Early Childhood Education

Shape a Child’s Future and Become a Kindergarten Teacher

Shape a Child’s Future and Become a Kindergarten Teacher
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Noodle Staff February 27, 2018

Have ambitions to become a kindergarten teacher? Let Noodle walk you through the steps necessary to make your dreams come true.

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Shape a Child’s Future and Become a Kindergarten Teacher

Dreaming on crawling on the floor and playing with blocks all day? This is the misconception of the role of a kindergarten teacher. Early childhood eduation has a considerable impact on the long-term success and achievement of young children. If you love working with children, teaching kindergarten could be an extremely fulfilling career path. Here are some ways you can become a kindergarten teacher and have a hand in shaping the lives of the next generation.

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Overview of what a kindergarten teacher does

Before you become a kindergarten teacher, you should know that there is a false perception about the difficulty of the role. Many assume that teaching kindergarten is easy because the subject material involves the alphabet and numbers. The reality is that teaching young children is not an easy job. To know whether you you have what it takes to be an effective early childhood educator, consider the basic responsibilities of the role:

  • Facilitate development. Many emotional and social skills are developed in kindergarten. As a kindergarten teacher, it is your responsibility to facilitate this development while still pursuing academic goals.
  • Help children understand and follow instructions. Many kindergarten teachers report that the hardest part of teaching children age 5 to 6 is getting them to understand and follow basic instructions. Lining up, sitting still, and raising a hand to be called upon are educational skills that kindergarten teachers must impress upon students in addition to following the designated curriculum.
  • Instill basic academic concepts. Basic concepts of addition and subtraction are taught and reinforced in kindergarten, along with basic literacy and vocabulary concepts including high-frequency and consonant-vowel-consonant words.
  • Set the foundation for advanced academic concepts. Elementary school teachers—even first grade teachers—draw upon existing knowledge in their students to advance academic concepts. This is due to the educational foundation that kindergarten teachers establish in their students.

These skills, along with the relationship between a teacher and student at the kindergarten level, have been shown to stay with students throughout all of elementary school and middle school.

Teaching these concepts would be impossible if kindergarten students weren’t also taught to take turns, manage emotions, and have meaningful conversations that demonstrate practical questioning and listening ability.

Successful kindergarten teachers:

  1. Constantly assess and guide student behavior
  2. Are persistent, attentive, and patient
  3. Integrate social skill development into every aspect of academic training

The impact and relationship that a kindergarten teacher has to students carries on far beyond the kindergarten level. According to a study published in SAGE Journals, kindergarten teachers are able to accurately predict any given student’s success in the first grade based solely on student performance and their learning abilities relative to their peers. This insight is only possible due to the nature of the relationship and critical time of development that a kindergarten teacher shares with students, something that you may find fulfilling long past the time that you are interacting with students in a classroom setting.

It should also be noted that you cannot become a kindergarten teacher unless you are active, energetic and open to the power of playing with the kids. In recent years, play as a means of teaching both social skills and academic curriculum has become standard practice amongst kindergarten and pre-kindergarten teachers across the world. A study published in the Early Childhood Education Journal examined the role of the teacher in playing with kindergarten students, and the corresponding emotional and social growth that takes place when play is used to supplement education.

How to become a kindergarten teacher

If you decided early on in your professional development to become a teacher, or if you are already a certified teacher and are attempting to switch tracks into kindergarten education, then becoming a kindergarten teacher is simply a matter of choosing to pursue the position and specializing in child development. For those starting out afresh, becoming a kindergarten teacher could involve taking several more steps before you are ready to seek employment at a school. Here are the steps and everything you need in order to become a kindergarten teacher.

What are the steps to becoming a kindergarten teacher?

  1. Earn your degree. For the majority of prospective kindergarten teachers seeking employment in the public-school system, the first step is completing an undergraduate program (more on that to follow).
  2. Decide which state to teach in. The teaching conditions and licensure or credential requirements vary slightly from state to state. Some states also offer special programs and incentives to prospective teachers seeking employment in underserved or underperforming school districts. If you know before you go to college or grad school where you want live when you finish your degree(s), establishing your desired teaching location can help as you decide on degrees and teaching programs to apply to.
  3. Get licensed or certified. According to the US Bureau of Labor, every state requires public school teachers to be licensed or certified to teach at their specific grade level. This generally requires a bachelor’s degree in a teachable subject area, and completion of a licensure program for the specific state that you want to work in. Private schools do not usually require teachers to hold a credential or license, in which case a kindergarten teaching position would be entirely up to the school and dependent on your relevant experience. Most private schools seek some combination of prior teaching experience and a willingness to participate in some form of child development training and continued education. Applying to and completing a licensure or credential program typically involves logging a certain number of hours of student teaching, in which you will gain valuable hands-on experience in the classroom. Depending on the state, you may also be required to pass an additional certification test in the subject area that you will be teaching.
  4. Apply for jobs. After you complete your education and licensure requirements, you will be able to apply to a school in your desired school district. From there, the specific requirements are dependent on the school and school district, although you can expect to go through a background check and medical examination before starting work.

