How to Become a Preschool Teacher

Preschool teachers build a strong educational foundation for young children and can serve as an important influence. If you’re wanting to learn how to become a preschool teacher, you probably already understand how small kids’ personalities can be shaped, molded and strengthened through play, cooperation and gentle instruction. While it may not be your job to teach the quadratic equation or English literature, you can introduce young minds to the basic concepts of numbers and letters. Further, you will help your students learn to work with others, to share resources and to trust non-parental adults.

To become an influential educator, you will need to meet certain requirements. Some positions require formal education, including degrees, and others have few requirements beyond a high school diploma or GED. Here you’ll learn about the job requirements, duties and academic credentials it takes to teach preschool age children.

Becoming an Effective Teacher Through the Right Education

Becoming an effective preschool teacher starts with earning an education. Your certificate or degree program will prepare you for the various challenges of working with young children. You’ll also learn how to develop a curriculum and employ techniques to help kids succeed. Here’s a look at your different educational options.

Preschool Teacher Certificate

Preschool certificate programs are an excellent way for you to jump into the field. Very often you can find them online or at a local community college. A strong certificate program will provide you with a foundation in early childhood development and education. While this is not the same as a degree, it will show a future employer that you have the knowledge and dedication to make a difference in the lives of that school’s children.

Associate’s Degree

An associate’s degree typically takes two years to complete and you’ll want to choose a program that focuses on early childhood education. Discuss your goals with your academic advisor, who may have specific instructions so that you can meet your state’s preschool teacher requirements. Many traditional campus programs have externship programs giving you an opportunity to get hands-on experience in a classroom.

You can also earn an associate’s degrees in early childhood education online. Your curriculum will be similar or identical to an on-campus degree. You’ll learn about topics such as instructional strategy and learning assessments.

Bachelor’s Degree

A 4-year bachelor’s degree in early childhood education will hone your teaching skills and expand your knowledge about topics such as early child growth and development, curriculums and children and families. Some programs also allow you to take specialized courses, such as social and emotional growth in infants and toddlers. After finishing your required coursework, you will need to complete a student teaching experience and also pass Praxis I and II.

Continuing Education

Once you become a preschool teacher, you will want to continue your education to ensure that you stay updated on the latest Pre-K pedagogy and practices. Continuing education also gives you an opportunity to communicate with other teachers and learn how they’re implementing new strategies in the classroom.

Public school teachers will need to keep their licenses current by completing continuing education courses. These may be taken online or during the summer break. Not only do CEUs keep your license up-to-date, but they will stimulate you to try new approaches to your students. When your learning is fresh and exciting, that will carry through to students.

State Requirements

At a minimum, a preschool will require you to have a high school diploma or GED. You may need to have other qualifications, according to how your state regulates child care centers. Some of these are:

  • Food handler’s permit
  • Current child and infant CPR certificate
  • Background check
  • Fingerprints filed with the state
  • State licensure
  • Child Development Associate (CDA) certificate

Requirements will vary, however, as some private preschools have specialized curriculum and may ask that you have more educational background in early childhood education. That may mean little more than a CDA certificate or it may mean as much as a bachelor’s degree in education.

However, some states allow individual school districts to create their own paths to licensure. These alternative certificate programs are all unique, so research your local district and ask for details about their alternative certification programs.

Courses You’ll Take

Whether you are working towards a four-year degree, a certificate or simply taking classes to enhance your professional life, you will likely take some or all of these courses:

    • Developmental Psychology
    • Exceptional Child
    • Classroom Management
    • Pre-k Pedagogy
    • Instructional Technology

  • Curriculum Design and Methods
  • Children’s Literature

Trends and Changes in Early Childhood Education

Trends and changes are constantly developing within early childhood, especially since preschool is not an educational requirement mandated by the government. In fact, kindergarten is still not required in some parts of the United States.

However, the importance and value of early education is becoming more prominent in the eyes of parents, educators and the government. Under the leadership of former President Barack Obama, a large amount of federal grants were awarded to several states to increase preschool and early learning programs, training and employment.

There is also constant scrutiny to the approach of how children should be taught and the mandatory curriculum in early learning. Most professionals and educators invest and believe in encouraging holistic child development. This means they are focusing on language, social, cognitive, emotional and physical skills instead of just academics. However, with curriculum changes and academic and testing requirements in the higher grade levels, more parents are discouraging play time and preferring to spend more time spent focusing on academic subjects. Teachers in early childhood constantly struggle with this; how do they comply with local, state and federal administrative requirements and parent demands, while trying to develop the child as a whole, since research shows that’s what is best? No doubt there will be much debate and back and forth about these issues over the coming years, and with the current President’s approach to education.

Should I Become a Preschool Teacher?

Patience is the most necessary trait for a successful preschool teacher. After all, they are working with students who are learning everything for the first time. Some kids may struggle with aggression or shyness, which you as a teacher will need to work with, striving to help the children integrate themselves into the larger group.

As a preschool teacher, you will also need to have the ability to multi-task and to change gears at a moment’s notice. You might be serving the afternoon snack when two children come into a conflict. In the next moment, it may become clear that a child has missed a bathroom break. You must be prepared for an erratic and sometimes challenging environment.

The life of a preschool teacher is full of surprises, new experiences and endless fulfillment. Get started today.

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