How to Become an Elementary School Teacher
Elementary school teachers are professionals in the field of early childhood education that typically educate students in kindergarten through grade six (K-6). However, some school systems may include pre-K and grades seven and eight (K-8) as elementary.
An elementary school teacher must be able to connect effectively with younger students and be flexible and innovative with lesson ideas. This way, they can reach students of varied abilities. This guide explains the scope of elementary teaching, how to become an elementary school teacher, and their career outlook and compensation.
What is an Elementary School Teacher?
An elementary teacher helps children develop beneficial learning habits and social skills in an energetic, exciting, and pleasant school atmosphere. This may be a satisfying job since elementary educators support their students intellectually and socially. Because most K-6 instructors teach all topics, they usually head the teaching activities in one class of students through the school day. Most lesson plans in primary school are activity-based. However, some teachers will complement learning with more structured classes to better prepare pupils for middle school.
In addition to arranging lessons and supporting activities, elementary school instructors often communicate with students’ guardians and parents through teacher meetings, progress reports, and other methods. Elementary school teachers also attend continuing professional education regularly to keep their skills up to date and propose new classroom instruction ideas.
Common Tasks and Requirements for Elementary School Teachers
Elementary school teachers will often have a bachelor’s degree and credentials related to their state’s licensing requirements. Teaching degrees in behavioral sciences, such as early childhood development, can be very beneficial for elementary school teachers.
Teachers must further their education and be dedicated to professional development throughout their careers. Due to teacher shortages and the difficulties of putting teachers in rural or urban employment, some jurisdictions provide alternate licensure paths that allow potential teachers to start out in the job market while still in school.
To help pupils develop academically and socially, elementary educators must design teaching guides and lesson plans that adhere to local, state, and federal requirements. In lesson plans, age-appropriate activities must be included to engage young brains and help in the learning process.
Teaching materials and techniques must prepare students for growth by ensuring that basic grade-level criteria are fulfilled or surpassed. Additionally, some elementary teachers perform basic childcare activities including monitoring sleep times and assisting with hygiene, based on the age bracket in their class.
How to Become an Elementary School Teacher
Aspiring elementary school teachers must follow these steps to get into the profession.
Most elementary school teachers hold a bachelor’s degree in elementary education or another related discipline, such as early childhood development. You can get a general education degree and subsequently specialize in elementary education or a specialized primary education degree.
If you have a degree in another field, you can transfer credit for general education courses and begin your education studies after enrolling. Most states solely require a bachelor’s degree for elementary school teachers, while some may prefer individuals with a graduate degree in the discipline.
2. Complete your field learning requirements
During your third and fourth years of study, most elementary teacher education programs require you to do practicums and an internship in actual primary classrooms. These internships give students hands-on learning experience while still being supervised by a teacher. This is often referred to as Student Teaching, and many of us can remember having a student teacher while growing up.
The mentoring provides aspiring teachers with experience in teaching and working in a classroom setting with children. It also allows you to acquire experience in various classroom settings, which helps you decide which grade to teach. Practice establishing a curriculum and instructing your classes during this period while assisting an experienced instructor, and you will most likely be observed by a principal and given notes and feedback.
3. Take the license examinations required by your state
Every state has its teacher licensure criteria. It may involve finishing a degree program and completing specific field learning hours. Typically, each state has a license test that qualifies an elementary teaching applicant for the state’s public school system. Some states have other requirements, such as a Civil Rights Exam and a Subject Matter Exam. It’s best to look at your state’s government website to get the most up-to-date information, because sometimes things change every year.
You may have access to tutors and study groups if you are still studying a degree program when you are preparing to take your test. Seek the help of your education professors or go to your state’s board of education website to learn more about your state’s teaching requirements.
Private schools have their own set of criteria, determined by the school’s director or board of trustees. If you want to teach in a private school, contact the hiring department of the schools where you wish to work in to learn about their requirements. Some private schools favor candidates who have passed the state public school system’s qualifying tests, while others may consider alternative test results.
4. Start applying for employment opportunities
A teacher can begin their job hunt once they have finished their degree and certification requirements. In some areas, new teachers are not allowed to select the school where they want to work, although they may be allowed to choose from several options.
Other schools allow teacher applicants to apply directly to their desired work location. When starting your job hunt as a teacher, researching the various school systems in your region, and analyzing your personal objectives and interests is an excellent place to start.
5. Consider pursuing a graduate degree
As their careers advance, many elementary school teachers choose to get additional degrees or other qualifications. Teachers can learn new pedagogical approaches and become acquainted with cutting-edge educational technologies through continuing education programs.
Many institutions require instructors to complete a particular number of continuing education hours each year and may give professional development stipends. You might also pursue a doctorate degree in a discipline linked to teaching, such as childhood development or psychology. Higher qualifications can assist you in gaining a position of leadership within a learning institution and earning a higher income.
