The impact of an elementary school teacher during the early and formative years of a child's life is significant from both an intellectual and social development perspective. From impacting their self-image to affecting their success or failure in school or work to their personal lives, Teachers play a critical role.
Elementary Teacher Education Schools and Courses
Elementary school teachers are required to have at least a bachelor's degree and a state or national teaching license. In addition to degree programs from brick-and-mortar colleges and universities, programs leading to teaching degrees are also available through online programs. Prior to obtaining a degree, many elementary education majors complete a student-teaching internship at an elementary school.
The courses that are traditionally undertaken by students are unique to the subject that you want to teach. Such courses include, but are not limited to:
- Social and physical sciences
- Psychology of learning
- Philosophy of education
Once you have a bachelor's degree, you may also get certified to teach a specific subject or pursue teaching jobs in private schools. A license from the State Board of Education or from a licensure advisory committee is typically also required, depending on where you plan to teach.
Accreditation is usually very important when choosing an elementary education school. The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and the Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC) accredits teacher education programs. To maintain accreditation, these programs are required to include instruction in computer use and various technologies; and, many programs also require student-teaching internships. While it is not necessary for a student to graduate from an accredited program, it makes for a smoother process when the time comes to fulfilling requirements for licensure.
In many states today, professional development schools are also available, which have partnerships established between elementary or secondary schools and universities. Blending practice with theory, these schools offer the bachelor degree graduate an opportunity to enter into a one-year program where they will experience firsthand what it is like to teach (under the guidance and supervision of a professional).
Regular Teacher Licensing
The State Board of Education or a licensing advisory committee generally grants licensing. While licensing is not a requirement for teachers in most private schools, it is required in all states and the District of Columbia for those teaching in public schools.
Regular licensing requirements vary by state, but all states require general education teachers to achieve:
- A four-year bachelor's degree
- Approved teacher-training program that includes a required number of subject and education credits
- Supervised practice teaching
Some states require training in technology and a minimum grade point average; others require an individual to achieve a master's degree in education within a specific window of time after they have begun formal teaching.
Nearly all states require competency testing in basic/fundamental skills (e.g., reading, writing, teaching), as well as proof of proficiency in the subject taught by the teacher. This applies to all applicants looking to secure a teacher's license. Many states have agreements that are reciprocal in nature, whereby teachers who are licensed in one state can easily become licensed in another. Most states require teachers who are seeking license renewal to complete a specific (or minimum) number of hours in continuing education.
Alternative Teacher Licensing
The main intent of an alternative licensing program is to attract people who do not fulfill traditional licensing standards into the teaching profession. For example, this would be relevant if you wanted to switch from a current career into teaching, or you're a new grad who lacks completion of education programs.
With some programs, an individual may start teaching immediately with a temporary license, while under close supervision of a licensed and experienced educator(s), while simultaneously attending required education courses. Those who make positive progress may, after working one or two years, qualify for a regular license. Then, there are other programs where a new college graduate will complete the required education courses (one or two full-time semesters) and then become eligible for licensure.
It's important to note that, in general, private school institutions are not obliged to meet state licensing requirements.
Teachers who wish to obtain professional certification as an endorsement of qualification and competency beyond that required for regular licensing may do so through voluntary, national certification offered by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). Not only is the NBPTS certification recognized by all states, several offer various benefits to Teachers who possess this certification (e.g., reimbursement for fees related to continuing education and certification, and higher salaries). Certification requires the applicant to pass a written assessment and evaluation that focuses on their teaching knowledge, as well as the presentation of a portfolio that illustrates their classroom work.
Resources for Elementary School Teachers
- National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE)
- Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC)
- National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS)
- National Center for Alternative Certification, (NCAC)
- National Education Association (NEA)
- American Federation of Teachers (AFT)
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/kindergarten-and-elementary-school-teachers.htm#tab-1
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Elementary School Teachers, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes252021.htm