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Kindergarten Teacher Career Guide

Kindergarten teachers instruct children in their first year (or years) of school. They might work at a public or private school, where they teach young children the basics that will serve as building blocks in later years of school. Teaching kindergarten can be simultaneously one of the most rewarding and challenging jobs in a school. It requires patience and a love of children. This guide provides further information on what kindergarten teachers do, how to become one, and typical salary and job outlook.

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Kindergarten Teacher Job Description

A kindergarten teacher works with young children ages four through six, to promote the students’ mental, physical and social development. They instruct students by using enthusiastic and hands-on teaching methods, games, music, art, books and computers. Children are taught general rules of acceptable behavior, so that the kindergarten teacher can maintain order in the classroom. They instruct their young students one-on-one or in groups, adapting standard teaching methods to meet students’ varying needs and interests. Kindergarten teachers play an important role in childhood development; the job requires that they be able to easily communicate with their students and inspire trust and confidence.

Kindergarten Teacher Requirements and Common Tasks

Kindergarten teachers impart simple but important skills such as color, number, shape, and letter recognition, phonics, basic personal hygiene, and social skills such as sharing and interacting with peers. Teachers will often read to their class aloud, or demonstrate activities for class participation. Using various materials and resources, they allow their students to learn by exploration and hands-on discovery. Kindergarten teachers prepare materials, lessons and projects for their students, and observe and assess performance, skills, behavior and social development; they also watch for potential problems including health, developmental or emotional issues. They meet with parents of children periodically to inform them of progress and concerns. Teachers and kindergarteners ordinarily stay in one classroom, except when attending assemblies, eating lunch or having recess.

How to Become a Kindergarten Teacher

One of the basic requirements to become a kindergarten teacher is earning a bachelor’s degree. For teachers in public schools, a state-issued certification is necessary. Many programs also require completion of a student-teaching internship before a teacher can be licensed. Many teachers of kindergarten in private schools must have a degree, but no state license is necessary. Some schools require kindergarten teachers to major in a content specialty, like math or science. In addition, teachers are usually required to renew their teacher’s licenses annually by attending classes.

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Kindergarten Teacher Salary and Job Outlook

In 2012, the median annual wage for kindergarten teachers was $50,120. 1 Depending on the individual employer, benefits will vary. Salary will typically increase with years of service. Kindergarten teachers in private schools may receive slightly lower pay but increased benefits, such as free or subsidized housing. This career field should see about average growth through 2022, with a projected growth of about 13% in job openings, with the fastest growth projected in the southern and western US. 1 Kindergarten teachers can find employment in public elementary schools, private schools or specialized preschools. They may also consider self-employment by establishing their own preschool.

Helpful Skills and Experience

First and foremost, prospective kindergarten teachers should love children. Most of their day will be consumed with teaching, caring for, and nurturing small children, and as one of the primary figures of authority in these students’ lives, they will also be one of their first role models. Teaching at the kindergarten level can be both stressful and rewarding. While many schools hold teachers accountable for students’ progress, they also may not provide the best teaching materials to their teachers, which can be frustrating. Patience, creativity, and excellent communication skills are important skills for people interested in becoming a teacher at the kindergarten level. A background that includes teaching, or student teaching in college can help to find a job teaching kindergarten.

Additional Resources

The National Kindergarten Alliance – The National Kindergarten Alliance (NKA) was founded in 2001, and exists to provide support and resources for kindergarten teachers and children.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) provides content, discounts on resources, and networking opportunities for its members.

Elementary Education Degrees and Programs

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Frequently Asked Questions about Becoming a Kindergarten Teacher

Question: What types of courses do I take to become a kindergarten teacher?

Answer: The courses required will vary depending on the school, but most prospective teachers will complete coursework in early childhood education, including classes in child psychology as well as basic math, reading, and science courses.

Question: Do kindergarten teachers get summers off?

Answer: Depending on the individual school and its calendar, most teachers at the kindergarten level do get 2 months off during the summers. Teachers may choose to teach during a summer program for additional income.

References:
1. Bureau of Labor: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/kindergarten-and-elementary-school-teachers.htm