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Secondary Education, Preschool, Kindergarten and Elementary Teacher Careers, Jobs and Training Information

Career and Job Highlights for Preschool, Kindergarten, Elementary and High School Teachers

  • Public school teachers must meet three requirements before teaching: receive licensure in their state, complete an approved teacher education program, and have no less than a bachelor’s degree.
  • Alternative licensing programs are offered in numerous States, especially for positions that are hard to fill, to draw people into the teaching profession.
  • There will be plenty desirable job openings as many teachers retire over the next ten years, most notably at the secondary school level. These job opportunities will somewhat vary depending on the geographic location of the school and subject area being taught.

Career Overview for Secondary Education Teachers

As they try different methods to help students learn and apply concepts in subjects such as math, history, or science, teachers facilitate interactive discussions and activity-based approached learning. To help children grasp abstract concepts, solve queries, and develop critical thinking skills, they may use “manipulatives” or “props”. Teachers may use more sophisticated materials with older children such as computers, science equipment, or other electronics.

Students work in groups and attempt to solve problems together as more and more teachers place emphasis on collaboration. This trend results conscience efforts made by educators to prepare students for the workforce. Students must be able to work with their peers, adjust to changing technology, and have logical reasoning skills to be ready for the transition into the work place. Students develop these skills in the environment established by their teacher.

Children’s development is greatly affected by preschool, kindergarten, and elementary school teachers. The way they view themselves and the world is shaped by what they learn and experience during these early years. This image can influence the degree of success children attain in their later years at work, school, or in their personal lives. Children are introduced to math, language, science and social studies by their preschool, kindergarten, and elementary school teachers. These teachers use various techniques to help their students learn these basic skills, such as videos, computers, artwork, music, games, and other activities.

Interactive activities and play help preschool children learn. Preschool teachers use children’s play to teach many important concepts. Stories, rhyming games, and role play develop language and vocabulary; sharing crayons with a neighbor while coloring increases social skills; and teaching the children how to mix colors when painting or count beads as they are strung on a necklace introduce scientific method and mathematical concepts. Hence preschool teachers help their students learn though creative activities such as music, movement, art, and in other less formal approaches. The class may be structured for both small-group lessons and individual instruction. Kindergarten teachers use these types of hands-on teaching techniques as well, although academics begin to take an increasing role. Concepts that were introduced in preschool, such as phonics, numbers, colors, and letter recognition are taught primarily at the kindergarten level.

Generally one group of students has one elementary school teacher that instructs them in many subjects. In some areas, a classroom is shared by two teachers who work as a team, sharing responsibility for the group of students with each other. Some elementary schools have teachers that instruct one subject to many students, these are usually special subjects such as physical education, music, art, or reading. Although it is becoming more popular, a small number of classrooms are multileveled, where teachers instruct a group of students who are all at different learning levels.

Students study the subjects introduced in elementary school more in depth with their middle school teachers and secondary school teachers. Students are introduced to the world at this level. Middle and secondary school teachers instruct in a single subject area, such as English, French, math, chemistry, or choir. They may also teach courses that focus on occupations or careers. Educators, who teach students field-specific skills in areas such as mechanics, healthcare, computer technology, and wood work, are called vocational education teachers, or also career and technical or career-technology teachers. The courses they teach are often in skill areas that local employers are seeking and lead to internship and employment opportunities for students. Businesses and companies may also provide funding for the program and offer suggestions for the curriculum. These programs are frequently built and supervised largely by vocational teachers. Middle and secondary school teachers may also have other responsibilities in addition to their classroom including involvement in career guidance and job placement centers and conducting post graduation follow-up reports with students.

Many teachers use a wide range of technology aids in their classes including videos, the use of overhead projectors, power point presentations and other computer generated programs, audio clips, and many other tools. Computers bring a wide range of resources to the class room such as the Internet and educational software which allow students to participate in interactive learning. Students can use the Internet to communicate with students all over the world or find vast amounts of information for research projects. Computers are commonly used to teach basic math or language skills. Most teachers use computers to perform clerical duties as in recording grades, and as an easy way to communicate with administration and other teachers in the school, parents and students. Some teachers even have their students submit their work via the e-mail, or electronic mail. It is important that teacher’s computer skills are constantly updated so they take advantage of the newest technology in their classrooms.

As minority populations increase in most parts of the country, many teachers work with students from diverse religious, racial, and ethnic backgrounds. Teachers must know how to work effectively with a varied student body. To help teachers be successful some schools provide workshops to help teachers enhance their awareness and understanding of different cultural issues. Regardless of the specific cultural make-up of their classroom, many teachers include multicultural subject matter into their curriculum.

Teachers use many strategies to help meet the particular needs of their students and help them learn. They may prepare lectures for the group or work one-on-one with students. There are many tasks that teachers must perform both in and out of the classroom. During class they assign homework, administer tests, listen to student presentations, and manage student behavior. Teachers spend out of class time making lesson plans and examinations, grading assignments and tests, preparing report cards, answering any student questions, and meeting with parents or other staff members to share concerns they may have about their students. Teachers always must monitor and evaluate their student’s progress and potential and are being asked to do so using new testing methods. Instead of having a multiple choice test indicate student learning, teachers may have students compile a portfolio of their artwork, or writings to evaluate their performance in these areas.

