Kindergarten Teacher Education and Careers
Kindergarten is often a student’s first experience with formal education. Young ones generally enter around the age of five and begin to learn the rudiments of letters and numbers. As a kindergarten teacher, your job is to educate them and help them acclimate to school and society. While your curriculum may be slightly more academic than that of a preschool teacher, the students will still need much of the same care and creative attention they needed as preschoolers. Before you start creating lesson plans, however, you will need to prepare yourself with the appropriate education and background.
Qualities of a Kindergarten Teacher
As a kindergarten teacher, you will be responsible for the lives of very young, impressionable children and you need to be ready to give them your all. Among other traits, kindergarten teachers need to be creative, have a love of children and be able to multi-task with unbounded flexibility.
You will exercise your creativity in a number of ways. You may lead songs, assist with painting and put on your performance hat at story time. Since kindergarten students don’t respond to lectures, your lessons will often involve fun games or artistic projects that implement the alphabet, for example. When it comes time to teach science and math, you will also need an innovative approach to convey abstract concepts to young minds.
Interest in Early Childhood Development
If you are fascinated with the early stages of development and delight in how they are expressed in each individual child, you are certainly on the path to success as a kindergarten teacher. As you learn more about early childhood development, your appreciation for young ones may grow into a deep love and passion for that particular age group.
When you are in your own classroom for the first time, you will quickly realize how important flexibility and the ability to track multiple events and tasks really is. Children in kindergarten have so many different needs, and each day can be vastly different from the last. One upset child may upset all of the rest, or a passing animal outdoors may distract the classroom. You will need to be able to adapt and respond to all sorts of random events that cannot be planned for.
Becoming a Kindergarten Teacher
In order to become a kindergarten teacher in a state-regulated school system, you will need to achieve a full teaching certificate from your state’s Board of Education. While most requirements to becoming a teacher are relatively standard, some local boards have their own routes to the classroom. Check with your desired school district to ascertain your options prior to setting out on your journey.
The standard route to a teaching certificate involves a four-year baccalaureate degree, a period of student teaching and at least two qualifying exams. You should find a university program that offers a specialty in early-childhood and elementary education to set the foundation for your career. During that educational process, you will need to complete a student teaching experience and then pass Praxis I and II.
You can study to become a teacher through either an online or a traditional-campus program. If you choose the online route, you will have a lot more flexibility for family and work. If you choose to work while you study, you might look into working as a paraprofessional in a local school. This way, every day will bring new experiences that will inform your life as a budding teacher.
Other approaches to a teaching certificate may be found in alternative routes that are designed or adopted by school systems that need to attract new teachers. There are often specialized programs for former members of the armed forces, as well as for civilians. Though you will still need to complete the college credits required of every teacher, you can often work in a school with a mentor while you complete your coursework.
If you already have a baccalaureate degree in a subject other than education, some districts allow you to teach on a provisional certificate, with a contract, while you work with a mentor. Your work with the mentor will satisfy the school board’s educational requirements and you will then be eligible for a full certificate once your alternative training/education is completed.
You can also teach for a private or charter school. Each will likely require at least a bachelor’s degree and possibly significant experience working with kindergarten-age children. Make sure you have the most education possible when applying to a non-state-regulated school.
Kindergarten Teacher Job Outlook and Salary
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for kindergarten teachers in 2016 was $52,620. The field is expected grow at an average rate of 7 percent through 2026. If you find that your favorite school system is not currently hiring, you might consider substitute teaching or working as a teacher’s aide (paraprofessional) until a full-time contract becomes available.
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