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What does an Elementary Teacher do?

Elementary teachers play a crucial role in children’s development, inspiring them to work harder, helping them to learn valuable fundamental skills and guiding them to make decisions and solve problems. If you want to become an elementary teacher, you’ll need sufficient training and certification, along with high levels of creativity, energy and patience.

elementary teacher

What is it like being an elementary teacher?

Unlike teachers in higher grades, who tend to focus on subject areas of specialty, elementary teachers are “jacks of all trades,” providing instruction to students in a variety of subjects from social studies to science, math, history and spelling. They use creative approaches to address the needs of varying learning styles, so games, computers, artwork, films, puzzles and readings may all be resources you use throughout your career.

In addition to planning and carrying out lessons, you’ll need to grade assignments, prepare report cards, perform administrative tasks, meet with parents or administrators, serve on committees and attend numerous meetings and seminars. While the hours of an average elementary school day may seem rather short, a teacher’s workday can be quite long when these other tasks, as well as planning lessons, are figured in.

How do you become an elementary teacher?

In the United States, public school elementary teachers must be licensed by a State Licensing Board or licensure advisory committee. The typical route to licensure is a bachelor’s degree in a teacher education program, covering such subjects as early childhood education, human development, language arts, psychology and special education. You may also spend time observing elementary school classrooms, and complete a semester of student teaching under the mentorship of a licensed teacher.

Private schools may not have requirements for licensure, and alternative licensure programs may be available for those with bachelor’s degrees in other fields.

To maintain licensure, a certain amount of continuing education or even student performance may be required, and some schools place a premium on advanced degrees, increasing pay for, or promoting those who earn master’s or doctoral degrees. Elementary teachers with advanced degrees may opt to become education administrators or even principals.

The future of elementary teachers

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), elementary teacher positions are expected to grow by 13 percent (about as fast as average). Enrollments have been increasing more slowly in recent years, and there is a more plentiful supply of elementary teachers than there are in other grade levels or specialties.

Those with specializations in such in-demand fields as bilingual instruction, mathematics and science should fare slightly better, as should teachers willing to work in inner-city or rural, underserved schools.

In general, the New England states tend to pay slightly higher wages than do other areas of the country. As many elementary teachers will tell you, the rewards of this work far surpass those of salary.

What does a Kindergarten Teacher do?

Kindergarten teachers play a crucial part of the early development and social integration of young children. For many students, the kindergarten teacher provides their first glimpse of the core educational topics–math, reading, writing, social studies and science–that they are going to pursue for the next 12 school years.

kindergarten teacher

Life in the classroom

A good kindergarten teacher will have mastered dozens of games and play skills that allow young students to weave fun along with learning. Subjects introduced at the pre-school level, such as number, letter and color recognition, phonics, nature and science, are more deeply explored in the kindergarten classroom. Another job of a good kindergarten teacher is helping students get excited and enthusiastic about learning and their education, children’s book publisher, Scholastic, reports. Good kindergarten teachers also help their students take the steps necessary to becoming independent learners and thinkers.

Educational requirements for kindergarten teachers

Kindergarten and elementary school teachers typically complete a bachelor’s degree program, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports, as well as earn a teaching credential–a requirement in all 50 states. Although educational programs vary by institution, coursework for kindergarten teachers often includes study in the following topics:

  • Early childhood education
  • Learning environments and social relationships
  • Family and community involvement
  • Child health and safety
  • Resolving conflicts with young children

Kindergarten teachers are required to complete a period of supervised teaching as well. This understudy work typically is completed in the final year of study of an early childhood education program. During this time, new kindergarten teachers often get their first taste of working with young children, and under the guidance of a master teacher, they can refine their classroom communication and teaching skills.

Job outlook and salary expectations

Employment for kindergarten teachers is expected to grow by 15 percent, the BLS reports. Schools with the best options are in rural areas and inner cities rather than suburban districts. Teachers who are bilingual can boost their chances for employment, the BLS states. Ninety-four percent of all kindergarten teachers were employed at elementary or secondary schools.

Heavily-populated states, such as California and Texas, are the largest employers of kindergarten teachers, but teachers in large metropolitan areas typically brought home the best pay.

What does a Teacher do?

There are few professions in America that are as beloved as being a teacher. Everyone has had one; everyone loves one; everyone has learned from one: teachers touch every child and adolescent in America, and their quest–forming and educating the next generation–is formidable, noble and difficult.

There are many kinds of teachers–kindergarten, pre-school, special education, high school, etc. Let’s focus on teachers who make a significant difference in ensuring children’s well-being in society: special education teachers.


What does a special education teacher do?

Special education teachers work with students with a wide range of disabilities, including cognitive, emotional or physical disabilities on the preschool, primary and secondary school level. Special education teachers use a variety of learning methods, including small-group work, individualized instruction, problem-solving work and many other methods. Special education teachers help develop the Individualized Education Program (IEP), which sets individual goals for every student. All teachers, but in particular special education teachers, must be patient and creative and find ways to effectively communicate learning material.

Educational requirements for teachers

In all states in the U.S., teachers and special education teachers in public schools need to obtain a teaching license. Requirements vary by state. Private schools are generally exempt from this rule. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, teachers must also have a four-year bachelor’s degree, although not necessarily in education.

Those who want to teach at the secondary level must typically obtain a bachelor’s degree in the subject they wish to teach, such as math, English, history, chemistry, etc. Due to the current nationwide teacher shortage, many states offer alternative programs to obtain teaching licenses. These are mainly for applicants who do have a bachelor’s degree, but who do not have the necessary courses in education that are required for licensing.

Special education teachers generally complete more coursework than other teachers, and are oftentimes required to either take a fifth year of study or complete a graduate degree, according to the BLS. The coursework includes classes in both general and special education.