10 Characteristics of a Great Preschool Teacher

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. 

Education Requirements  

A Degree

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.

woman in gray long sleeve shirt sitting beside boy in orange crew neck shirt

Other Certification

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.   

Patience

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. 

woman teaching girl

Organization

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. 

Communication Skills

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. 

Flexibility 

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. 

Creativity

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.

Open-Minded Understanding

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. 

Dedication

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.

Conclusion

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. 

Essential Tips for Preschool Parent-Teacher Communication

You’ve probably heard the saying that goes a little something like “The home is a child’s first school and the parent is the child’s first teacher.” Even little everyday moments with your child can turn into essential learning for them, especially during their pivotal developmental years. 

Though your child will inevitably transition into pre-k, a parent never transitions out of the teacher role. But the good news is you do gain a teammate in this journey— your child’s preschool teacher! Together, you will help your child grow and learn about the world around them, making effective parent-teacher communication vital.  

In this article, we will discuss:

  • Why positive parent-teacher communication is important 
  • Types of communication
  • How to foster beneficial parent-teacher interactions
  • Effective communication strategies 

Let’s jump in!

Why is parent-teacher communication important? 

Once a child starts school, they will spend nearly as much time with their teacher as they do their parents. Because you and your preschooler’s teacher are the most prominent adult figures in their lives, it makes sense that the way you interact with each other matters. 

Research has shown that a positive connection between parent and teacher helps to improve grades, social skills, attitude towards school and learning, work habits, and behavior. Not only does this partnership benefit the child, but it also benefits the parent and teacher. Johns Hopkins University evaluated this partnership and discovered significant results.

For one, parents reported trusting teachers and acknowledging their impact more when they have there is strong communication. Secondly, parent-teacher communication builds better teacher morale. Teachers reported that it makes them feel happier and more proficient as an educator when solid communication is established. Both of these are key factors in creating a healthy environment where children are empowered to learn.

Types of Communication 

Communication comes in many forms, shapes, and sizes. Here’s a little about the types of communication you can expect to see from your preschooler’s classroom.

One-Way Communication 

One-way communication is:

  • Linear
  • Strictly informative or persuasive 
  • Requires no response

A one-way interaction in the pre-k classroom setting goes from the teacher to parent. In this form of communication, the teacher is the authority and the parent is simply a listener. Common examples of this are newsletters and announcements that are sent home with your child.

This type of communication certainly has a time and a place. Still, to foster a good parent-teacher relationship, two-way communication is crucial.  

Two-Way Communication 

Two-way communication, on the other hand, is interactive and focused on feedback. Parents and teachers in this communication style are equals, working together for the success of the child. 

Examples of two-way communication are: 

  • Parent-teacher conferences 
  • Committee meetings 
  • Open, collaborative discussion via email or phone

Though both ways of communication are valid, two-way communication is the most impactful in building a genuine parent-teacher partnership.

Tips for Fostering Good Parent-Teacher Communication

Follow the Three C’s 

The Early Learning Network introduced three main components that foster a good parent-teacher partnership: communication, consistency, and collaboration

Communication 

It is important to establish communication and connection early on with your child’s pre-k teacher. Ways to do this are: 

  1. Make it clear from the beginning that you want to take an active role in your preschooler’s learning. 
  2. Discuss the best form of contact whether it be by phone, email, notes, or in-person meetings. 
  3. Always be transparent and timely with responses. Two-way communication is key.
  4. Attend meetings to talk about your child’s strengths, struggles, progress, likes, dislikes, and goals. 

Consistency

Establishing a consistent routine to enhance your preschooler’s education at home demonstrates that you and their teacher are in this together. To do so: 

  1. Ask their teacher how you can encourage and enforce continued learning at home. 
  2. Create a homework and learning routine. Having a consistent time and quiet place for this will make an impact. 
  3. Encourage healthy habits in everything from reading to eating to being active.
  4. Make sure that you and the teacher are on the same page when it comes to your child’s growth and learning. This lets them know that you are all in it together. 

Collaboration

Each of the Three C’s builds upon each other, so having consistent communication will make this step a lot easier. To promote collaboration: 

  1. Share the goals and expectations you each have for your preschooler during this school session. 
  2. Openly discuss how you can both help your child reach those and what modifications may need to be made based on their individual strengths and weaknesses. 
  3. Address concerns and solve problems together. 

