Teaching preschool is a whole lot more than babysitting. Preschool teachers play a vital role in the development of children-they capitalize on children’s play to stimulate language and vocabulary development, improve social skills and introduce scientific and mathematical concepts. Some studies show that preschool can have long-term positive effects on academic achievement and social success. If you enjoy helping young children make connections and discover their worlds, you might want to consider a career as a preschool teacher.
The training and qualifications required for teaching preschool vary widely depending on factors such as the state in which you teach, the funding for the institution in which you wish to work and the standards put in place by individual employers. State requirements can range from a high school diploma to a college degree. A Child Development Associate Certification is sometimes requested, and a growing number of employers are requiring an associate’s degree in a field such as early childhood education. Federally-funded Head Start programs will require teachers to have an associate’s degree in early childhood education starting in 2011. A bachelor’s degree in early childhood or elementary education can qualify teachers to work with pupils from kindergarten to third grade in some districts.
Being a preschool teacher is a high-energy occupation. Teachers must be engaged and aware at all times, vigilant about proper behavior and sensitive to the individual needs of their pupils. A recognition and understanding of students’ educational and emotional needs-across different cultures and socioeconomic levels-is required as well.
Many preschool teachers begin their careers as assistant teacher, advancing over time to teacher, lead teacher and perhaps to director of their institution. Level of education (certificate, associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree) will, of course, make a difference. Many preschool teachers move on to attain their bachelor’s degree and a teaching credential, shifting careers to work as a primary or secondary school teacher. Beginning at the preschool level is a great way to open the door to a teaching career-and for finding out if teaching is for you!