Careers

Learn About Being a Kindergarten Teacher

What does a kindergarten teacher do?

A kindergarten teacher educates children in the fundamental skills and knowledge that they will need for elementary school. Kindergarten is the first step in a child’s formal education and is sometimes a child’s first time being away from their family daily. Kindergarten teachers spend their classes preparing their students for the world by teaching basic academic and social skills. Generally, a kindergarten teacher will:

  • Teach their children the basics of reading and writing, and how to count, add and subtract numbers

  • Help children learn interpersonal skills and teach them how to interact with other children

  • Assess each student’s progress in the class and determine how best to get them to where they need to be

  • Communicate with students’ parents or guardians about the status of their education

  • Supervise their class during recess and lunch to ensure their students’ safety

  • Report to school administrators about the status of their class

  • Spend time outside of class preparing and developing lesson plans and activities, and grading students’ assignments

  • Supply their classrooms with the materials their students’ need for class activities

Average salary

The salary for a kindergarten teacher will vary based on regional factors, the teacher’s qualifications and certifications, and whether they’re teaching in a private or public school.

  • Common salary in the U.S.: $39,047 per year
  • Some salaries range from $14,000 to $86,000 per year.

Kindergarten teacher requirements

Becoming a kindergarten teacher usually requires a bachelor’s degree. Depending on the state you’re applying in and whether the school is public or private, acquiring a kindergarten teaching position typically requires you to have a teaching license or certification as well.

Education

Most kindergarten teaching positions require a bachelor’s degree in childhood or elementary education. If you have a degree in a subject other than education, you can complete your state’s teacher education program to earn a teaching certification. This process will vary by state, but typically requires that you take courses and pass a series of exams.

Training

While earning an education degree or during a teacher education program, kindergarten teachers will often spend time doing in-classroom training to familiarize themselves with the classroom setting. Once you’ve started teaching, most states will require that you have periodic professional development training to maintain a valid teaching certificate.

Certifications

All public school kindergarten teachers are required to be certified by their state to teach kindergarten or early elementary classes. This requirement can be less strict in private schools.

Early Childhood Teacher certification

The specifics for earning early childhood or kindergarten teaching certification are different for each state. A valid teaching certification for the state you want to teach in is required for every public school kindergarten teaching position.

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certification

The NBPTS offers nationally recognized certifications for teachers of all specialties, from kindergarten through 12th grade, who have taught for at least three years and can demonstrate their teaching ability through references and a portfolio of their teaching work.

An NBPTS certification can be a challenge to obtain, but a teacher with an NBPTS certification is automatically qualified to teach in all 50 states. Kindergarten teachers attempting to become NBPTS certified will need to actively compose portfolios of their teaching strategies and their success in the classroom. 

Skills

Kindergarten teachers must have a variety of skills to navigate their responsibilities effectively and succeed in the classroom. Most kindergarten teachers need:

Passion for teaching

Kindergartners are often learning many topics with no prior knowledge. As a kindergarten teacher, you must be driven to help your students grasp concepts that they’ve never encountered and that they may find challenging to comprehend.

Creativity

To make the classroom more engaging for your students, you must creatively present your lessons to your class and be flexible in how you adapt those lessons to each student’s learning style.

Patience

Kindergarten students can find the transition from home life to the classroom a challenge. Students will likely require different levels of assistance to adapt to the classroom environment for the first time, so as a kindergarten teacher, you must be patient with your students as they adjust to school.

Planning and organizational skills

Designing a lesson plan for a kindergarten class takes time and effort before class starts, and maintaining the pace of a lesson in a kindergarten classroom can be a challenge. Knowing how to balance the natural pace of a class with the kindergarten curriculum requires you to have strong and flexible organizational skills.

Communication skills

As a kindergarten teacher, you will need to understand how to convey academic concepts to young children in simple terms. Effectively doing this requires strong communication skills and intuitive knowledge of how children think. You will also have to communicate with the parents of students and school administrators.

Leadership skills

In the kindergarten classroom, you are the leader of your class. Well-developed leadership skills will help you keep your students disciplined and focused during the day, and they will help you make wise judgments about your classes’ needs.

Kindergarten teacher work environment

Most kindergarten teachers work in public schools, but there are kindergarten teachers in private schools as well. They usually teach their classes during school hours, but will spend some of their time outside these hours to grade assignments and prepare lessons. Teachers often don’t work during the summer, but schedules may vary by school district, and they may use this time to plan for the upcoming school year.

Kindergarten teachers might spend time before or after classes meeting with a student’s parents or guardians to speak about the student’s progress or needs in the classroom. They often supply their classrooms themselves, which leads to high flexibility when structuring a classroom.

How to become a kindergarten teacher

Becoming a kindergarten teacher is a process that differs slightly from state to state, but the overall process is similar everywhere in the U.S. Usually, the path to becoming a kindergarten teacher means following these steps:

1. Earn a degree

Earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Education is the first step to a position teaching kindergarten. If your university offers it, it’s best to study for a concentration in elementary or early childhood education, as these courses are the most important for a position teaching kindergarten. If you have a bachelor’s degree in a different field, there are alternative paths to a teaching certificate available to you, such as qualification courses or tests. These alternative paths vary based on your state.

2. Acquire a teaching certificate

Each state has its own requirements to earn a teaching certificate. You should research your state’s requirements for a teaching certificate to learn how you can gain one in the area you want to teach. Many university education programs will include state-approved preparation courses that allow you to work toward acquiring a teaching certificate while you earn your degree.

3. Find a school to teach in

While searching, decide whether you want to teach in a public school or a private school. Public schools offer teachers benefits and a higher degree of job security, whereas private schools tend to be more challenging to get into, and they often pay their teachers higher wages. You can search for kindergarten teaching positions in one type of school or both.

4. Maintain your certification with professional development training

As a kindergarten teacher, you may be required to maintain your certification through continuing education courses and professional development training. This training is common across the country, but whether they are necessary to maintain a valid teaching certification depends on your state’s requirements.

Kindergarten teacher job description example

George Washington Elementary School is searching for a passionate kindergarten teacher eager to help children adapt to the classroom setting and begin their academic development. The kindergarten teacher must construct their own lesson plans using a variety of teaching methods and apply them to the classroom with patience and understanding.

They will be at the head of a classroom and tasked with teaching children basic reading, mathematics and social skills as well as assessing students’ progress in class and helping guide them toward being prepared for the first grade. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a valid Maryland teaching certification for elementary education. Two or more years of elementary classroom experience is preferred.

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