What Skills does an Elementary School Teacher Need?
Elementary school instructors apply a range of strategies to ensure their pupils have a positive learning experience. Here are some essential qualities of an elementary school teacher:
1. Knowledge of teaching techniques
Elementary school teachers learn about the concept of instructing pupils and pedagogy through their degree courses and field experiences. Since each student is unique, teachers may employ a variety of teaching techniques in their classroom. They may also use different strategies for the various subjects they teach.
A fourth-grade teacher, for instance, may utilize an engaging game with marbles to teach their students addition. A song will help them learn state names. Because primary school instructors cover a wide range of subjects, their approaches may differ from those used by teachers at later levels.
2. Interpersonal skills
While primary school students are gaining academic skills, they are also developing their conflict resolution and interpersonal skills. This implies that children in this age bracket may have a more difficult time behaving than older classmates. Elementary school instructors should employ interpersonal skills such as empathy to resolve conflicts among their pupils or to implement punishment in a caring manner.
They may also employ these abilities to assist worried or homesick pupils in calming down. Since elementary school is a critical period in a child’s development, instructors in different grades may meet a wide range of behavioral challenges.
Elementary school instructors assist young children in developing fundamental academic abilities such as arithmetic thinking and reading. Since these abilities are generally unfamiliar to pupils, it may take some time for them to grasp them, particularly for kindergartners and early graders.
Effective teachers apply patience to repeat instructions and assist pupils in learning at their own speed. A kindergarten teacher, for example, would spend a week teaching every letter of the alphabet. Some kids require more assistance than others, and a patient instructor can give additional assistance as required.
4. Communication abilities
Elementary school instructors need to communicate with a variety of people daily. They communicate with their pupils as well as any teaching assistants that help them in the classroom. They may also collaborate with other teachers, such as fitness and music instructors, who educate their pupils multiple times each week.
They often utilize their written communication abilities to generate reports, which they may send home with pupils to read with their parents or submit to their principal. Most primary school instructors have private meetings with students’ parents to review their performance, which may need patience and listening skills.
While elementary school instructors may spend many hours each week developing lesson plans, their learners may demand a change in content. Teachers apply their adaptability to respond to the needs of each student and modify instructional ideas.
For instance, a fifth-grade teacher may want to teach advanced division to their new class. However, as the session begins, they find that most of the students need a refresher on fundamental division concepts. They may be innovative by developing practice exercises to aid students in relearning this important topic. The class can then proceed to the prepared lesson.
Salary and Job Prospects for Elementary School Teachers
Kindergarten and elementary teachers earn an average annual salary of $61,350, per the BLS.
The demand for elementary teachers is projected to increase by 4% by 2031. The number of available work opportunities in each state will vary as per budget limitations and school enrolment status. Educators with multiple endorsements or who teach science, math, or bilingual studies may have more employment options. Here’s a look at the requirements for endorsements in Illinois, keeping in mind that these vary by state.
The predicted rise in elementary school teacher employment is likely to be greatest in urban and rural school districts, as opposed to school districts located in suburban areas. A sudden increase in the group of teachers expected to retire or leave the teaching profession in the next year is factor contributing to the demand for primary educators. This is especially the case since estimates show an increase in elementary student enrollments.
Certified educators can also work as kindergarten teachers, child special education teachers, middle school teachers, preschool teachers, and supervising teachers. Graduates of primary education degree programs may also be able to find work in early childhood settings such as non-profit organizations, daycare facilities, and community childcare programs.
Licensure, Certifications, and Continuing Education
Elementary teacher qualifications vary depending on the region or state where the prospective teacher seeks certification. However, completion of a teacher practice program approved by the state and a bachelor’s degree in elementary education is often required. The standard approach for conventional students on how to become an elementary school teacher is as follows:
- Obtain a bachelor’s degree in elementary education.
- Perform an internship in a primary school classroom.
- Take the elementary teacher license examinations in your state.
- Apply for a license via your state’s school board.
- Start applying for open opportunities after you have earned your license.
Educational psychology, child psychology, child development, teaching strategies, and curriculum creation are all included in elementary education curricula.
Individuals require certification to practice as elementary school teachers for public schools in most states. However, state licensure is not necessary for all private institutions. Elementary education degrees are available both online and on campus. However, online degrees must often be accompanied with a component of in-person student internship to qualify graduates for licensing.
If you have already attained a bachelor’s degree in another field, a master’s degree in elementary education resulting in an initial teacher certification may be an option.
Get your degree in early childhood education and start on the road to fulfilling your dream of becoming a teacher. If you are just starting your search, inquire about a few programs and compare to get the best fit.