from a wide variety of backgrounds, possess a range of skills or degrees, and teach in varying settings. Synod certification for early childhood teachers reflects that variety by providing options from which candidates can create a program to best match their needs. The emphasis is on basic Bible understanding and developmentally appropriate application in the Lutheran early childhood setting.

What is it?

  • 12 courses (1-credit and 3-credit) plus 5-week clinical
  • Trains teachers to meet ministry needs and to proclaim the Word of God faithfully
  • Offered online or face to face at your location

Who should enroll?

  • Called early childhood teachers who are not synod certified
  • Licensed early childhood teachers who want to prepare to teach in a WELS School

Conference of Presidents Policy Information


WELS Early Childhood Teacher Certification is intended for early childhood teachers only. It does not certify early childhood directors, elementary, or secondary teachers.

The synod’s preference is that men and women qualify themselves as early childhood teachers by graduating from Martin Luther College (MLC). However, because not all ECE teachers are graduates of MLC, these certification guidelines developed by the Conference of Presidents (COP) of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran
Synod seek to establish an adequate standard of teacher training that will ensure proficiency in carrying out the aims and objectives of WELS early childhood programs. In addition, these guidelines make it possible to carry out an orderly program of inservice training for early childhood teachers who are rendering a needful and valuable service in our schools but who have not yet fulfilled baccalaureate or certification requirements. Synod certification is required for early childhood directors.  Registered early childhood teachers are encouraged to seek synod certification, but are not required to do so.


I. Definitions

A. Early Childhood Program  An early childhood program has a planned curriculum which is designed to meet the spiritual, emotional, intellectual, and physical needs of young children (birth to eight years old) in a developmentally appropriate manner. In the WELS and for the purpose of these guidelines, these programs include preschools and kindergartens (birth to age six).

B. Certified Teacher  Graduates of Martin Luther College (MLC) become certified teachers upon recommendation for a regular call into the teaching ministry. Others who have met minimum requirements for certification as outlined in these guidelines are certified by action of the COP.

C. Registered ECE Teachers  Teachers who are not synod certified, but meet the minimum requirements for ECE teachers in their state.

D. Regular Call  A call which is extended to a synodically certified teacher.

E. Provisional Call  A call which is subject to annual renewal and is extended to a teacher who qualifies for admission into the synodical early childhood teacher-certification program. Evidence of satisfactory progress toward certification is required for renewal.

F. Satisfactory Progress  Completing one course per calendar year.


II. Requirements for Certification

A. Eligibility for Entrance

This certification program shall be open to persons who

a)  currently hold a call to a congregation, or

b)  have an associate, baccalaureate degree or a state teaching license in early childhood education, and

c)  are in fellowship with the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.

B. Courses

The courses and the sequence in which courses are taken shall be determined in consultation with the Synod Certification Program. In early childhood certification there is a regular and an alternate program for synodical certification. ECE teachers may achieve certification through either program or through a mix of courses from both programs. The chart on the following page shows these choices. The content of the alternate one-credit courses is not considered the equivalent of the classroom or online courses. Rather, the one-credit course program is an attempt to provide some basic concepts for ECE teachers in courses that might be offered at a time and in locations more convenient for them. The alternate (inservice) program is made available in off-campus locations and is scheduled by district early childhood education coordinators. The alternate one-credit courses must be taken in the groupings presented in order to meet the requirements for certification.

C. Additional Requirements

Certification involves two requirements beyond this coursework.

The first of these is practical evangelism. This requirement could be fulfilled by enrolling in a one-credit inservice workshop, by serving on a congregation’s evangelism committee, by receiving training from a WELS pastor, or by attending WELS evangelism workshops that focus on practical training. Programs such as “The Great Exchange” or “Bad News, Good News” could also be used to fulfill this requirement.

The second additional requirement is a practical experience of at least five weeks in a WELS early childhood program . This experience should be pre-approved by the Director of Synod Certification. Most often this practical experience will be in the nature of student teaching and will be determined in part by the academic and experiential background of the applicant. It may take place in the teacher’s own classroom.

Obtaining Certified Status

III. Procedures for Obtaining Certified Status

A. Information

Teachers who seek certified status shall write or email for information to the Synod Certification Program.

B. Enrollment into the Program

1. Application for admission into the program shall be made to the Synod Certification Program, which shall be responsible for acceptance of applicants into the program.

2. Applicants must submit an official transcript of credits earned at colleges other than MLC.

3. Applicants must submit a copy of their placement file (student teaching recommendations), which should be requested from the placement office of the college from which they graduated. Applicants who are presently teaching may substitute a recent teaching evaluation from their supervisor of instruction.

4. Applicants must submit a testimonial of good moral character signed by their pastor. Applicants currently serving in the WELS under a provisional call must also submit a letter of validation from their principal.

C. Pursuing the Program

1. It is preferable that course work be taken on the MLC campus.

2. Courses for certification credit may be taken through the MLC’s summer session, satellite courses and online courses.

3. Certification course work must be completed within six years after acceptance into the program or acceptance of a provisional call, whichever comes first.

4. Neither acceptance into the certification program nor successful completion of the requirements assures one of a call as an early childhood teacher. The credentials of all such persons are given to those WELS officials who are responsible for providing congregations with lists of qualified candidates from which to call or hire a teacher for an existing vacancy.

5. Early childhood teachers who receive synod certification are not eligible for a call to teach in WELS elementary or secondary classrooms. They also must meet the additional certification requirements for the elementary or secondary levels, respectively.

D. Eligibility for Certification

1. A student must earn at least a C grade in all courses taken in the certification program.

2. Upon an enrollee’s successful completion of this program, a recommendation for certification shall be made by MLC to the COP. If an enrollee is serving with a provisional call at the time of completion, the enrollee’s pastor and principal must concur with the recommendation; in other cases the enrollee’s pastor must concur.

Responsibility for Certification

IV. Responsibility for Certification

The COP shall act on all recommendations for certification and shall notify all concerned of its decisions.