Teachers have obligations outside of their classroom which might include supervising homerooms and study halls, accompanying students on field trips, or monitoring extracurricular activities such as dances or class events. If teachers discover students with physical or mental problems they refer them to the proper service to get help. There are also workshops and education conferences for teachers to attend.

A recent trend in school administration is site-based management. This program has allowed teachers and parents to play a bigger part in helping make management decisions for the school. Teachers at many schools help make decisions about textbooks, teaching techniques, the budget, and planning curriculum.

Secondary Education and Teacher Career Training and Job Qualifications

Teaching licenses for public school educators are required in every state in the country and in the District of Columbia. Employees at private schools need not be licensed. The State Board of Education or a licensure advisory committee typically awards licensure. There are specific licenses designed for the grade level teachers work at. A license to teach the early childhood grades applies to preschool though third grade, an elementary license includes grades one through 6 or 8, the middle grades include grades 5 through 8, and there are secondary-education subject licenses for grades 7 though 12. There are also licenses for teaching a special subject, music or physical education for example, which usually apply to grades kindergarten though 12.

Each State has different requirements to earn a regular license that allows you to teach kindergarten though grade 12. Although every state requires general education teachers to complete an approved teacher training program that has a certain number of subject and education credits and have a bachelor’s degree. Qualifications such as technology training and a certain grade point average are requirements in some states. Teachers in many States must earn a master’s degree in education within a particular amount of time after they start teaching.

Before applicants can obtain a teacher’s license they must pass examinations that test their competency level of basic skills, such as teaching, reading, and writing, in almost every State. In addition, teachers in almost all States must demonstrate proficiency in their subject as well. Performance-based systems for licensure are popular as of late, where teachers must not only pass a test in their subject matter but must also demonstrate adequate teaching performance over an extended period of time to gain a provisional license. Teachers must attend workshops and other continuing education programs to renew their teaching license in most States. There are reciprocity arrangements in most States that make it easier for licensed teachers in one State to receive licensure in another.

Those who have bachelor’s degrees in subjects they can teach but have not taken the education classes necessary for a regular teaching license can receive a license through alternative programs in most States. These alternative licensure programs were initially created in response to teacher shortages in particular subjects, such as science and mathematics. Since then people who are in transition from another career to the teaching profession or those who have recently graduated from college are attracted into teaching by the alternative licensure programs. There are programs that quickly launch people into teaching with provisional licensure. If they demonstrate adequate improvement while working for 1 or 2 years under the careful supervision of experienced educators, and are also taking education classes before or after the school day, they earn a regular licensure. Other programs grant licensure to college graduates once they have completed classes they lack for a license. Participants in this program can usually obtain licensure after 1 or 2 semesters of full-time study. There are programs that award a teaching license as well as a master’s degree in education to teachers who need licensure. When schools cannot attract qualified teachers to fill positions States may offer emergency licenses to applicants without regular licenses.

Teachers of vocational and academic subjects share many of the same requirements for teaching in many States. Although some States will grant licensure to vocational education teachers without a bachelor’s degree as long as they can demonstrate competency in their field. This is due largely to the importance placed on knowledge and practice in the field which can be obtained without necessarily having a degree. However these teachers may be required to complete a certain amount of education courses.

Preschool teachers have different licensing requirements in each State. Private preschool teachers have generally lower requirements to meet than public preschool teachers. Depending on the State requirements could range from receiving certification by a nationally recognized authority to having an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education. The most common type of certification is the Child Development Associate (CDA) credential. To receive this credential, applicants must have a combination of classroom training, experience working with children, and pass a general competency test.

Professional certification may be offered to kindergarten though high school teachers whose proficiency exceeds that required for a license. A voluntary national certification is offered by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Teachers must first have sufficient experience in the field to become nationally accredited; then they must demonstrate their abilities by assembling a portfolio of their work in the classroom and pass a written evaluation and assessment of their teaching knowledge. Depending on the age of the students they work with and possibly on the subject they teach, teachers may presently become certified in many areas. For instance, teachers may become certified as early childhood music specialists or obtain a certificate for teaching Math to late adolescents (ages 15 to 18). National certification is recognized by all States, and many offer special benefits to teachers with this qualification. Fee waivers for continuing education and certification courses and salary raises are examples of these benefits. Nationally certified teachers may carry their license from one State to another as well.

Currently there are more than 550 teacher education programs in the United States that are accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. Students are not allowed to apply to admission to teacher education programs until their sophomore year at many 4-year colleges. Education programs designed for future kindergarten and elementary school teachers typically include courses in general subject areas, such as art, music, social science, physical science, math, and juvenile literature, in addition to professional education courses in subjects such as multicultural education, philosophy of education, behavior and learning theories, and teaching methods. Students planning on teaching at the secondary level generally major in a subject they want to teach while also participating in a teacher preparation program. Computer and other technology classes are part of the mandatory curriculum for accredited teacher education programs. A student-teaching internship is part of most programs.