What degree(s) do you need to become a kindergarten teacher?

Most teachers are required to complete an undergraduate program in the field that they want to teach. For kindergarten teachers, the subject requirements are less rigid. Since kindergarten teachers are responsible for instructing students on the foundational elements of multiple subjects, most bachelor’s degree programs in a core subject area will fulfill the bachelor’s degree requirement. A master’s degree is typically not required.

Kindergarten teachers can benefit greatly from taking courses in child development and education. Understanding early childhood development will enable you to communicate and manage your students effectively. Many schools like to see that their kindergarten teachers have at least a few credits of developmental psychology under their belt. Some will even go so far as to require it as part of a continued professional development program for educators.

What specific licensure do you need to become a kindergarten teacher?

Enrolling in a teacher’s credential or licensure program is the best way to ensure that you successfully meet all of the requirements for your state’s teaching credential or license. Programs are made available at almost every university and local college, and now you can complete some teacher credential programs online. All programs require you to gain experience through a defined number of hours working in a classroom as a student teacher, in which you will usually be paired with an experienced teacher.

Each state has its own set of requirements, tests and pathways to earning a teaching license. Some states require you to apply for either multiple subject licensure or single subject licensure, though others will avoid this by having you pass a series of subject-relevant state tests. In most cases, if you have earned your teacher’s credential in one state, you can look into transferring your credential to another state through a separate program.

All states have at least one alternative pathway to teacher certification. These include gaining your license through private teaching—which usually does not require a credential of teachers to begin teaching—and working through an Early Completion Internship Option. By fulfilling the requirements listed in each state-specific alternate route, you could be awarded full certification without going through a teacher’s program and logging student teaching hours.

How long does it take to become a kindergarten teacher?

A typical undergraduate program lasts for four years. After earning your bachelor’s degree, applying to a teacher’s credential program as soon as possible can ensure that you make the quickest transition from your own education to the education of kindergarten students. Typically, a teacher’s credential program takes between one and two years to complete. Some universities and colleges offer an intensive one-year master’s program that also satisfies the student teaching requirements of a teacher credential program. All in all, you can expect to spend a total of five to six years in higher education before you become a kindergarten teacher.

How much does a kindergarten teacher make?

According to the US Bureau of Labor, the median annual salary for kindergarten teachers in 2016 was $52,620. The lowest-paid kindergarten teachers earned less than $35,000 a year, while the highest-paid teachers earned over $81,000. You should expect to be paid somewhere close to the median salary and can work your way up from there. Most school districts pay their teachers based on a tier system, with earnings going up as experience, professional development, and retention go up.

Many teachers and kindergarten teachers are part of a teacher’s union, which helps protect salary and working conditions across the nation. It is up to you to determine whether or not you would like to join a union, and many teachers make this decision based on the conditions of the school and terms that they find themselves working under.

The hours of a salaried kindergarten teacher are varied, and most teachers report that they spend time working on assignments, prepping activities, and researching educational resources outside of school hours. Almost all are on a 10-month school year schedule, with 2-months of summer vacation and a shorter winter break. Your breaks will vary according to your school’s schedule, and unless otherwise determined by you or the school, you will be paid for the full 12 months out of the year.

Sources:

Becoming a kindergarten teacher. Retrieved February 14, 2018. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1467-8624.00301/full

The truth about kindergarten. Retrieved February 14, 2018. https://thekindergartenconnection.com/the-truth-about-teaching-kindergarten/

Teaching kindergarten. Retrieved February 15, 2018. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/002221940103400308

The role of the kindergarten teacher. Retrieved February 14, 2018. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10643-007-0165-8

What are the steps to becoming a kindergarten teacher? Retrieved February 15, 2018 https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/kindergarten-and-elementary-school-teachers.htm#tab-4

How much does a kindergarten teacher make? Retrieved February 14, 2018 https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/kindergarten-and-elementary-school-teachers.htm#tab-5

Questions or feedback? Email editor@noodle.com

About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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