Do You Have What It Takes for a Career in Teaching? Part 3

Spotlight: Kindergarten, Elementary, and Middle School Teachers

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Teachers must collaborate with teacher assistants and special education teachers. In addition, they need to discuss students’ needs with parents and administrators.

Creativity. Kindergarten and elementary school teachers must plan lessons that engage young students, adapting the lessons to every student’s learning style.

Instructional skills. Kindergarten and elementary school teachers need to be able to explain difficult concepts in terms that young students can understand. In addition, they must be able to get students engaged in learning and adapt their lessons to each student’s needs.

Patience. Working with students of different abilities and backgrounds can be difficult. Kindergarten and elementary school teachers must be patient when students struggle with material.3

Typical Duties

  • Plan lessons that teach students subjects, such as reading and math, and skills, such as study skills and social skills
  • Assess students to evaluate their abilities, strengths, and weaknesses
  • Teach students in an entire class or in small groups
  • Grade student assignments to monitor progress
  • Communicate with parents about child’s progress
  • Work with individual students to challenge them and overcome their weaknesses
  • Prepare students for standardized tests required by the state
  • Develop and enforce classroom rules
  • Supervise children outside of the classroom—for example, at lunchtime or during recess4

Education Required

All states require public kindergarten and elementary school teachers to have at least a Bachelor’s in Elementary Education. Some states also require kindergarten, elementary, and middle school teachers to major in a content area, such as math or science . Those who major in a content area typically enroll in their university’s teacher preparation program and take classes in education and child psychology .

Online teacher preparation programs are becoming an increasingly popular option for adult learners who choose to go back to school to become a teacher. This includes those who want to earn a Bachelor’s or Master’s in Education as well as those who are looking to become certified by completing a teacher preparation program and adding onto their existing degrees.

Some states require kindergarten and elementary school teachers to earn a master’s degree after receiving their teaching certification. Many teachers augment their existing bachelor’s degree by pursuing their Master’s in Education online while continuing to work.

Teachers in private schools do not need to meet state requirements. However, private schools typically seek kindergarten and elementary school teachers who have a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education .

Teacher Certification

All states require teachers in public schools to be licensed (certified).5

Kindergarten and elementary school teachers are typically certified to teach early childhood grades – preschool through third grade, or elementary school grades – first through sixth grades or first through eighth grades.

Certification of middle school teachers varies considerably from state to state. In some states, they are certified to teach elementary school grades, which are typically first through 6th grades or first through 8th grades. In other states, they are certified to teach middle school grades, which include 6th through 8th grades. Still other states provide middle school teachers with a secondary school or high school certification, which often includes 7th through 12th grades.6


3 Bureau of Labor Statistics, How to Become a Kindergarten or Elementary School Teacher, 2012, p.1
http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Education-Training-and-Library/Kindergarten-and-elementary-school-teachers.htm#tab-4

4 Bureau of Labor Statistics, What Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers Do, 2012, p.1
http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Education-Training-and-Library/Kindergarten-and-elementary-school-teachers.htm#tab-2

5 Bureau of Labor Statistics, How to Become a Kindergarten or Elementary School Teacher, 2012, p.1
http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Education-Training-and-Library/Kindergarten-and-elementary-school-teachers.htm#tab-4

6 Bureau of Labor Statistics, How to Become a Middle School Teacher, 2012, p.1
http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/middle-school-teachers.htm#tab-4