Leadership Academies

Join a community of practice. The McCormick Center’s Leadership Academies, Ready to Lead (RTL), Taking Charge of Change™ (TCC), and Taking the Lead (TTL), offer transformational professional learning for center-based and home-based program administrators. These communities of practice meet throughout the year. Credits for college and professional development credentials are available.

Communities of Practice

Ready to Lead (for newly hired center-based administrators)

A Virtual Event for 2020!

Ready to Lead


A Community of Practice (CoP) for recently hired early childhood administrators (1 day to 5 years experience)


Develop your Leadership Essentials. Delve into topics including: the power of self-awareness and reflection, understanding your leadership style, transitioning from peer to supervisor, and productivity and project management. Participate in interactive face-to-face learning as well as guided reflections, and the option for online learning content in Ready to Lead (RTL) is aligned with the Illinois Director Credential and Illinois Gateways to Opportunity.

Explore the following topics:

  • From the Inside Out: The Power of Reflection and Self-Awareness
  • Leadership in Action: How Effective Directors Get Things Done
  • New Role, New Relationships: Learning to Lead
  • Shifting from Struggling to Juggling: Prioritizing Pointers and Time Management Tips



$125* and full participation gets you:

  • Three, one-day institutes (see dates and locations below)
  • A Community of Practice (CoP)
  • Two Aim4Excellence online modules (available for college credit for an additional cost)
  • Illinois Director Credential (IDC) credit
  • Books, handouts, and materials

*Valued at over $3,000

Note: This price is only for Illinois residents. Out-of-state residents, please contact Barbara Volpe at barbara.volpe@nl.edu or 847-947-5132.



CoP#3—Central Illinois*

  • Thursday, August 20 | 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
  • Thursday, October 1 | 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
  • Thursday, October 29 | 9:00 am – 4:00 pm

*Due to grant guidelines, preference goes to directors from Central Illinois.



CoP#4—Southern Illinois*

  • Tuesday, August 18 | 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
  • Tuesday, September 29 | 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
  • Tuesday, October 27 | 9:00 am – 4:00 pm

*Due to grant guidelines, preference goes to directors from Southern Illinois.



Deadline to apply

July 17, 2020


If you would like to learn more, please download the Ready to Lead flyer:



Please contact Barbara Volpe.

Taking Charge of Change (for experienced center-based administrators)

A Virtual Event for 2020-2021

Taking Charge of Change

Taking Charge of Change™ (TCC) is designed to support you in leading an organization to continuous quality improvement. These essential features contribute to the TCC learning experience:

Learn more about the proven outcomes from TCC.

Empower yourself and embrace the change process. Delve into topics that strengthen your leadership style, promote peak performance, implement a quality improvement plan, and build a strong organizational climate.

As a participant, you will:

  • Explore individual differences, communication styles, systems thinking, and how to build team cohesiveness.
  • Learn strategies for recruitment, inclusive leadership, meeting facilitation, organizational climate, peer learning communities, supervising staff, and more.
  • Participate in interactive learning and guided reflections.
  • Use the Program Administration Scale (PAS) and the Early Childhood Work Environment Survey (ECWES) to diagnose organizational problems and assess the need for change.
  • Experience the impact of blending shared decision-making with data-based decision-making skills.
  • Receive a $500 mini-grant to support improvements toward circles of quality in ExceleRate™ Illinois
  • Receive one full-conference registration to attend Leadership Connections™ National Conference.


Valued at over $3,000, but priced at $800, there is no other leadership program as impactful and cost-effective as TCC.

Note: This price is only for Administrators of Illinois programs. Administrators of out-of-state programs, please contact Barbara Volpe at Barbara.Volpe@nl.edu or 847.947.5132.

Deadline to apply:

July 27, 2020


If you would like to learn more, please download the Taking Charge of Change flyer:


Links to research on TCC’s impact

Zoom Report

20-Year Review

Taking the Lead (for home-based program administrators)

Taking the Lead

Learn strategies to grow and sustain your business with Taking the Lead (TTL). Work alongside other family child care providers to enhance your skills as an entrepreneur and educator.

As a participant, you will:

  • Delve into leadership topics specific to family child care, including fiscal management, environments, recordkeeping, marketing, family partnerships, and advocacy.
  • Gain an understanding of your role as a change agent—at the individual, business, and community levels.
  • Become part of a community of practice for family child care providers and receive support as needed from TTL coaches.
  • Gain increased access to professional resources that support the ExceleRate™ Illinois Quality and Rating Improvement System (QRIS).
  • Develop and implement a quality improvement plan.
  • Participate in interactive learning, online modules, and guided reflections.
  • Receive one day registration to  Leadership Connections™ National Conference.
  • Receive a $300 mini-grant to support improvements toward circles of quality in ExceleRate™ Illinois.

Work toward achieving professional certificates and improving your QRIS rating. Content in TTL is aligned with the Business Administration Scale for Family Child Care (BAS) and, for those in Illinois, ExceleRate™ Illinois and Illinois Gateways to Opportunity.


TTL is valued at almost $3,000, but costs you only $125.

Note: The price of $125 is only for Illinois residents. For out-of-state residents, the full value of the program will be charged. For more information, contact Barbara Volpe at barbara.volpe@nl.edu or 847-947-5132.


McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership at National Louis University
6200 Capitol Drive
Wheeling, IL. 60090

First United Methodist Church of Oak Park
324 Oak Park Ave.
Oak Park, IL 60302


All sessions are from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm


Session 1 | October | It Starts with You

Session 2 | November | More Than a Nurturing Heart: Looking at Quality from a Business Administration Perspective | Creating Quality Improvement Plans

Session 3 | December | Making Dollars and Sense: Fiscal Management and Recordkeeping


Session 4 | January | Put it in Writing: Developing and Strengthening Contracts, Handbooks, and Risk Management Plans

Session 5 | February | FCCERS-R: Environments that Influence Social-Emotional Development

Session 6 | March | Marketing with a Message: Communicating the Value of Family Child Care | Advocacy and Engagement: Connecting with Families and the Community to Build Better Futures for Children

Session 7 | April | Implementing and Documenting Quality Improvement | Advocacy Communication Tools

Session 8 | April | One day at the Leadership Connections Conference

Session 9 | May | Quality Improvement Plan Presentations

Deadline to apply:

August 14, 2020



If you would like to learn more, please download the Taking the Lead flyer:



College Credit Available

College credit through National Louis University (NLU) is available for TCC and TTL at an additional cost. Scholarships and financial aid may be available to help you cover the cost.

Contact Us to Learn More

Taking Charge of Change At a Glance

College credit option available


communities of practice have gained life-changing leadership skills


total clock hours

“Taking Charge of Change is a great way to learn about your role as a leader. It also gives you an opportunity to connect with others in similar roles and situations.”
Jill Schaefer, Illinois, Cohort #25, Director

Embrace change.

Over 700 early childhood leaders have experienced this transformative professional learning opportunity. Subscribe to be notified when applications open.


Taking the Lead at a Glance

College credit option available


communities of practice have gained life-changing leadership skills


total contact hours

“You will begin to see that paying for this cohort is surpassed after the first hour of the cohort. It doesn’t take long to sincerely appreciate what a great opportunity this is. Truly life-changing for an entrepreneur.”
DeAnna Taylor, Illinois, Taking the Lead Cohort #4, Family Child Care Provider

Empower yourself.

More than 100 family child care providers in the Chicago area make up TTL’s alumni. Apply by August 31, 2019.