According to the National Education Association, kindergarten is the bridge between early childhood care and elementary school. As a result, it is a very important year for students and requires some special knowledge from teachers.
Kindergarten teachers have a lot of the same responsibilities of other teachers but also have to take into account that many of their students will be experiencing school for the first time. They must teach students basic skills in reading and writing in addition to showing them how to behave in the classroom and play nicely with others.
Kindergarten teachers need to be able to assess where students are academically and emotionally in order to set goals for the class and individual students. With the exception of extracurricular activities such as physical education, art class, or lunch, all lessons are typically conducted in one classroom.
In order to teach, a bachelor’s degree is required in addition to a teaching certificate. Kindergarten teachers are usually certified to teach any grade between kindergarten and fifth or sixth grade. For teachers who have a strong desire to teach kindergarten, it may be wise to have practical experience or coursework in early childhood education.
A Day in the Life
- Morning: Kindergarten teachers will start the day early by preparing the days lesson and getting the classroom ready for students. She may greet students and parents when they get dropped off and instruct students to put their things away upon entering the classroom. Some schools will offer students breakfast or a snack in the morning and the teacher will be responsible for distributing that.
- Mid-Morning: By mid-morning, the teacher may have students learning while sitting on a rug, or she might take a more hands-on approach to some lessons and have them work in groups at tables.
- Lunch: A teacher assistant might take the children out for lunch and recess. This gives the teacher time to look at homework, clean the classroom, and prepare for the afternoon lessons.
- Afternoon: The teacher may have additional time to plan lessons while the students take a nap after recess. After nap time, instruction resumes. The teacher may have the option to put the teacher assistant in charge of part of the class so that students can work in small groups or individually and still get the attention they need.
- After Work: Kindergarten teachers, especially in the first few years, will likely have work to do after the students leave. This can include planning lessons, calling parents, meeting with school administrators, or checking homework.
A bachelor’s degree is the minimum education required for kindergarten teachers across the nation, but many states reward teachers who have a master’s degree with a higher salary. Public school teachers have to receive state certification that shows they are capable of teaching any elementary school grade. This is done usually through a combination of certification classes, standardized tests, and a practicum. Our state certification pages have detailed information about what each state requires for kindergarten teachers.
Areas of Specialization
Kindergarten teachers have the same options for specialization as any elementary school teacher. They can receive additional training to teach music, art, or physical education. They may also consider earning a master’s degree in special education in order to increase their salary potential and be able to effectively teach students with learning differences.
Previous and Next Steps
Before landing a job as a kindergarten teacher, many people worked as interns in schools and other educational organizations. Working as a substitute teacher often does not require a credential and is a good way to get experience while going to school for a degree or certificate. Administrators will also sometimes look to the substitute pool when trying to decide who to hire for a full-time position.
Kindergarten teachers can build on their experience over time and make their skills work in other positions. For instance, some schools have grade level chair positions, which means one kindergarten teacher would supervise the other kindergarten teachers. Another option is to spend a year as a teacher on special assignment. These teachers can focus on a specific area where the school might be struggling such as literacy, technology, or discipline, and mentor teachers on how to improve in that area. There are many options for kindergarten teachers to further their careers if they are willing to gain additional experience and education.
For average salary information for kindergarten teachers (and several other early childhood education-related positions), go to our Jobs page and select a state.