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Kindergarten Teacher Career Guide

How to Become a Kindergarten Teacher

Are you thrilled by the idea of getting to work with young kids as they take their first major step on their educational path? This is one of many responsibilities bestowed on those who teach kindergarten. These teachers have the opportunity to help shape young minds and guide their first official experience in schooling. The role of teachers in kindergarten can be creative, enriching, challenging, and incredibly rewarding. If this sounds appealing to you, it might be time to explore how you can become a kindergarten teacher.

School Social Workers

What Is a Kindergarten Teacher?

Being a kindergarten teacher means instructing younger children who are in a school environment for the first time in their lives. Usually, the age range of kids in kindergarten can span from four to six, so it’s important for these teachers to have emotional intelligence, helping them to determine how to deal with a variety of young personalities and how to connect them to their schoolwork. 

Those who are interested in education and seeking a teaching degree may want to consider finding their specialization and the age range they wish to work with. Working as a kindergarten teacher can be a wonderful experience, but you’ll want to make sure you’re ready for the challenges associated with teaching younger students before taking on this role. It can require a lot of patience and kindness, time and effort, but the results are well worth it.

What Does a Kindergarten Teacher Do?

Kindergarten teachers are tasked with helping their students learn the basics of schooling and preparing them for first grade. While no two days are ever the same, kindergarten teachers are generally expected to:

  • Prepare materials, lessons, and projects.
  • Keep lessons fresh, engaging, and interesting.
  • Teach basic skills in academics and behavior.
  • Use a variety of approaches and tools to impart lessons.
  • Observe and assess performance, skill, behavior, and social development.
  • Look for potential issues such as health, developmental, or emotional concerns.
  • Create goals for students to reach on an individual and group level.
  • Tailor lessons as needed to meet a variety of needs and learning capabilities.
  • Be highly communicative and inspire trust in their students.
  • Meet with parents of children periodically to discuss progress and concerns.
“After graduating from WGU, and through all the rigor and quality of instruction that I received in the educational field, I was awarded Hawaii District Teacher of the Year in 2012.” Amoreena Nestman
M.A. Teaching – Elementary Education

What Do Students Learn in Kindergarten?

Kindergarten teachers have a variety of opportunities available to them in terms of where they can work. They may teach students at public schools or private schools, as well as charter schools. But no matter if they end up teaching in a private or public school, kindergarten teachers largely teach their students in one classroom. There are exceptions to this rule, of course. Students will often leave the classroom for assemblies, physical activity, recess, and eating lunch. In some cases, art classes may take place in a different room than the remainder of their lessons.

English:

  • Letter recognition
  • Vocabulary expansion
  • Reading
  • Writing simple words and short sentences

Science:

  • Computers
  • Weather
  • Seasons

Math:

  • Numbers
  • Shapes
  • Addition and subtraction (numbers less than 10)
  • Telling time
  • Calendar

Art:

  • Holding pencils
  • Tracing
  • Coloring
  • Finger painting 
  • Identifying colors
  • Music

Life Skills:

  • Sharing
  • Peer interaction
  • Self-confidence
  • Basic personal hygiene
  • Physical education
  • Concentration and focus
  • Health and safety
  • Sounds

Overall, children are expected to learn to write the letters of the alphabet, count up to 30, do basic single-digit addition, recognize shapes, and start to grasp the basics of reading by the end of kindergarten. Remember that curriculum specifics will depend on the state, district and school, and the child’s cognitive abilities.

What Education Does a Kindergarten Teacher Need?

Edited Book Stack

The most important educational requirements for a kindergarten teacher is a bachelor’s degree either in early childhood education or elementary education. A bachelor's degree is required to teach any grade in every state. There are some states where you can have a generic bachelor's degree and then get your license in another way, but this is less common.

Once they obtain their degree, prospective teachers are usually expected to participate in an in-classroom internship through a state-approved program. This gives teachers the opportunity to gain hands-on experience before taking on a class of their own. When the internship is completed, the next step is to take the required licensure tests, which will vary by state. It’s important to check state requirements with the state board of education to ensure all test requirements are met. Finally, it’ll be time to apply for a teaching license. Again, this process will vary by state, so check with the board of education in the state where you’d like to teach for specifics. After licensing, the job hunt can begin.

Additionally, some schools may require a master’s degree in elementary education. Teachers who know which schools they may work with can always check educational requirements just to be sure; however, there’s always the option of obtaining a bachelor’s degree to get a foot in the door with one school and then take online courses to earn a master’s degree while teaching.

Depending on a teacher’s educational focus, other unique certifications may be required. For example, programs that are dedicated to special education students may require teachers to have a specific certification.

Degrees For Kindergarten Teachers

Elementary Education – B.A.

An online teacher certification program for aspiring elementary...

An online teacher certification program for...

An online teacher certification program for aspiring elementary teachers.

Leads to teacher licensure. Specific grade levels will vary depending on teaching certification in your state.

  • Time: 60% of grads earned this degree within 36 months.
  • Tuition and fees: $3,520 per 6-month term.

Candidates for this program often include:

  • Aspiring elementary school teachers who currently lack a teaching license
  • Substitute teachers
  • Career-changers
  • School paraprofessionals
  • Others who feel the call to teach

This elementary education degree program includes courses in the foundations of teacher education, instructional planning and presentation, assessment, and classroom management. Core teacher education courses focus on diversity, disciplinary literacy, elementary education methods, and pedagogy. It requires in-classroom observation and a term of full-time demonstration teaching. This online teaching degree program helps you to be eligible for teaching certification in any of the 50 states.

