How Do I Become a Preschool Teacher?

If you have the patience and leadership skills to manage a classroom full of young children and can devise fun ways of teaching information, you might wonder how to become a preschool teacher. A preschool teacher is the instructor who educates, entertains and manages the behavior of children ages three to five. Preschool teachers may work in public or private schools, or in child day care centers. The responsibilities, qualifications and salaries of preschool teachers vary widely depending on their type of employer.

Preschool teachers develop curricula, projects and activities to help students understand important concepts that form the basis for elementary school education. For example, preschool teachers introduce students to reading and writing by telling stories and familiarizing them with letters. They use fun art projects to nurture students’ creativity. Preschool teachers supervise children during outdoor playtime, naptime and lunchtime. To encourage healthy social development, preschool teachers supervise and arrange interactions between children in the class, helping them learn to treat others appropriately. When children display problem behavior, preschool teachers work with parents and school counselors to reduce undesirable behavior and reinforce good behavior. Because preschool students are so young, much of their time at school is spent playing in educational ways that encourage the development of language, basic art skills, social behavior and physical motor skills.

The education requirements for preschool teachers differ by workplace. For preschool teachers who lead classes at day care centers, a high school diploma may be enough to fulfill formal education requirements. Public school districts typically require preschool teachers to earn a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education, which typically includes coursework in child development and methods of teaching and evaluating young children’s educational and social progress. In either case, aspiring preschool teachers can improve their marketability by gaining experience in a childcare setting, such as by babysitting or working in a day care center. Depending on the state and employer, aspiring preschool teachers will need licenses and possibly certifications, such as the Council for Professional Recognition’s Child Development Associate certification or the National Early Childhood Program Accreditation’s Child Care Professional recognition.

The salary of a preschool teacher varies significantly based on his or her place of employment. The median salary of preschool teachers in all workplace environments is $25,700 per year, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, this figure more closely represents the wages of preschool teachers at child day care centers and religious organizations than the $39,470 median annual salary that preschool teachers earn in public and private elementary schools. Preschool teachers can look forward to a positive job outlook, with the BLS expecting career opportunities for this profession to increase by 25 percent during the 2010 to 2020 decade. If you have a lot of patience and creativity and enjoy the adventure of working with young children, knowing how to become a preschool teacher could be the start of an exciting new career in the field of education.

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