Nature of the Profession
Kindergarten and elementary school teachers prepare younger students for future schooling by teaching them the basics of subjects such as math and reading. Middle school teachers educate students, most of whom are in sixth through eighth grades. They help students build on the fundamentals they learned in elementary school and prepare them for the more difficult lessons they will learn in high school. Special education teachers work with students who have a wide range of learning, mental, emotional and physical disabilities. With students who have mild or moderate disabilities, they ensure that lessons and teaching strategies are modified to meet the student’s needs. With students who have severe disabilities, they teach the student independent living skills and basic literacy, communication and math.
High school teachers help prepare students for life after graduation. They teach academic lessons and various skills that students will need to attend college and to enter the job market.
- Plan lessons in the subjects they teach, such as biology or history.
- Assess students to evaluate their abilities, strengths and weaknesses.
- Teach students as an entire class or in small groups.
- Grade students’ assignments to monitor progress.
- Communicate with parents about student’ progress
- Work with individual students to challenge them, to improve their abilities, and to work on their weaknesses.
- Prepare students for standardized tests required by the state.
- Develop and enforce classroom rules.
- Supervise students outside of the classroom-for example, at lunchtime or during detention.
Education and Training
Kindergarten, elementary, middle school and special education teachers must have at least a bachelor’s degree. In addition, public school teachers must have a state-issued certification or license.
High school teachers must have a bachelor’s degree. In addition, public school teachers must have a state-issued certification or license.
Kindergarten, elementary, middle school and special education teachers work in public and private schools. They generally work school hours when students are present, and use nights and weekends to prepare lessons and grade papers. Most kindergarten and elementary school teachers do not work during the summer.
High school teachers generally work school hours, which vary somewhat. However, they often spend time in the evenings and on weekends grading papers and preparing lessons. In addition, they may meet with parents, students, and other teachers before and after school. Plus, teachers who coach sports or advise clubs generally do so before or after school.
In May 2011, the median annual wage of kindergarten teachers was $48,000, the median annual wages of elementary school teachers was $51,660, middle school teachers was $51,960, high school teacher was $54,270 and special education teachers was $53,220.
Employment of kindergarten and elementary school teachers is expected to grow by 17 percent from 2010 to 2020, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Growth is expected because of both declines in student-teacher ratios and increases in enrollment.
Employment of high school teachers is expected to grow by 7 percent from 2010 to 2020. Growth is expected because of both declines in student-teacher ratios and increases in enrollment. Over the projection period, the number of students in high schools is expected to increase, and the number of classes needed to accommodate these students will also rise. As a result, more teachers will be required to teach these additional classes of high school students.