Special Education and Elementary Education (Dual Licensure) – B.A.

An online teaching degree and teacher certification program for...

An online teaching degree and teacher...

An online teaching degree and teacher certification program for aspiring K–12 special education teachers. Leads to dual licensure—elementary education teaching license and special education teaching license.

(Specific grade levels will vary depending on licensure in your state.) If your state offers a single K–12 special education teaching license and you are interested in focusing on teaching students with mild to moderate exceptionalities, consider the B.A. Special Education (Mild to Moderate) online teaching degree. 

  • Time: 62% of grads earned this degree within 3½ years.
  • Tuition and fees: $3,520 per 6-month term.

Candidates for this online teaching degree often include:

  • Aspiring special ed teachers who currently lack a teaching license
  • Substitute teachers
  • Career-changers
  • School paraprofessionals
  • Others who feel the call to teach

This special education teaching online degree program prepares you to teach students with mild-to-moderate disabilities, with courses in the foundations of teaching, instructional planning and presentation, assessment, and classroom management. Core elementary and special education courses focus on diversity, disciplinary literacy, elementary education methods, and special education topics such as law, assessment, and behavioral management. This program requires in-classroom observation and a term of full-time demonstration teaching. Compare B.A. Special Education (Mild to Moderate)

 

Teaching, Elementary Education – M.A.

An online master's of arts in education degree and teacher...

An online master's of arts in education degree...

An online master's of arts in education degree and teacher certification program for aspiring elementary school teachers who already have a bachelor's degree in a non-teaching field.

Leads to a teaching license. Specific grade levels will vary depending on teaching certification in your state.

  • Time: 67% of graduates finish within 18 months.
  • Tuition and fees: $3,685 per 6-month term.

Candidates for this master's of arts in education degree program often include:

  • Aspiring elementary teachers who currently hold a bachelor's degree but lack a teaching license
  • Substitute teachers
  • Career-changers
  • School paraprofessionals
  • Others who feel the call to teach

This online teacher's degree includes courses in the foundations of teaching, mathematics content, instructional planning and presentation, elementary education methods, and effective teaching practices. It requires in-classroom observation and a term of full-time demonstration teaching.


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How Do I Become a Licensed Kindergarten Teacher?

Each state will have unique requirements on the path to becoming a licensed teacher, so it's important to research and work with your state Board of Education in order to understand the requirements. For most states, you will need at least a bachelor's degree or a master's degree in the education field of your specialty. You will need in-classroom experience, to pass a background check, and to pass licensing exams in order to be certified.

Preschool students with blocks

What Skills Does a Kindergarten Teacher Need?

As the first official role model for students outside their own families, kindergarten teachers need to draw on a variety of personal and professional skill sets to put them ahead of the crowd. Some of these skills include:

  • Communication skills
  • Flexibility and adaptability
  • Patience
  • Organizational skills
  • Creativity
  • Leadership skills
  • A passion for teaching 
  • High energy
  • Up to date on teaching trends and best practices
  • A good sense of humor

How much does a kindergarten teacher make?

$55,850

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, kindergarten teachers average an annual wage of $56,850 (not including special education). Depending on where you live and your level of experience, your earning potential will change. For example, teacher's with a master's degree will likely earn more than those with a bachelor's degree.

What is the job outlook for kindergarten teachers?

4%

This professional sector shows a rate of growth on par with any other occupation, with a projection of 4% growth from 2019 to 2029. Granted, that growth will vary depending on the region, state, and various other factors related to school districts. But with rising student enrollment, demand is expected to increase accordingly.

Where do kindergarten teachers work?

Schools

Kindergarten teachers have a variety of opportunities available to them in terms of where they can work. They may teach students at public schools or private schools, as well as charter schools. But no matter if they end up teaching in a private or public school, kindergarten teachers largely teach their students in one classroom. There are exceptions to this rule, of course. Students will often leave the classroom for assemblies, physical activity, recess, and eating lunch. In some cases, art classes may take place in a different room than the remainder of their lessons.

Top Tips for Kindergarten Teachers

It can be a little intimidating to take on a classroom of rowdy youngsters, especially for the first time. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Do have a lesson plan for each day, but leave room for more explorations and learning opportunities depending on how students respond to the day’s activities.
  • Don’t be afraid to improvise, and let students interpret the lessons in creative ways that help them learn.
  • Do use books and music to help students refocus on a lesson—both can be used to draw their attention and get their focus back on track.
  • Don’t shy away from collaborating with their parents to design lessons around behavior, social skills, and more. Similarly, sharing lessons with parents can help them mirror those same lessons at home.
  • Do keep kids busy—the more their brains can be engaged with activities and lessons, the more likely they are to maintain interest and absorb the lesson.
  • Don’t assume students know everything, like basic hygiene, cleaning up after themselves, polite behavior, and more. Lead by example.
  • Do encourage collaboration and participation through group activities that include everyone—even the shy wallflowers. This can help encourage friendship, sharing, and other important skills.
  • Don’t forget to have fun! Embrace your inner child and engage with students on their level when it’s appropriate to do so.

 

Interested in Becoming a Kindergarten Teacher?

Learn more about degree programs that can prepare you for this meaningful career.

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