How to Become an Elementary School Teacher

Being an elementary teacher is often characterized as a thankless job, but elementary schools teachers are often hailed as some of the most appreciated and life-changing influences in young children's lives. Elementary school teachers need a wide range of skills, but patience, creativity, and endless amounts of energy top the list.

Elementary school teachers generally obtain a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education as well as state certification, which is often included in the curriculum. Aspiring school teachers often complete coursework in the following areas:

  • Child Psychology
  • Curriculum Planning and Design
  • Child Development
  • Science, Math, and History for Elementary School Teachers
  • Human Communications
  • Physiology

Elementary school teachers are required to have a broad range of skills across many subjects. Since they spend their entire day with a single group of students, knowledge of psychology and kinesthetics is important in motivating children and securing cooperation among twenty or more students. Teachers must communicate effectively with parents and administration as well, requiring excellent verbal skills and the ability to work through interpersonal conflict.

Online Elementary Education Degree Programs

As you know, the internet has proven a valuable learning tool for all types of activities. This includes the area of education. Online degrees have proven just as effective at preparing students for leading classrooms of all grade levels. In fact, as far back as 2009, the U.S. Department of Education recognized that online learning even has advantages over traditional classroom settings.

Many students completing an elementary education program will complete an internship in an elementary school. These students oftern return to the same schools as a substitute teacher, prior to being offered a full time position. Job security is considered above average in this position, and upward mobility is also above average. Elementary school teachers often describe their job as rewarding, even in a high-stress environment, and feel positive about their impact on young children.

Each state has its own teacher certification requirements to make sure job candidates meet a minimum set of standards that are unique to working in elementary education. However, you can expect your state to require a bachelor’s degree, and possibly a masters level education within a time-frame after they hire you.

If you want to teach children with special needs, you may have to go through additional certifications that focus on the extra skills necessary to be effective in that role. You may also want to get certified with the National Board for Professional Teaching to increase your potential salary range. Many districts incentivize earning more certifications and degrees with higher paying postions. Not to mention, if you earn a Masters or Doctoral degree in Education, you will qualify for administrative positions that can take you even further in your career.

Qualities and Skills of an Elementary School Teacher

Teaching all grade levels requires a certain level of patience, communication and creativity. You mind has to be sensitive and a caring attitude is necessary, especially when students are struggling. This can require immense patience, but the rewards of seeing a child have that “ah-ha!” moment is priceless.

To inspire those moments of achievement, you will need the communication skills to relate to children of all ages and types. Every child is different, has their own way of learning, interests, set of behaviors, and triggers for motivation. The right elementary education degree program will help you develop the skills to communicate effectively with all types of learners. As you learn, you will notice your level of patience will increase as you earn your degree.

Of course, working with children always requires creativity. Whether thinking of lesson plans that will engage young, curious minds, explaining tough topics that are beyond their life experience, or diffusing tears and meltdowns that every parent is familiar with. Don’t worry if you don’t consider yourself the creative type. Most degree programs will have courses and professors with insight into techniques for conjuring the creativity you need to build a classroom environment where students stay engaged.

Most Important Skills for Elementary School Teachers

Patience
Teaching 5-year-old can be difficult, and patience is essential.
Communication
The ability to communicate clearly and concisely is imperative.
Creativity
Developing new and fun exercises to help students learn in different ways.

Typical Responsibilities of Elementary School Teachers

Elementary school teachers experience greater flexibility than most careers, as hours are set and many teachers complete support work, such as correcting student work, at home. Most teachers have several months off during the summer, which may be used for securing additional training, educational sabbaticals, or teaching summer classes. Elementary school teachers are expected to see career growth of approximately 12% in the next decade which is an average rate of growth. Generally private schools offer higher salaries and experience less state regulation than public schools. However, public schools offer more comprehensive benefits packages that include coveted options such as pensions.

Elementary Teacher Core Responsibilities
– Develop appropriate lesson plan materials
– Help students prep for state and national standardized tests
– Be willing to set rules and guidelines for behavior in your classroom
– Grade papers, assess performance and give insightful feedback that will help students improve

Of course, there may be additional responsibilities that you sign up for as a teacher. With tight budgets nationwide, schools lean on teachers to step up in various ways. Whether you want to help coach the basketball team or supervise field trips or other activities. Going the extra mile for your employer, and the kids, will help you build camaraderie with the children and your peers.

Where Can I Teach With Elementary Education Certification?

By completing your state’s requirements you are eligible to apply to any state funded school you wish. If you want to teach in a privately funded school you will need to speak with them directly to learn their unique requirements. For instance, some private schools

What makes working in an elementary school unique?
Teaching at the elementary level is rewarding because you are getting an opportunity to teach a young mind still full of wonder and excitement about the world around them. Students at the early grade levels are learning new things at a rate that adults no longer comprehend.

Organizations and Associations Can Make the Difference

Joining associations specific to education should be a priority as soon as you enter the field. As you earn your degree, start reaching out to the major organizations that can give you insight and a feeling of connection to the field of education. These can be as supportive as they are informational. Many organizations offer yearly seminars, training, newsletters, and other forms of information that can help you stay relevant in the classroom.

Start by looking into these education associations:
– Association of American Educators aaeteachers.org
– National Education Association nea.org
– TEACH teach.org
– Association for Childhood Education International acei.org

There are associations for every type of teacher at every grade level and subject matter focus. As you continue your journey towards earning your degree, don’t focus solely on making good grades. Focus on building a network of peers and mentors that can help you be as successful as possible. Joining a relevant organization can be a great way to start feeling a sense of community in your teaching profession.

Salary Range for Elementary Level Educators

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that elementary school teachers earn an average of $53,760 per year. It is important to check your state’s average because this is the median national wage. The current range for elementary teachers is anywhere from $33,460 to $78,170 per year. Source.

One thing is certain, there are opportunities for professionals in the field of education, starting at the elementary level and beyond. If you are ready to start mapping your career, and want to start as a grade school teacher, the next step is choosing a degree program that will set you up for success.