Kindergarten and elementary school teachers typically do the following:
Kindergarten and elementary school teachers help students learn and apply important concepts. Many teachers use a hands-on approach to help students understand abstract concepts, solve problems, and develop critical-thinking skills. For example, they may demonstrate how to do a science experiment and then have the students conduct the experiment themselves. They may have students work together to solve problems.
Elementary school typically goes from first through fifth or sixth grades. However, in some schools, elementary school continues through eighth grade.
Kindergarten and elementary school teachers typically instruct students in several subjects throughout the day. Teachers may escort students to assemblies, recess, or classes taught by other teachers, such as art or music. While students are away from the classroom, teachers plan lessons, grade assignments, or meet with other teachers and staff.
In some schools, teachers may work on subject specialization teams in which they teach one or two specific subjects, typically either English and social studies or math and science. Generally, students spend half their time with one teacher and half their time with the other.
There are kindergarten and elementary school teachers who specialize in subjects such as art, music, or physical education.
Some schools employ English as a second language (ESL) or English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) teachers who work exclusively with students learning the English language. These teachers work with students individually or in groups to help them improve their English language skills and to help them with class assignments.
Students with learning disabilities or emotional or behavioral disorders are often taught in traditional classes. Kindergarten and elementary teachers work with special education teachers to adapt lesson plans to these students’ needs and monitor the students’ progress. In some cases, kindergarten and elementary school teachers may co-teach lessons with special education teachers.
Some teachers use technology in their classroom as a teaching aide. They must be comfortable with using and learning new technology. Teachers also may maintain websites to communicate with parents about students’ assignments, upcoming events, and grades. For students in higher grades, teachers may create websites or discussion boards to present information or to expand on a lesson taught in class.
Public kindergarten and elementary school teachers typically need at least a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. Private schools typically have the same requirement. Some states also require public kindergarten and elementary school teachers to major in a content area, such as math or science.
Those with a bachelor’s degree in another subject can still become elementary education teachers. They must complete a teacher education program to obtain certification to teach. Requirements vary by state.
In teacher education programs, future teachers learn how to present information to young students and how to work with young students of varying abilities and backgrounds. Programs typically include a student-teaching program, in which they work with a mentor teacher and get experience teaching students in a classroom setting. For information about teacher preparation programs in your state, visit Teach.org.
Some states require teachers to earn a master’s degree after receiving their teaching certification and obtaining a job.
All states require teachers in public schools to be licensed or certified in the specific grade level that they will teach. Those who teach in private schools typically do not need a license. Requirements for certification or licensure vary by state but generally involve the following:
For information on certification requirements in your state, visit Teach.org.
Teachers are frequently required to complete professional development classes to keep their license or certification. Some states require teachers to complete a master’s degree after receiving their certification and obtaining a job.
All states offer an alternative route to certification or licensure for people who already have a bachelor’s degree but lack the education courses required for certification. Some alternative certification programs allow candidates to begin teaching immediately after graduation, under the supervision of an experienced teacher. These programs cover teaching methods and child development. After they complete the program, candidates are awarded full certification. Other programs require students to take classes in education before they can teach.