Preschool Teacher Training and Career Education Programs
Preschool teachers introduce language, math and social science concepts to children from birth to age five. Early childhood education credential, certificate and degree programs prepare these individuals to create and foster learning environments full of age-appropriate art projects, children's literature, games and music.
Training Requirements and Recommendations
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), more employers are now preferring to hire preschool teachers who have completed certificate or associate's degree programs (www.bls.gov). Many community colleges offer 1-year certificate programs and 2-year associate's degree programs that prepare individuals to sit for state licensing examinations; however, professional associations also offer fast-track credentialing programs. Traditional colleges and universities offer bachelor's degree programs in early childhood education, which are also appropriate for individuals who wish to become preschool teachers.
Early childhood education programs emphasize the incorporation of play with learning in order to hone children's motor skills and emotional, social and language development. Students in credentialing, certificate, associate's or bachelor's degree programs learn how to introduce reading and writing, expand children's vocabulary and investigate simple science concepts to children ages between the ages of three and five.
Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential Program
The Council for Professional Recognition provides the official CDA credential. This program provides an accelerated training for preschool and childcare professionals. Students gain this designation by completing several courses in early childhood education, including early childhood education foundations and infant-toddler growth and development. Upon completion, graduates may use the CDA professional designation and apply these credits towards future certificate or associate's degree programs.
Early Childhood Education Certificate Program
Certificate programs for preschool teachers offer courses in curriculum planning, childhood development and early childhood education principles. Students also learn about observation and assessment methods, daycare recordkeeping, preschool administration and health diseases. Students usually complete this program in one year. Graduates may find work as teaching aides and assistant preschool teachers for Head Start, daycare centers and nursery schools.
Associate's in Early Childhood Education Degree Program
Students enrolled in associate's degree programs complete foundational courses in English, history, mathematics, biology and psychology. They also study early childhood education courses, such as children's literature, child care administration, observation and assessment, language development and special needs instruction.
Associate's degree programs in early childhood education teach students how to use games, music, books and crafts to increase letter and number recognition and build phonemic awareness. Singing, dancing, rhyming games and storytelling often make up a typical day for preschool teachers. Graduates find employment as teachers at daycare centers, preschools and Head Start programs. Many may also be qualified to serve as directors for daycare or preschool centers.
Bachelor's in Early Childhood Education Degree Program
Bachelor's degree programs for preschool teachers include courses in college writing, history, and human growth and development. Students also study curriculum methods, childhood literacy, early childhood screening techniques and special needs instruction. A bachelor's degree program not only prepares students to teach preschool, but also may provide the opportunity for graduates to pursue state licensure necessary to teach kindergarten through early primary grades.
Practical experience plays an integral part in securing and advancing employment. Many preschool teachers enter the field as assistant teachers or aides. With increased experience and additional training, they may then be promoted to teachers, lead teachers or even preschool center directors.
Programs in early childhood education often require students to participate in student teaching observations or internships. This allows students to observe licensed preschool teachers and put their own skills to the test in actual classrooms.
Licenses and Certifications
Each state has its own licensing requirements for early childhood educators. Some require preschool teachers to have high school diplomas and CDA credentials, while others demand completion of formal degree programs. Licensure is awarded through each state's education department. The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education offers national certification. Individuals interested in becoming preschool teachers should verify their state's licensing guidelines when choosing an educational program.
Preschool teachers may also be required to seek first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certifications prior to employment. The BLS reports state laws require preschools to have at least one certified CPR and first aid instructor on staff at all times.
Additional Professional Development
Excellent communication, trustworthiness and reliability are necessary traits for preschool teachers. They must also be patient and capable of motivating and disciplining young children. Typically, preschool teachers work part-time and many have summers off. Preschool teachers working in daycare centers tend to work all year.
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