Preschool teaching is an education career promoting the education of children under five in the following ways:
- Help students develop physically, socially, and emotionally.
- Work with students to develop their language and communications skills.
- Cultivate students’ cognitive abilities.
- Support parents in raising their young children and reinforcing skills at home.
- Plan and lead activities that meet the needs of children of specific ages.
- Help students develop the skills, interests, and creativity they will use the rest of their lives.
Preschool teachers plan activities that build on children’s abilities and curiosity and help them grow. Preschool students need a flexible schedule, with time for music, art, playtime, academics, rest, and other activities.
Preschool teachers plan age-appropriate activities, helping students learn the days of the week, colors, seasons, and animals. Older preschoolers learn numbers and letters and simple writing skills.
Preschoolers learn to tie shoelaces and wash hands before snack time. Self-confidence and communication skills are encouraged. Teachers might give children simple art projects, such as finger painting, and have them show and explain them to the rest of the class. Sharing time gives students opportunities to speak and listen to others.
Other activities include storytelling, music, and simple arts and crafts projects. Exciting activities are interspersed with calmer ones. Teachers must be energetic throughout the day, ready to face the challenges and demands of young children.
Evening meetings might be scheduled with parents who cannot visit during the day. Solutions to problems are worked out with parents, often with the aid of the director.
Prospective preschool teachers should take child development, home economics, and family and consumer science classes in high school or college, as well as the subjects they will introduce to students—English, science, and math. Art, music, and theater develop creative skills.
Specific education requirements for preschool and kindergarten teachers vary from state to state and depend on the specific guidelines of the school or district. Many schools and child care centers require a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education or a related field, but others accept adults with a high school diploma and some child care experience. Some facilities offer on-the-job training, hiring assistants or aides until they are sufficiently trained to work in a classroom alone.
Some states require licensing. Many states accept the child development associate credential or an associate or bachelor’s degree as sufficient requirements for work in a preschool facility.
Kindergarten teachers working in public elementary schools need teaching certification similar to that required of other elementary teachers. Other certification, including first aid or cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training, could be required.
Preschool teachers should be good role models, respectful of children, patient, and with a sense of humor.
Six of every 10 mothers of children under the age of six are in the labor force, and the number is rising. Both government and the private sector are working to fill the enormous need for quality child care. Preschool teachers find many job opportunities in private and public preschools, including daycare centers, government-funded learning programs, churches, and Montessori schools.
Administrators need at least a master’s degree in child development or a related field and must meet state and federal licensing regulations.
Preschool teachers earned a median salary of $21,990 a year. The highest 10 percent earned $68,520 or more.
Employment opportunities for preschool teachers are expected to increase much faster than the average for all occupations through 2014.