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Preschool Teacher Kindergarten and Elementary Job Description, Career as a Preschool Teacher Kindergarten and Elementary, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training College plus training

Salary Varies—see profile

Employment Outlook Good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Preschool, kindergarten, and elementary teachers instruct children from the nursery-school level through the sixth grade. They introduce children to learning and to the basic skills necessary for later education and for life.

Preschool teachers work with children who are two to four years old. They concentrate on social skills, such as sharing and communicating with others, and practical skills, such as tying their own shoes. They keep their pupils occupied with music, games, and storytelling.

Kindergarten teachers have many of the same goals. They help five-year-olds learn to play and communicate with others and introduce them to subjects they will pursue in later grades. Students play counting games to learn arithmetic and begin to read the letters on building blocks.

Teachers at the preschool and kindergarten levels have little difficulty keeping their students occupied. Their aim is to provide constructive outlets for their students' curiosity. Because young children generally attend school for only a few hours each day, teachers may have two separate classes—one in the morning and another in the afternoon.

Elementary school teachers concentrate on the basic skills their pupils will need throughout their school years: reading, writing, arithmetic, and simple concepts in science. Some work with the same group of students for the entire school day; others take a team approach, specializing in one subject, such as science or arithmetic, which they teach to several groups of students.

In some elementary schools, specialists work with small groups of students who need special attention. Bilingual teachers, for instance, concentrate on improving their students' English-language skills. They may also teach English as a second language when students have very limited exposure to it. Special education teachers work with diverse groups of students who have physical or mental handicaps. Some teachers give lessons to homebound students who are unable to attend school regularly because of health problems. They often go to students' homes to teach.

Teachers on the preschool, kindergarten, and elementary levels may attend meetings of the school board and the parent-teacher association. They also meet regularly with parents to tell them about their children's progress and to determine how students' home environments affect their development in school.

Many public elementary schools employ teachers who specialize in one subject, such as art, music, or computers. These teachers must be certified in the state in which they teach. (© Terry Wild Studio. Reproduced by permission.)

Education and Training Requirements

Teachers who work in public schools must be licensed or certified in the state in which they teach. Certification requirements vary, but usually include minimum educational standards and satisfactory performance on written examinations. In some states teachers at private and parochial schools must also be certified.

Kindergarten and elementary school teachers need bachelor's degrees, including course work in education and experience as student teachers. Some school districts require master's degrees. Preschool teachers generally need at least bachelor's degrees, plus experience in early childhood education. Teachers who work in specialized areas of education generally need the most training.

Getting the Job

Job seekers can apply directly to the superintendents of school districts. College placement offices and teachers' associations may help new graduates find positions. In some school districts, teachers are assigned to schools when they pass their certification examinations. Professional journals, newspaper classified ads, and job banks on the Internet often list openings for teachers.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

As teachers become more experienced, they may find advancement in the form of higher pay. Some become specialists—those who work with bilingual students, for example—or advance to administrative positions such as teacher supervisors and principals. Preschool teachers may go on to teach kindergarten and elementary classes if they complete the necessary education.

Overall employment of kindergarten and elementary teachers is expected to grow as fast as the average for all jobs through 2014. While kindergarten and elementary enrollments may decline, many jobs should open when older teachers retire. Job opportunities for preschool teachers are expected to grow faster than the average as a result of high turnover in the field and the growing availability of government-funded programs.

Employment prospects vary by geographic area and specialty as well. Many inner cities, where schools are plagued by crime and overcrowding, have trouble attracting enough teachers. Efforts to recruit minority teachers may increase with the growing demand for bilingual teachers.

Working Conditions

Working conditions vary from school to school. The job can be tiring; the pace of activity is especially high in the early grades. Unruly students can make teaching difficult. However, teachers can find satisfaction by watching their students make progress and knowing that they are shaping young lives.

Although preparation periods are built into the workday, teachers often work on lesson plans and grade papers after school hours. Teachers sometimes attend late-day meetings, and parent-teacher conferences are usually scheduled in the evening.

Because the school year generally runs from September to June, teachers may have to teach summer school or find other jobs. Some spend their summers taking courses to improve their skills. Many teachers belong to labor unions.

Where to Go for More Information

American Federation of Teachers
555 New Jersey Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 879-4400

National Association for the Education of Young Children
1313 L St. NW
Washington, DC 20005
(800) 424-2460

National Education Association
1201 Sixteenth St. NW
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 833-4000

Earnings and Benefits

Salaries vary widely, depending on location and education. In 2004 the median salary of preschool teachers was $20,980 per year, while the median earnings of kindergarten and elementary teachers ranged from $41,400 to $45,920. The most experienced teachers earned more than $71,370 per year. Private school teachers generally earn less than public school teachers. Benefits vary, but elementary school teachers can usually expect paid holidays and vacations, health insurance, and pension plans. Benefits for most preschool teachers, however, are minimal.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesEducation & Training