Ask the Right Questions

Though there isn’t a special formula for the perfect parent-teacher interaction, there are important topics that should be discussed. These include classroom learning activities, your child’s accomplishments, and how to continue the learning at home.

Classroom Learning Activities

A parent should stay informed on what their child is doing and learning in their pre-k classroom. This allows them to assess the quality of their pre-k curriculum and find ways to support in-class learning. 

Child Accomplishments 

It is easy to get discouraged when the only interaction a parent has with a teacher is about a child’s misbehavior or shortcomings. When such bad news outweighs good news, it can make it seem like parents aren’t effectively helping their children, even if that’s not the case. While it is important to address issues that may arise, it’s equally as important to celebrate victories together. Remember, this is a team effort. 

Continued Learning 

Though your title is parent, you are still a teacher to your child. Again, you and your child’s preschool instructor are a team. Parents and teachers should discuss how they can take what their child is learning in the classroom and implement it into the home. In doing so, they can continue to practice and perfect the skills they’re developing. 

Strategies for Effective Parent-Teacher Communication

In-Person Meetings

Meeting with your preschooler’s teacher goes beyond the occasional parent-teacher conference. Opportunities to volunteer at school events, open houses, and after-school functions are all ways to engage in face-to-face communication. If none of these are feasible for your family, ask about home visits. 

Technology

We live in a digital age, which has created seemingly endless opportunities for interaction. It has also made frequent parent-teacher communication even more available. Email, video chat, and text are all ways for teachers and parents to maintain meaningful communication. 

Written Communication 

A more old-school route would be written communication. If you prefer, you can send your little one with a note for their teacher. 

Conclusion

Establishing good parent-teacher communication is one of the best things you can do for your child. Together, you are their support system. The stronger the communication and partnership is, the stronger the support system.

Red Flags to Look for in a Preschool Facility

When you drop your child off at preschool, you want nothing more than to get them back happy and healthy at the end of the day. But unfortunately, this isn’t the reality for many families across the nation. Time and time again we hear of preventable preschool tragedies caused by inadequate or outdated facilities and equipment and improperly trained staff. 

This is why it is so important for parents to take the time to find a preschool that takes the right precautions to keep their kiddos safe. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the red flags to look for in a preschool facility.

How to Spot Red Flags

You may be wondering how you can find dangers lurking in a preschool without the ability to do a thorough inspection. 

Research

Don’t be afraid to do a little digging online. You can often find complaints filed against preschools or reviews written by other parents. These can give some indication of what a school is doing right or wrong.

Walk-throughs and In-person Visits

Many schools allow prospective families to tour the preschool before enrolling. This is a great opportunity to get eyes on the inside and take note of anything that may be of concern. Make sure to ask questions about safety precautions in and out of the classroom.

Ask the School for Certifications

Properly certified schools should be happy to provide you with information about their certification. Look into this carefully as some certifications are just voluntary self-checks. Make sure that the inspection or certification was completed by a legitimate third party and that inspections are performed on a regular basis.

Just these three things can help you catch dangers in a classroom that could cause potential harm to your child.

Red Flags to Look for in a Preschool Facility

While doing your research on different preschools in your area, be on the lookout for these red flags. 

On the Playground 

According to the National Safety Council, some of the biggest playground hazards include:

  • Improper ground surfaces: Swings and other playground equipment should be situated on the proper surface. Acceptable surfaces include: pea gravel, mulch, wood chips, or mats made of safety-tested rubber.  Beware of exposed concrete footing, large rocks, or tree stumps. 
  • Unprotected elevated areas: Any platform that is higher than thirty inches should have protective barriers or guardrails. 
  • Overcrowded areas: Equipment should not be crowded. Ample space should exist between swing set areas. 
  • Head entrapment spaces: Little heads can get trapped in small spaces, posing a strangulation hazard. Openings between rungs, rails, and ropes should be more than 9 inches or less than 3.5 inches.
  • Sharp edges and points: Equipment and structures outside should not have any sharp protruding points or edges like bolt ends, hooks, and more. 

Another aspect of playground and outdoor safety that is often overlooked is sun exposure. Schools should take steps to limit children’s sun exposure during peak hours and ensure that playground equipment is not hot to the touch. 

In the Classroom

Just like parents take steps to baby-proof and toddler-proof their homes, preschools should take steps to kid-proof their classroom. Even the simplest of precautions, such as electrical outlet covers, can prevent fatal accidents from occuring.

