Kindergarten teachers assist children make the transition from home or preschool into grade school. They focus on the development of the five-year-old child’s emotional, intellectual, physical, social, imaginative, and creative abilities. They teach youngsters how to communicate thoughts and feelings. They work with the children to develop their senses, improve their motor skills, and learn appropriate social behavior. They attempt to locate the unique personality traits and abilities of each child, and then endeavor to draw out, enhance and refine those traits, encouraging the children to blossom as individuals. They communicate with parents and with other teachers to keep them abreast of the child’s progress and needs.
Although their job responsibilities vary widely, all K-12 teaching positions share certain common requirements. The early childhood years are especially formative years, and it is worthwhile from all perspectives for kindergarten teachers to be specially trained in child development. A bachelor’s degree is required for all teaching positions in the public school system, for example. There are two minor exceptions to this requirement. Occasionally, a kindergarten teacher might need only an associate degree to qualify for employment; a bachelor’s degree is a much more frequent requirement, however. The second exception is that not all private schools require a bachelor’s degree, although they often prefer one.
All teaching positions have requirements beyond obtaining a degree. Often these include a term of practice teaching under the supervision of a certified and experienced teacher. States also require all public schoolteachers at every level to have a teaching license, to ensure the public that every teacher has certain standards of teaching excellence. Licenses are granted by the respective State Boards, and must be renewed annually. Various teacher-training programs are accredited by The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. While graduation from an accredited program is not mandatory, it certainly makes it easier for teachers to fulfill licensure requirements.
Kindergarten teachers maintain the playful, interactive, hands-on learning that children experience in preschool, while also introducing them to the slightly more formal aspects of academic teaching, such as establishing and enforcing rules of classroom behavior. Through storytelling, counting, games and projects, they keep the children intellectually stimulated and introduce four- and five-year-olds to the concepts of phonics, reading, vocabulary, music, mathematics, science, and personal hygiene as well as assisting in the development of their social skills through fun activities in small groups.
Kindergarten teachers, like instructors at all grade levels, also observe and evaluate the performance, behavior and physical health of each child in order to identify emotional, developmental, or health-related troubles, which they then discuss with the child’s parents or guardian.
Kindergarten teachers need to be mature, friendly, patient, organized, creative, energetic, and understanding. They need to be able to communicate clearly with children, as well as with parents and other teachers. Flexibility, spontaneity and a sense of humor also help, as does a genuine fondness for five-year-olds. People who work in this occupation should be able to anticipate and resolve problems, provide fair and gentle discipline, and be able to work with children as well as with aides, assistants, volunteers and other teachers.
There is always a demand for teachers, and job openings are almost always available, although employment opportunities vary depending on the location of the school district. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there were approximately 171,000 kindergarten teachers in the U.S. in 2004, and job opportunities for teachers at all K-12 grades are expected to be good well into the next decade.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2004 the average annual salary for all K-12 school teachers was $43,660.