How To Become And Elementary School Teacher

How To Become An Elementary School Teacher

Elementary school teachers provide a foundation for students’ futures. They teach students how to read, write, and do math. In order to become an elementary school teacher, you must first become a teacher.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

You need a bachelor’s degree in education with an emphasis in elementary education to become an elementary school teacher. Your bachelor’s degree must be from an accredited university or college in order to be certified as an elementary school teacher by your state board of education. It is also important that you take classes in child development, reading comprehension, language arts, and other subjects related to teaching young children. In addition to earning a bachelor’s degree in education with an emphasis on teaching young children, you should also earn at least one course credit in each of the following subjects: history, science, social studies, math and English composition (if not required by your major).

Step 2: Complete Certification Requirements

Once you have earned your degree from an accredited university or college with an emphasis on teaching young children (and at least one course credit in each of four core subject areas), it’s time to take the next step toward becoming an elementary school teacher: certification requirements.

How To Become And Elementary School Teacher

Teaching is can be a rewarding career, especially at the elementary level. Elementary school teachers can help foster the social and intellectual development of their young students and make a lasting impact on their students’ relationship to learning. In this article, we discuss what an elementary school teacher does, the skills needed to succeed in this role and how to become an elementary school teacher.

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What does an elementary school teacher do?

Elementary school teachers are educators that specialize in training students primarily from kindergarten through fifth grade. However, some schools and states do include pre-kindergarten and/or sixth grade in with the other elementary grades. Most subjects in a kindergarten through fifth-grade classroom are taught through a single, primary teacher, which requires elementary school teachers to be able to provide instruction in all subjects. Because of this, most elementary school teachers lead a single classroom of the same children throughout the day.

The primary subjects taught in elementary school provide foundational skills in reading and writing, social studies. history, science and basic mathematics. The responsibilities of an elementary school teacher typically include:

  • Fostering an engaging and inclusive learning environment for each student in the classroom
  • Creating and enforcing classroom procedures for managing the classroom
  • Coordinating with school staff and administrators, as well as the parents/guardians of the children
  • Stocking the classroom with learning materials
  • Supervising students throughout the day, and accompanying them when they participate in activities away from the classroom
  • Tailoring a curriculum plan for the school year. This includes planning lessons, giving tests and administering homework assignments
  • Providing evaluations and grades for each individual student based on their work, behavior and overall performance
  • Equipping students for standardized testing, administering the tests while following local and state guidelines and providing feedback
  • Staying up to date on classroom and curriculum standards

Skills for elementary school teachers

There are several skills required for an elementary school teacher to be both effective and successful. Some of the hard and soft skills necessary for being an effective elementary school teacher are:

  • Flexibility
  • Emotional control in high-stress situations
  • Patience
  • Ability to collaborate and coordinate within a team
  • Empathy
  • Compassion
  • Resilience
  • Communication skills for effectively speaking to the students, their guardians and administration
  • Thorough understanding of elementary-level education and academic subjects, such as mathematics, social studies, vocabulary, science, reading and writing
  • Competence at teaching the students the importance of appropriate critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and aiding in their development of these skills
  • Ability to manage a classroom and the individual needs and issues of the students
  • Knowledge of how to teach students with different learning styles, abilities and backgrounds
  • Positive and enthusiastic attitude towards learning that serves as a model for the students

Related: Learn About Being a Teacher

How to become an elementary school teacher

If you’re interested in becoming an elementary school teacher, you can follow these steps:

1. Earn a bachelor’s degree in elementary education

First and foremost, prospective teachers must earn a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. You can pursue a degree in general education and then specialize in elementary levels, or you can obtain a degree in elementary education specifically. Though earning a teaching degree is recommended, those with a bachelor’s degree in a different subject or focus can still become an elementary teacher by either attending a teacher education program or by earning a master’s degree in elementary education. Though only a bachelor’s degree is required for most states, some states do require that future teachers earn a master’s degree before entering the profession.

Topics taught in a teacher education program typically include:

  • Educational psychology
  • Child psychology
  • Child development
  • Teaching methods
  • Curriculum creation

Additional certifications are available through some elementary education programs that allow students to specialize in a specific area of elementary education. Some of these include:

  • Early Childhood and Elementary Education
  • Art K-12 Education
  • Special Education

Though earning a bachelor’s degree is usually the end of a teacher’s required formal education, educators are expected to be continuously training and learning new teaching techniques. Many of these opportunities are often facilitated and provided by the school itself, the school district or through private teaching conventions. However, teachers are also expected to seek out learning resources on their own for their personal and professional development. Regardless, earning a master’s degree can lead to career advancement and higher pay for teachers.

2. Complete an internship in an elementary school classroom

Most teacher education programs will require you to complete an internship and practicums in actual elementary classrooms during your third and fourth years of study. These internships provide students with a hands-on learning experience while still under the supervision of a teacher. This type of mentorship gives future teachers real-life experience working and teaching in a classroom with students.

Related: How to Find a Mentor

3. Take your state’s licensing exams

The specific licensing or certification requirements will vary by state as well as by school. Some private schools, for example, have different requirements that may not include obtaining licensure. However, the process is a requirement for working in all public schools. Obtaining licensing or certification typically requires that you pass a background check as well as certification exams.

Usually, states use different certification exams, or standardized tests, depending on the grade level of the teacher. For example, future elementary school teachers would have to pass an exam tailored to elementary education, like the NES Elementary Education exam or the Elementary Education Praxis exams. You may also be required to take a competency, or basic skills, test.

4. Begin applying for open positions

Once a teacher has obtained the appropriate degree and certification requirements, they are free to begin their job search. Though new teachers entering the profession are often unable to choose their ideal school or grade level the first year, there is still some room to be selective. Researching the different school districts in your area, as well as considering your own goals and preferences, is a good place to start when beginning your job search as a teacher.

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