Some universities form partnerships with school districts to create professional development schools. After completing a bachelor’s degree, students enter this one year teaching program where they experience a year of teaching at an elementary or secondary school, while continuing professional training at the university. These programs are found in many States.

Teachers must have many other skills in addition to knowledge in their subject to be successful teachers. They must have good report with their students and be able to foster trust and confidence in them. The ability to communicate and understand their students’ emotional and academic needs is critical. Teachers should have the flexibility to apply different teaching strategies to cater to individual needs and cultural differences to help students achieve high standards. They need to be resourceful, tolerant, trustworthy, and organized. Teachers need to work well with all people, not just their students but parents, other faculty members, and people in the community as well.

Teachers may become curriculum consultants, school librarians, reading specialists, or guidance counselors with a little extra training. Although there may be many applicants for few positions, teaches may advance to become administrators or supervisors. Teachers with a lot of experience can become senior or mentor teachers in some systems, earning higher salaries for the added duties. In addition to their own teaching responsibilities they act as a mentor to guide and assist new or less experienced teachers. Preschool teachers usually begin as assistant teachers, and can advance to be a teacher, then a lead teacher—who generally instruct more than one class—and lastly, to director of the center. Bachelor’s degree holders who teach preschool are usually qualified to teach kindergarten though third grade as well. It typically pays more to teach at these higher grades.

Teacher Job and Employment Opportunties

Over the next 10 years employment openings for teachers will range from good to excellent, depending on the subject taught, grade level, and geographic location. A large number of teachers are expected to retire which will be the cause for many of the openings. Other openings will result from the high turn over rate of new teachers, particularly those working in poor, urban schools. In some locations competition for qualified teachers is expected to continue, causing schools to offer more bonuses and higher pay to lure teachers from other districts and States.

A major factor affecting teacher demands is student enrollment numbers. Enrollments are predicted to increase at a slower rate than in the past though 2012. Fewer young children will begin school after students from the baby-boom generation grow older. Average employment growth for preschool through secondary grade teachers will be a result. Obviously estimated enrollments will differ depending on the geographic location of the school. The most substantial enrollment growth will be in the fast-growing States in the South and West, most notably in New Mexico, Alaska, Hawaii, Texas, California, Georgia, and Idaho. Enrollments that remain fixed or drop are projected in the Northeast and Midwest. Employment opportunities for teachers also depend on the subject they teach and the location of the school they wish to teach at. Many inner city schools tend to be overcrowded, badly equipped, and have a large percentage of their student body living under the poverty rates; rural areas have a hard time catching the attention of and holding on to enough teachers because of their remote location and relatively low salaries, openings at these types of schools should be more readily available than in suburban areas. Many school districts are having a hard time finding qualified teachers in some subject areas such as math, bilingual education, foreign languages, and science—especially chemistry and physics at the present time. Middle schools and secondary schools are also in need of vocational teachers in various fields. Teaching specialties including physical education, social studies, and general elementary education have a sufficient amount of teachers. Applicants with teaching licenses in multiple states who aren’t tied down to teaching in one specific area should have a distinctive advantage in finding a job. Efforts to recruit minority teachers should increase to reduce the disparity between minority teachers and rising enrollments of minority students. ESL and bilingual teachers are becoming progressively more in demand as growing numbers of non-English-speaking students enroll in school. Other factors in teacher employment depend on action taken by the State and local government such as expenditures for education and legislation aimed to increase the quality of education. For example, some States have passed initiatives to limit class size (especially in early elementary grades), require preschool for 4-year-olds, and implement all-day kindergarten. These measures all require additional teachers especially at the preschool and early elementary school levels. A recent Federal legislation that is affecting teachers is the No Child Left Behind Act. Although impacts of this act is still unfolding, and some are surely still unknown, the emphasis it places on making certain all school employ only qualified teachers may result in an increase in financial support for schools that presently lack such teachers.

Reports of better job prospects, increased pay, more teacher involvement in school policy, and more public interest in education is expected contribute to an increased teacher base. The number of advanced degrees awarded in education has risen steadily in recent years. A number of States have implemented strategies that will encourage more students to become teachers in response to a current teacher shortage in some areas and in preparation for the loss of many teachers as they retire. Additionally, those completing alternative certification programs, substitute teachers, and individuals undergoing a career shift to teach all have the potential for permanent employment in the education field.

Historical Earnings information

Public school teachers at all levels—kindergarten, elementary, middle, and secondary—in 2002 had median salaries ranging from $39,810 to $44,340; the lowest 10 percent had annual earnings of $24,960 to $29,850; the top 10 percent earned $62,890 to $68,530. Preschool teachers had median earning of $19,270.

In the 2001-02 school year, new teachers with a bachelor’s degree earned an average of $30,719 according to the American Federation of Teachers. The projected average salary in the 2001-02 school year for all public elementary and secondary school teachers was $44,367. Public school teachers typically have higher salaries than private school teachers.