Entrances and Exits

Doors should be locked from the outside to prevent unwanted guests from entering a classroom without first checking in. However, for fire safety reasons, doors should not be locked from the inside. Handrails should accompany any stairs or inclined walkways. When it comes to windows, they need to be properly secured, as preschoolers can fall out and injure themselves.

Storage of Dangerous Objects and Toxic Substances

Materials and supplies that pose a danger to children such as tacks, scissors, cleaning solvents, and more should be kept safely locked away from small hands.

Walls and Electrical Sockets

Children are curious and will naturally want to stick objects where they shouldn’t go, like in electrical sockets. All wall sockets should have plastic covers. Wall hangings should be light and out of a child’s reach. 

Untethered Furniture 

Bookcases, shelves, televisions, and other large pieces of furniture should be secured to walls to prevent them from falling on children. Corners of all furniture pieces should also be rounded to prevent injury.

Floor Hazards and Ceiling Damage

The floor should be free of any splinters or sharp objects and generally clear of obstacles and debris. Rugs should have a non-slip mat or tape underneath to prevent kids from tripping or sliding on the rug. Similarly, make sure to check the area above your head for things like water damage. This can cause roof tiles to crumble and fall unexpectedly or become moldy.

Unsanitized Surfaces

Preschools are a breeding ground for viruses and bacteria. Ensure that the school properly sanitizes and cleans the surfaces that the children come in contact with most often to prevent the spread of illness. 

In addition to these specific safety concerns, it’s also important that your child has adequate supervision. Huge class sizes and high student to instructor ratios may mean that your child isn’t getting the attention they need. It also means that they aren’t being watched as carefully as they should, leaving the window open for potential accidents. PrekAdvisor recommends a student-teacher ratio of no more than 10:1. 

Steps the Staff Can Take

Safety-wise, one of the most important things that you can ensure is that the staff at the preschool has undergone adequate background checks and are all trained and certified in CPR and first aid. This helps ensure that even if something does accidentally occur on the school’s watch, everyone around will be trained and up-to-date on the best techniques to help your child. 

Early childhood educators should also take time to practice necessary emergency procedures with students, including fire drills and lockdown scenarios. When children are familiar with these, they will be better prepared to react efficiently should the real event occur. 

Conclusion

Just by knowing these few things to look out for, you can help ensure a safe preschool experience for your child. If your child is already enrolled in preschool and you notice that something is amiss, bring it up to your child’s teacher or preschool director. The change may not be hard to make, but it could make the difference in a child’s wellbeing. 

Preschool Picassos: The Importance of Arts in Early Childhood

When you think of traditional preschool activities, your mind may immediately see images of finger painting, crafts, songs and dance, and other artistic endeavors. It’s no coincidence that these are usually the first scenes that come to mind— the arts play a significant role across many preschool and early childhood curriculums around the world.

And for good reason, too. The arts are more than just a creative outlet for children. It’s an educational tool that fosters cognitive development, builds fine motor skills, and grows linguistic abilities. In addition to this, art builds self-confidence in young children, encouraging them to share their ideas with the world. 

The Importance of the Arts for Young Children

Study after study show the benefits of the arts. For example, a five year study conducted by the University of Southern California showed that children’s brains develop faster with musical training. Even with older children, involvement in artistic activities have long been associated with gains in critical thinking, math, reading, and verbal skill.

For preschoolers, art is an important aspect of development. It’s learning, yet for children, feels like play. Because of this, classes and special time dedicated to the arts should be a part of every preschool classroom.

Let’s take a look at some of the basic skills your child develops when engaging in artistic activities.

Cognitive Development

For preschoolers, much of art is experimentation. Not only do they get to let their imagination and creativity loose, but they also absorb new information without even realizing it. As they manipulate materials and supplies, they learn about shape, movement, and spatial relationships. By planning out the image they want to draw, they hone in on critical thinking skills. 

Children also learn things like cause and effect. For example, if you push the marker harder, the ink becomes darker. All of these little small discoveries help little tikes learn about the world around them. Every aspect of the process builds upon existing skills and knowledge and works to create new foundations.

Fine Motor Skills

Preschoolers love the process of creating art just as much as (if not more than) the final product. 

Arts, crafts, and music are all hands-on activities. When your child holds a crayon, glues a sequin to a piece of paper, or shakes a maraca, they are working on improving their fine motor skills. The movements improve dexterity and hand-eye coordination, paving the way for activities down the line like writing. 

