What do you picture when you imagine a preschool teacher? Is it a brightly dressed, smiling face with a child-like enthusiasm? A professional that’s eager to make a difference in your child’s life? If so, you’re on the right track.
When finding the right preschool for your child, there’s more to consider than the facilities and curriculum. Your preschooler will be spending hours a day with their teacher, and you want them to be with the best. Let’s take a look at the many characteristics that make a great preschool teacher so you know what to be on the lookout for.
The amount of education and certification necessary to become a preschool teacher varies from state to state and from school to school. While some only require a high school diploma and state certification, others require a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education or a related field. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, preschool teachers typically have an associate’s degree at a minimum. A bachelor’s degree in early childhood education or something similar is still recommended, as it teaches valuable lessons that will only make them a better teacher.
In their studies, they will learn about:
- Age-appropriate curriculum and programs
- Health, safety, and nutrition
- Child psychology and development
- Proper parent involvement and communication
Oftentimes, their knowledge and skill will correlate to the experience your child has. Because of this, the teacher’s education plays an important role in your child’s learning.
Certification standards vary from state to state and from private school to public school. Nonetheless, having nationally recognized certification in the field is required. Knowing what certification your preschooler’s teacher has attained can help you assess their qualification.
Child Development Associate (CDA)
CDA certification is the most common in early childhood education. Earning this requires:
- A high school diploma
- 480 hours of working with children
- 120 hours or more of formal childhood education
Certified Childcare Professional (CCP)
The National Childcare Association’s CCP credential can be attained by those without a degree or those with a degree in an unrelated field. Recipients of this certification must renew it every two years.
CPR and First Aid
The safety of your child is of the utmost importance to you and should be for their teacher as well. All preschool teachers should be trained and certified in first aid and CPR.
Beyond the Education: Personality of a Great Preschool Teacher
Though education can be a good indicator of a teacher’s quality, it is not the only factor. What really makes a great preschool teacher goes beyond the degree they attained.
Passion for Preschool
Molding the minds of young children is a big responsibility. Doing so requires not just proper education but, more importantly, passion to do so. This passion is what will get a teacher through their most trying days because, to them, it’s always worth it. Their love for what they do and the students they do it for is what will inspire and motivate their preschool students.
Working with a bunch of rambunctious preschoolers with lots of energy and questions takes patience more than anything. At this age, students are still learning the basics of life like manners, hygiene, and the classroom system. That said, some learn faster than others. Having to adapt to each preschooler’s learning abilities while maintaining order in the classroom takes composure, endurance, and, the golden word, patience.
Everyone could use a little structure, but this is especially true for pre-k age children. When they know what they’re getting into next, whether it’s snack time or shapes, they can dive into the activity with confidence and without anxiety. This organization not only applies to their classroom and lesson plans but also with their communication with parents.
A good communicator makes a great preschool teacher. They use these skills to communicate with two very important, yet very different sets of people— the students and the parents.
Talking to Preschoolers
Children are like sponges who soak up everything you say. At this stage in their life, preschool children are just starting to develop and expand their linguistic skills. A preschool teacher must be able to help them do so by engaging them in back-and-forth conversation, asking questions, and using words that catch their interest. Listening is also a vital part of these communications. Pre-k children want to feel like they have your care and attention.
Talking to Parents
Parent-teacher communication is extremely vital, especially at this stage of education. The parent and teacher are the two most influential people in a child’s life. A great preschool teacher makes an effort to foster this relationship and communicate through mediums that work best for the parent whether it’s parent-teacher conferences, emails, home visits, etc.
Even with the best organization, things can go awry, especially in the preschool setting. Being able to appropriately adapt in these situations is important. Everything from a rainy day to a limited budget can throw a wrench in things. The way a preschool teacher reacts to certain situations and works around them reveals a lot about their character.
Going hand in hand with flexibility is creativity. Not only should a teacher be able to create lessons that keep pre-K students engaged and interested, but they may also have to use that creativity to develop alternative plans if and when things suddenly take a turn.
It takes a lot to capture the attention of a preschooler. A great teacher can cultivate a child’s interest by offering new perspectives and approaches to subjects and bringing that child-like enthusiasm to the table.
Every child is different. They learn differently and come from a wide array of backgrounds. A great preschool teacher should be accepting and understanding of this diversity and tailor their teaching to it.
If a teacher has a passion for education, they also likely have dedication. Dedication to their students and dedication to their career path can take a good preschool teacher to a great one.
When evaluating your child’s preschool teacher it is important to look at both their education and their character. Preschool is a formative period in a child’s life and, as a parent, you want to ensure they have a great preschool teacher to guide them through it.