Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers

by Kate Williams

What Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers Do

Kindergarten and elementary school teachers instruct young students in basic subjects in order to prepare them for future schooling.

Work Environment

Kindergarten and elementary school teachers work in public and private schools. They generally work during 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.

How to Become a Kindergarten or Elementary School Teacher

Kindergarten and elementary school teachers usually must have at least a bachelor’s degree. In addition, public school teachers must have a state-issued certification or license.

Pay

The median annual wage for elementary school teachers, except special education was $59,670 in May 2019.

The median annual wage for kindergarten teachers, except special education was $56,850 in May 2019.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of kindergarten and elementary school teachers is projected to grow 4 percent from 2019 to 2029, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Rising student enrollment should increase demand for kindergarten and elementary teachers, but employment growth will vary by region.

Kindergarten and elementary school teachers instruct young students in basic subjects, such as math and reading, in order to prepare them for middle school.

Duties

Kindergarten and elementary school teachers typically do the following:

  • Create lesson plans to teach students subjects, such as reading, science, and math
  • Teach students how to interact with others
  • Observe students to evaluate their abilities, strengths, and weaknesses
  • Instruct an entire class or smaller groups of students
  • Grade students’ assignments
  • Communicate with parents or guardian about their child’s progress
  • Work with students individually to help them overcome specific learning challenges
  • Prepare students for standardized tests required by the state
  • Develop and enforce classroom rules to teach children proper behavior
  • Supervise children outside of the classroom—for example, during lunchtime or recess

Kindergarten and elementary school teachers help students learn and apply important concepts. Many teachers use a hands-on approach to help students understand abstract concepts, solve problems, and develop critical-thinking skills. For example, they may demonstrate how to do a science experiment and then have the students conduct the experiment themselves. They may have students work together to solve problems.

Elementary school typically goes from first through fifth or sixth grades. However, in some schools, elementary school continues through eighth grade.

Kindergarten and elementary school teachers typically instruct students in several subjects throughout the day. Teachers may escort students to assemblies, recess, or classes taught by other teachers, such as art or music. While students are away from the classroom, teachers plan lessons, grade assignments, or meet with other teachers and staff.

In some schools, teachers may work on subject specialization teams in which they teach one or two specific subjects, typically either English and social studies or math and science. Generally, students spend half their time with one teacher and half their time with the other.

There are kindergarten and elementary school teachers who specialize in subjects such as art, music, or physical education.

Some schools employ English as a second language (ESL) or English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) teachers who work exclusively with students learning the English language. These teachers work with students individually or in groups to help them improve their English language skills and to help them with class assignments.

Students with learning disabilities or emotional or behavioral disorders are often taught in traditional classes. Kindergarten and elementary teachers work with special education teachers to adapt lesson plans to these students’ needs and monitor the students’ progress. In some cases, kindergarten and elementary school teachers may co-teach lessons with special education teachers.

Some teachers use technology in their classroom as a teaching aide. They must be comfortable with using and learning new technology. Teachers also may maintain websites to communicate with parents about students’ assignments, upcoming events, and grades. For students in higher grades, teachers may create websites or discussion boards to present information or to expand on a lesson taught in class.

Elementary school teachers, except special education held about 1.5 million jobs in 2019. The largest employers of elementary school teachers, except special education were as follows:

Elementary and secondary schools; local85%
Elementary and secondary schools; private13

Kindergarten teachers, except special education held about 127,700 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of kindergarten teachers, except special education were as follows:

Elementary and secondary schools; local81%
Elementary and secondary schools; private14
Child day care services3

Most states have tenure laws, which provide job security after a certain number of years of satisfactory teaching.

Kindergarten and elementary school teachers may find it rewarding to watch students develop new skills and learn information. However, teaching may be stressful. Some schools have large classes and lack important teaching tools, such as computers and up-to-date textbooks. Some states are developing teacher mentoring programs and teacher development courses to help with the challenges of being a teacher.

Work Schedules

Kindergarten and elementary school teachers generally work during school hours when students are present. They may meet with parents, students, and other teachers before and after school. They often spend time in the evenings and on weekends grading papers and preparing lessons.

Many kindergarten and elementary school teachers work the traditional 10-month school year and have a 2-month break during the summer. They also have a short midwinter break. Some teachers work during the summer.

Teachers in districts with a year-round schedule typically work 9 weeks in a row, and then have a break for 3 weeks before starting a new schooling session.

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of kindergarten and elementary school teachers.

 OccupationJob DutiesEntry-Level EducationMedian Annual Pay, May 2019
 

Career and Technical Education Teachers

Career and technical education teachers instruct students in various technical and vocational subjects, such as auto repair, healthcare, and culinary arts.

Bachelor’s degree$58,110
 

Childcare Workers

Childcare workers attend to the basic needs of children, such as dressing, feeding, and overseeing play.

High school diploma or equivalent$24,230
 

Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals

Elementary, middle, and high school principals oversee all school operations, including daily school activities.

Master’s degree$96,400
 

High School Teachers

High school teachers teach academic lessons and various skills that students will need to attend college and to enter the job market.

Bachelor’s degree$61,660
 

Instructional Coordinators

Instructional coordinators oversee school curriculums and teaching standards. They develop instructional material, implement it, and assess its effectiveness.

Master’s degree$66,290
 

Librarians

Librarians help people find information and conduct research for personal and professional use.

Bachelor’s degree$59,500
 

Middle School Teachers

Middle school teachers educate students, typically in sixth through eighth grades.

Bachelor’s degree$59,660
 

Postsecondary Teachers

Postsecondary teachers instruct students in a wide variety of academic and technical subjects beyond the high school level.

See How to Become One$79,540
 

Preschool Teachers

Preschool teachers educate and care for children younger than age 5 who have not yet entered kindergarten.

Associate’s degree$30,520
 

School and Career Counselors

School counselors help students develop the academic and social skills needed to succeed. Career counselors help people choose a path to employment.

Master’s degree$57,040
 

Social Workers

Social workers help people solve and cope with problems in their everyday lives.

See How to Become One$50,470
Special education teachers

Special Education Teachers

Special education teachers work with students who have a wide range of learning, mental, emotional, and physical disabilities.

Bachelor’s degree$61,030
 

Teacher Assistants

Teacher assistants work with a licensed teacher to give students additional attention and instruction.

Some college, no degree$27,920

For more information about teaching and becoming a teacher, visit

American Federation of Teachers

National Education Association

Teach.org

For more information about teacher preparation programs, visit

Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers.

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