Early Childhood Teacher Certification in Washington

Early Childhood Education in Washington State

The majestic state of Washington is a place to behold. The magnificent diversity and natural beauty can almost be overwhelming.

Just as magnificent are the experiences you can have with small students in early childhood education. While many areas of the nation have reduced funding for pre-K programs, and enrollment has stalled in other states, Washington is an exception. Washington has a state-funded program for pre-K children and three-year-olds. The state only serves eight percent of four-year-olds, and one percent of three-year-olds, but it is seventh in the nation for spending per child, and the program achieves nine out of the 10 quality standards.

In 1985, Washington established the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) after research showed early education and family support produces better outcomes for children and families. ECEAP has developed a number of settings, private and public, including school districts, government, and colleges. The majority of children attending these programs are four-year-olds, and an income cutoff is established. At-risk three-year-olds can also be enrolled.

Washington has quite a few programs in place for early learning. The education department works with the Washington State Department of Early Learning, Thrive by Five Washington, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to provide early learning experiences for children and teachers. With the help of these organizations, the following options are available:

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 6,660 preschool teachers employed in Washington in 2012, earning an average of $28,960 annually.

How to Become an Early Childhood Educator in Washington

One of the NIEER’s quality benchmarks Washington has not met is requiring teachers to have a bachelor’s degree. To be a lead teacher in an early childhood setting, an individual need only meet one of the following two qualifications:

  • An associate or higher degree with the equivalent of 30 college credits of early childhood education. These credits may be included in the degree, or may be in addition to the degree
  • A valid Washington State teaching certificate with an endorsement in early childhood education or early childhood special education.


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Getting an Early Childhood Degree

offers the Early Childhood Education AAS Degree, which enables students to become lead teachers. Students in the program learn to create a portfolio showing their experience with children. Graduates become lead teachers in places such as Head Start, private preschools, and child care organizations. Credits may be transferred to four-year institutions.

at its Woodring College of Education. Graduates are licensed to teach pre-K through grade three, but also have experience with infants as well as pre-primary and primary students.

Washington has a number of community colleges offering associate degrees in early childhood education. Among them are Edmonds Community College, Spokane Falls Community College, and Green River Community College. Again, graduates are considered qualified to work in private preschools. They may continue on to teacher certification for public school teaching through Central Washington University’s teacher certification program (CERT), which is open to students with associate degrees.

Teacher Certification in Washington State

The types of teaching certificates include:

A Residency Certificate: issued to most first-time applicants for regular teaching certification. The requirements include:

  • A bachelor’s or higher degree
  • Completion of an approved teacher preparation program, or proof of three or more years of K through 12 teaching outside Washington with another state’s certificate
  • Passing the WEST-B basic skills test within 12 months of the permit
  • Passing the WEST-E endorsement content knowledge test within 12 months of the permit

Professional Certificate: the advanced-level certificate awarded to holders of a residency certificate who have completed the ProTeach Portfolio. The other requirements are:

  • Completion of a comparable program in another state
  • Holding a certificate from the national Board for Professional Teaching Standards
  • Taking coursework on abuse issues

Limited Teaching Certificates: offered to employers when there is a shortage of certified teachers.

There is also a Substitute Teaching Certificate which allows an individual with a bachelor’s degree who has been through a teaching program to substitute for 30 consecutive school days. This certificate is valid for life.

To keep a continuing certificate valid, it must be renewed every five years. Requirements include 150 approved clock hours of continuing education or 10 semester hours of academic credit.

Candidates must also undergo a background check and fingerprinting. One credential many employers look for is a STARS training certificate. This certifies that the candidate has been through a 20-hour basic training involving instructor observation in a classroom setting, coaching, and a written assignment, among other components.

Where to Look for a Job in Early Childhood Education

Washington’s Head Start and Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program hires many early childhood teachers who deal with three- and four-year-olds in preschool classes and help families with parenting and related skills. A sample position recently listed was a lead teacher at the Denise Louie Education Center. This position required an associate or bachelor’s degree in early childhood education, and focused on classroom management, parent involvement, and teaching preschool children in a multicultural and multilingual environment.

The Cottage Schools located in Montlake and West Seattle, often have positions for early childhood teachers, both full- and part-time.

Wellspring Family Services in Seattle operates a preschool employing lead and assistant teachers. An assistant teacher/advocate is described as assisting the lead teacher with child care, parent support and child advocacy. Among the requirements were a STARS training certificate and a degree with early childhood education credits.

Professional Organizations for Teachers in Washington

The Department of Early Learning is an agency created by the governor in 2006, focusing on early education and aiding parents. It also sets child care rules and provides helpful resources.

Washington State PTA is the largest volunteer organization in the state, advocating and providing resources for children and families.

AFT Washington is a union for teachers representing faculty, professional staff, K-12, and Head Start centers. The aim is to provide a voice at the state level for child care centers, teachers and staff.


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Education Blogs from Washington

Teacher Tom is an outstanding early childhood teacher in Seattle, Washington, whose widely-known blog is a favorite with many people. Teacher Tom: Teaching and Learning From Preschoolers is full of reflections, discoveries, grounded advice, and activities to engage preschoolers created by a teacher who loves what he is doing. Be sure to check this blog out. His authoritative favorites section has many useful links and resources.

A blog for today’s world, Technology In Early Childhood is maintained by an assistant junior kindergarten teacher in a private school with a degree in elementary education and an endorsement in early childhood education. She enjoys technology and loves finding ways to incorporate it into the kindergarten curriculum.

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