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Elementary School Teachers

Kindergarten and elementary school are pivotal years in a child’s educational development. If you are patient, love children and desire to play a vital role in the future of your students, consider a career as a kindergarten or elementary school teacher.

Kindergarten and elementary school teachers can work at public, private or Department of Defense Education Activity schools. Teachers need a bachelor's degree and a state-issued certification or license. They may also need to complete a teacher preparation program and have supervised experience in teaching. You can find the licensure requirements for your current or future location by using the CareerOneStop License Finder. You can also view the Spouse Licensure Map on MySECO for state legislation and licensure information for your specific state. 

In 2017, the median annual wage for kindergarten teachers was $57,160 and $54,230 for elementary school teachers. Positions at this level have an average projected growth of 7 percent. As a kindergarten or elementary school teacher, you will prepare children by teaching them the basics of math and reading. You will assist students with social, communication and study skills, and in some schools, you may teach art, music or physical education. Other responsibilities you might have include the following:

  • Creating lesson plans to teach students a variety of subjects including math, reading, science and social studies
  • Assessing students and evaluating their strengths and weaknesses
  • Grading students, monitoring progress and communicating with parents about progress and challenges
  • Working with students individually to help them overcome challenges
  • Preparing students for standardized testing required by states
  • Developing and enforcing class guidelines to teach children correct behavior
  • Supervising children during lunch, recess and special programs outside the classroom

If you have a bachelor's degree and want to enter the field of teaching, alternative state and national teaching programs are available, which allow you to complete teaching requirements while working as a teacher. Conduct an internet search on ‘alternative teaching programs' for your state to get more information or consider a program such as Teach for America.

Discovering your passion

As a kindergarten or elementary school teacher, you have a huge impact on the development of your students. What children learn and experience during their early years can shape their views of themselves and the world and can affect success or failure in school, work and their personal lives.

Most elementary school teachers instruct one class of children in several subjects. You may use a variety of resources to teach your classes, such as computers, education software and the internet, which provide students with a vast range of experiences and promotes interactive learning.

As a teacher, you may work with students from varied ethnic, racial and religious backgrounds. With growing minority populations in many parts of the country, you must learn to work effectively with a diverse student population. You'll need to be creative, resourceful and patient to teach a variety of students from different backgrounds, all with different learning styles, personalities and behavior traits.

Teaching is one of the most difficult careers, but it is also a rewarding career. Some of the attributes of great teachers include the following:

  • Setting high expectations for your students and yourself
  • Having clear, written learning objectives for assignments
  • Preparing and organizing your workload and your classes
  • Engaging and motivating students
  • Mastering your subject matter
  • Communicating frequently with parents, other teachers and students who develop and learn at varying speeds
  • Asking colleagues and mentors for advice and support

To sustain your passion for teaching, you must continue to expand your knowledge and skills by learning from your students, other educators, articles, research, training and seminars.

Education and training

Once you have made the decision to pursue a career as a kindergarten or elementary school teacher, you can explore the many tools and resources on MySECO to assist you in achieving needed education requirements. College Scorecard is a great starting point for researching and selecting an education institution. When you visit College Scorecard, search by program/degree, location, size and more to find a program of study near you. You can also use the Scholarship Finder to assist with finding funding relevant to the military community to pay for classes. Check to see if you are eligible for My Career Advancement Account Scholarship assistance to help with education or licensure costs. Teaching Certifications and Licenses can also assist you in planning your training and job search.

Finding employment

One of the first places to look for jobs is the Military Spouse Employment Partnership Job Search. Hundreds of partner employers have made the commitment to recruit, hire, promote and retain military spouses in portable careers. Search for positions with your local school system and on the job boards of professional associations related to education. Investigate opportunities with DoDEA schools. Build a teaching portfolio to highlight your ideas, talents and successes in the field to increase your opportunities for finding employment.

Consider volunteering, if possible, or doing an internship and proactively networking to build your contacts and teaching experience. Tell family, friends, co-workers and all others that you are hoping to teach and ask for contacts they might have who can assist you in building and expanding your network.

Professional organizations and networking

You may wish to consider joining a professional organization in your career field to gain a better understanding of current industry trends in education. Professional organizations are great ways to continue your education through workshops and conferences, which will add to your transferable skill set as you move. Networking with other professionals in the teaching field will give you an edge in meeting the right people who may have the connections you need to obtain an interview or restart your career at your new location. They may provide important information about the teaching field, such as new technology, continuing education, teaching ideas, lesson plans and more. Read The Value of Professional Associations for more information on how becoming a member can help enhance your career.

Next steps

To learn more about teaching careers, review the Research Occupations tool on MySECO and investigate your options. Take self-assessments to make sure your skills and interests align with your career choice. Talk to others in the field and get their feedback. Call 800-342-9647 and speak with a career coach to discuss career or education choices, searching for a job or overcoming challenges. Coaches are available to review your resume, practice interviewing, discuss networking or assist you in understanding employer requirements for this field.

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