Linguistic Abilities

As a parent, you may be tired of hearing the same old nursery rhymes over and over again, but these simple songs actually go a long way in developing your child’s linguistic abilities. Songs help expand a child’s vocabulary and support the development of a child’s voice by getting them to use different pitches, inflections, and tones.

Even painting and drawing work to develop their language skills, because after all, what does every child want to do when they’re finished with a piece? Show it to you and talk about it, of course! Children add intricate and complex stories to their masterpieces and love to share. 

Self-Confidence

Lastly, but certainly not least, participation in arts, crafts, music, and song boosts your child’s confidence. With these activities, they learn to take risks and be proud of their work. They paint creations from their mind and sing as if no one is listening. Teachers and parents should be supportive and uplifting of a child’s work and refrain from critiques or criticizing. Doing so can damage self-esteem and limit future creativity.

Art acts as a stress reliever for children, supporting their overall well being, mental health, and emotional development. For this reason, it shouldn’t be something that just takes place in the classroom. Next, we’ll talk about some of the ways you can support your child’s creativity at home.

Supporting Creativity at Home

Participation in artistic endeavours shouldn’t be limited to the classroom. There’s so much that parents can do at home to facilitate learning and self-expression. Here are a few helpful dos and don’ts of supporting creativity at home.

The Dos

  • DO provide your child with open ended opportunities. You don’t want to limit your child’s creativity by giving them rigid assignments or instructions. 
  • DO give your child ample choices. Provide them with different mediums to work with— paints, chalk, play-dough, stickers, and crayons, just to name a few. Different mediums and instruments expand their horizons and unleash their creativity.
  • DO let them explore and not just create. Craft time isn’t necessarily all about making something. It could be about organizing beads or pencils by color. It could be about making a long stick by snapping markers together. As long as the child is safe, they should be free to discover and experiment with the tools that they have. 

The Don’ts

  • DON’T lead, but offer support and guidance when they ask. Being told exactly how to create art takes the fun out of it for many children. Let them figure out the steps to get to their final creation. 
  • DON’T focus on the final product. At this age (or at any age for that matter), art is not always about the masterpiece at the end. It’s about the fun and learning that took place while making it. For that reason, parents should focus on praising the process rather than the final piece at the end. Instead of focusing on what someone will think of their craft or painting, children will be set on coming up with new and fun ways to express themselves.

At this age, learning takes place in every way, shape, and form. Remember that your child is discovering new things as they experiment with arts, crafts, and music— not just playing.

Conclusion

Artistic activities are more than just fun ways to pass the time for young children. They play an important role in their learning and development throughout early childhood. Because of this, parents should always look into the arts programs that their children’s preschool offers. Will they be getting a healthy daily dose of painting, music, and more? Do they offer specialized classes? These are all questions to ask that can help inform your family’s preschool choice. 

The Right (and Wrong) Ways for Preschools to Discipline Your Child

It’s no secret that parents worry about their child when they’re off at preschool. Are they making friends? Do they feel safe and supported? Are they learning at the right pace? 

One question that you may not think about as often is, “Are they being disciplined correctly?” Your child is spending anywhere from three to seven hours at school, and how they are disciplined there will affect their behavior and how they respond to disciplinary actions at home. 

The way a preschool disciplines your child is indicative of the quality and level of focus that children receive at a school. PreK Advisor is here with some helpful tips on what to be on the lookout for when visiting preschools.

Good Disciplinary Techniques

It’s important to realize that behavior is a form of communication for children. Children don’t misbehave simply for the sake of misbehavior. Acting up, talking out of turn, running around the class, and pushing children in line are all actions that usually communicate something deeper. They are signals that a child needs or wants something, even if they aren’t sure exactly what that is. 

The role of an educator in these situations is to help the child find out what they need, learn from their experience, and help them in whatever way they can.

The following are good disciplinary techniques to ask about or look for in the classroom.

There are clear expectations of how students should behave.

Children should clearly understand what is expected of them in the classroom from the beginning of the school year, and rules should be consistently enforced. 

This isn’t to say that the first day of school is going over a student handbook. Expectations should be realistic for a preschool classroom and seek to set the child up for success instead of constant correction. Simple mantras like “we take care of ourselves, each other, our school, and the planet” are easy to understand and can be referred back to in any given situation.

The teacher uses positive corrections.

Instructors should utilize positive discipline in the classroom. With positive corrections, the teacher guides the child in learning why what their action is wrong instead of simply imposing punishment. Misbehavior is an opportunity to have a frank discussion on actions and consequences and gives children the chance to consciously make better choices on their own in the future. 

