A preschool teacher can be the apple of a young child's eye, providing guidance, encouragement and positive feedback. The field can be rewarding, particularly with the gratitude and smiles that small children give. Preschool teachers can learn about the instructional techniques and strategies to use by enrolling in preschool teacher training or early elementary education degree programs.
A Day in the Life of a Preschool Teacher
The day of a preschool teacher begins early, often at 8 a.m., but sometimes even earlier if a preschool teacher works at a daycare center. Early in the morning, preschool teachers help young children, often ages 3-5, in putting their coats and jackets away and getting ready for the day. During the preschool day, preschool teachers may:
- Help children learn numbers, shapes and colors
- Teach letters of the alphabet
- Lead students in hands-on explorations and art projects that develop language, motor and social skills
- Guide students through a busy schedule that can include projects, activities, music time, snacks, lunch and rest
- Set times to do calendar, weather and poem activities
- Encourage children to learn
- Communicate progress and challenges to parents and caregivers
When children head home for the day, there is still plenty left to do. Preschool teachers clean up and put things away, plan activities for the next day and ensure that needed materials are on hand. Finally, they may need to update any student records or send out emails and make phone calls about upcoming activities, programs and planning.
In a Head Start program, preschool planning may be more rigorous, following guidelines set by laws. Teachers in public school settings may need to work with other professionals to help children who have challenges. The job of a preschool teacher can sometimes be challenging, yet their patience and encouragement can go a long way.
Important Characteristics for Preschool Teachers
An individual who loves young children may be well-set for a career as a preschool teacher. Preschool teachers also should love teaching anything from colors to counting. Patience may be a needed virtue as well as an ability to help children make connections to the world around them. Preschool teachers should strive to be consistent, understanding and insightful.
Typical Steps for Becoming a Preschool Teacher
The steps for becoming a preschool teacher may vary, depending on the age group of the children and the place of business — for example, a private school versus a public setting. The following step-by-step plan provides an overview of preschool teacher education requirements and other necessary steps toward achieving a preschool teaching career:
1) Complete an educational program. A high school diploma and early education certification are usually required to work in preschool centers. However, those who want to work in a Head Start program, which is federally funded, typically need to have an associate degree.
Furthermore, some Head Start programs require preschool teachers to have a bachelor's degree. Preschool teaching programs could be found under the following names:
- Certificate of Achievement in Preschool Teacher
- Preschool Teacher-Certificate
- Preschool Early Childhood Teacher Certificate
- Early Childhood Education Associate Degree
- Associate of Arts in Early Childhood Education
- Bachelor's in Early Childhood Education Degree
- Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education
2) Work toward the Child Development Associate (CDA) credential. This credential is required by some, but not all, states. The credential is administered through the Council for Professional Recognition and requires a written exam, experience in the field and an observation of the candidate working with children.
Other states may require candidates to have the Certified Childcare Professional (CCP) designation, which is available through the National Early Childhood Program Accreditation. This credential similarly requires passing an exam, completing coursework and having experience in the field.
3) Achieve state licensure. Licensure is typically required for public schools, particularly when teachers plan to instruct in preschool through third grade. Requirements for licensure vary state to state but usually include a bachelor's degree and continuing education coursework.
4) Find employment. Most preschool teachers work in childcare services, but many others work for preschools at the local or state level. Preschool teachers may also be employed by private organizations, such as churches. Candidates who have a bachelor's degree may find the best opportunities for employment.
5) Maintain credentials. Once employed, preschool teachers need to keep their credentials up to date through continuing education coursework. The CDA credential needs to be renewed after three years and the CCP credential needs to be renewed after two years.
- Associate of Arts in Early Childhood Education, Liberty University, http://www.liberty.edu/online/associate/early-childhood-education/, accessed October 2017
- Early Childhood Education Associate Degree, Penn Foster, https://www.pennfoster.edu/programs-and-degrees/education-and-child-care/early-childhood-education-associate-degree, accessed October 2017
- Earn Your Early Childhood Education Degree Online, Ashworth College, https://www.ashworthcollege.edu/bachelors-degrees/early-childhood-education-degree-online/, accessed October 2017
- Preschool Teacher, Los Angeles Trade Tech, http://college.lattc.edu/catalog/programs/preschool-teacher/, accessed October 2017
- Preschool Teachers, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016-17 Occupational Outlook Handbook, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/Education-Training-and-Library/Preschool-teachers.htm#tab-2