Preschool teacher requirements vary dramatically from state to state, as each state has its own licensing requirements.
Employers will always insist teachers be first aid- and CPR-certified and have a high school degree. Sometimes that's enough. Some schools and child care centers require additional education, such as an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree in early childhood education, elementary education or something equivalent from an accredited, four-year university. These new graduates may be expected to complete a student-teaching program at a preschool where they plan to work and train under the supervision of professional teachers.
Some preschools start off new instructors as assistant teachers to see how well they interact with the class. Such places may require these new teachers to have a certain number of hours of classroom experience before they can become a lead teacher.
All public preschools require teachers to be licensed; private institutions may not impose this requirement. Other credentials include the Child Development Accreditation and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certification.
Requirements also vary based on the type of funding the preschool program receives and the employer's expectations. For example, Head Start programs need to meet federal standards for teacher requirements. Usually, teachers are obligated to complete a minimum number of training hours each year.
All of these requirements are important, but so are personal characteristics. Preschool teachers should be organized, patient, creative and, above all, enjoy working with kids. Strong communication skills are key, as teachers must interact with toddlers, colleagues, parents and administrators. They need to be able to earn children's trust as well as motivate them and meet their emotional needs.
You already know why nursery school can be a significant part of a child's education. But do you know if preschool attendance can influence crime rates? Let's look at how preschool impacts the bigger picture on the next page.