Positive discipline should be firm and kind. Children should be guided to reflect and display empathy for others. Over time, positive disciplinary techniques foster respect between students and teachers, increase student engagement, and lessen the overall need disciplinary.

The teacher provides praise for good behavior.

It’s just as important to reinforce good behavior as it is to correct poor behavior. It may seem easier to point out missteps, but when a teacher authentically praises a child, it motivates them to continue doing good. Children yearn for connection, and small praises and words of encouragement help satisfy this need.

The teachers and staff act as role models.

One of the most important things that an instructor can do is simply act as a good role model in a child’s life. Of course, no one is perfect. Even teachers slip up and break their own classroom rules every once in a while, but a good role model will own up to it and use it as a learning opportunity. 

Red Flags to Watch For 

It is also helpful to know a red flag when you see one. The following are negative disciplinary methods, which ultimately do not help a child learn from their mistakes. Instead, children will pick up on the destructive techniques and continue to exhibit misbehavior.

Children are punished for their actions. 

While punishment may be effective for curbing a behavior in the moment, it is a missed opportunity to teach a life skill that will allow kids to develop “self-control and intrinsic motivation for the long haul”.

According to early childhood experts, punishment can also lead to what is knowns as the “Four Rs”:

  • Rebellion: The child will do the opposite to prove they don’t have to do it the adult’s way
  • Resentment: The child feels that they can’t trust the adult.
  • Revenge: They will attempt to “get even” for the punishment.
  • Retreat: The child will either resort to sneaky behaviors or exhibit reduced self-esteem. 

There are no positive reinforcements of good behavior.

Positive reinforcements are simple gestures that can be as easy as a “good job!” or a high five. Though small, they are important. Neglecting to encourage and recognize jobs well done can be just as harmful as improperly correcting bad behavior. 

Children are humiliated or shamed for their actions.

Children have complex emotions and feelings of self-worth just as adults do. Harsh verbal disapproval, humiliation, and shaming (which are often a type of punishment) cause children to feel guilty, deficient, and bad about themselves. 

Psychology experts have noted that “As a form of behavior modification, though, shaming— whether obvious or subtle— is ineffective and even destructive.” 

Even slight gestures such as eye-rolling or snarky comments can damage self-esteem. Young children are not yet able to distinguish between their actions and themselves, meaning that an attack on action seems like an attack on them.

Behavior is simply ignored.

It’s also not a good sign if misbehavior is purposely ignored. Shutting down and not talking to the child about their actions does nothing to get to the root cause or address the issue. 

This is often a debated issue as some believe that ignoring mild disruptive behavior may actually reduce it. However, other professionals hold that ignoring bad behavior can reinforce unsafe actions and dismiss the student’s feelings. 

Conclusion

Discipline does more than keep children from causing trouble around the house and making scenes in public. It shapes little tykes into responsible children and adults, teaches them to make good choices, helps manage anxiety and emotions, and keeps them safe. Making sure your child’s school is positively disciplining children is just one of the ways you can ensure a safe, fulfilling, and successful preschool experience. 

Educated Educators: What Level of Education Should Preschool Teachers Have?

As parents, we often think about the quality of education that our preschoolers are receiving. Less often do we think about the education and training that their teachers have received. 

Yet, teacher education is an important factor to consider when looking at schools for your child. Preschool teachers do far more than simply lead children in song and play. They are key figures in your child’s life that shape their social, emotional, and cognitive development and lay the foundation for future learning. It’s important that teachers have the right training to properly guide your child in their formative years.

In this article, we’ll look answer several questions about preschool teacher education, including:

  • What are the requirements for teaching preschool?
  • Is specialized training needed for different curriculums?
  • What professional organizations can preschool teachers join? 

Let’s dive in!

What are the education requirements for teaching preschool?

Education requirements for preschool teachers vary from state to state, as well as from preschool to preschool. Most states require at least a high school diploma and state certification.

Government-funded and public school programs also have their own teacher education requirements. For instance, Head Start requires that teachers hold at least an associate degree. In addition to this, at least 50% of the teachers in a school must hold a bachelor’s degree. 

Nationwide, nearly one-third of preschool teachers hold a bachelor’s degree, while 12.7% hold a master’s degree. Less than 2% reported having less than a high school diploma. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the typical entry-level education of preschool teachers as an associate’s degree.  

Texas Requirements for Preschool Teachers

In Texas, preschool teachers must complete an approved teacher preparation program in early childhood education as a minimum. 

Still, it is highly recommended that teachers earn a bachelor’s degree, as it provides a solid foundation in the field of early childhood education and fulfills requirements to be licensed by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) should the individual wish to teach other grade levels.

Other Certifications

There are a number of additional certifications given by recognized organizations that can give you some idea of an educator’s level of training and competency.

  • CPR/first aid: For the safety of your child, all teachers and preschool staff should be certified in CPR and first aid.
  • Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential: The CDA credential may be needed to meet state or specific school requirements. To qualify, teachers must meet certain criteria, including the completion of at least 120 hours of formal early childhood education training.

What do teachers learn with an early childhood education degree?

You might be wondering what exactly a degree in early childhood education or similar field trains a teacher for. During their studies, teachers learn about topics such as:

  • Cultural and social contexts of early childhood education
  • Child development and play
  • How to properly involve parents and guardians in the education of their children
  • Curriculum and program development suitable for early childhood education
  • Different types of early childhood education
  • Important studies, research, and theories in the field

It’s easy to see the importance of an educator’s education. Teachers will learn about developmental milestones, how children process the world around them, and how to build relationships with students, parents, and their community. 

Ultimately, all of this knowledge will allow them to be the best possible educator for your child.

Is specialized training needed for different curriculums?

Whether or not a teacher needs additional training depends on the specific curriculum. Some preschool programs such as International Baccalaureate, Waldorf, and Montessori all require specialized instruction and credentials. 

With this additional training, educators will learn how to properly carry out the pedagogy and curriculum of their specific program. These types of preschools often have their own established education requirement for teachers that is stricter than the state’s minimum.

What professional organizations can preschool teachers join?

Like any career, education doesn’t have to end with college or certification. It’s just as important that teachers stay informed on the latest information, practices, and research related to their line of work. One way that they can do this is by joining professional organizations. 

National Association for the Education of Young Children

The NAEYC has made it their mission to promote high-quality learning among young children by connecting practice, policy, and research. This organization seeks to equip preschool programs across the nation with the tools, knowledge, and resources for the best learning experiences. 

Association for Early Learning Leaders

The Association for Early Learning Leaders is an organization for childcare directors, owners, and administrators that are committed to promoting leadership development and enhancing preschool program quality. Their main goal is to strengthen the knowledge, abilities, and skill of early learning professionals. 

The group offers resources and conferences for early childhood leaders to train and educate its members.  

National Association of Early Childhood Teacher Educators

The goal of the NAECTE is to promote the professional growth of educators, to discuss educational issues, and to advocate for improvements in early childhood teacher education. The organization provides a communication network for teachers, facilitates the exchange of research and vital information, and cooperates with others concerned with the study of early education. 

Conclusion

Preschool teachers have an immeasurable impact on a young child’s life. Because of the pivotal role that they play, it’s important to consider the level of education and training that your child’s teacher has received. When trying to find the best preschool for your child, don’t hesitate to ask the director about the qualifications of the staff. A facility with properly trained and certified teachers should be happy to provide this peace of mind to prospective families. 

Why Preschool Is the Best Time for Your Child to Learn a Second Language

Across the United States, second language immersion programs are growing. In Austin, Texas alone, hundreds of students are expected to enroll in multilingual programs across several school districts by the 2023-24 school year. Study after study has shown the benefits of bilingualism, leaving parents wondering where they can sign their children up.

But learning a second language doesn’t have to wait until a child enrolls in kindergarten. While it’s certainly never too late to embark on the bilingual journey, introducing your child a second language during their preschool years comes with many unique advantages. To learn more, PrekAdvisor spoke with professor and director of California State University – Monterey Bay’s Monterey Institute for English Learners Suzanne García-Mateus, Ph.D.

There’s No Time Like Preschool

We often hear how it is easier for young children to pick up on a new language than it is for adults. And although there is something about their brain chemistry that allows them to soak up a new language like sponges, this is a common misconception because it is not the only factor.

“That’s actually a myth. It’s not actually “easier” for them,” García-Mateus explained. “The difference for young children is that they have more opportunities to use the language.” In fact, some research actually points out that it is easier for adults to learn new languages thanks to their established linguistic awareness. 

Instead, young children in immersion programs appear to more readily pick up on languages because it is simply what they do all day. Their time at school is spent playing, singing, and freely having interactions in the new language, creating a strong foundation in the second language and building confidence in their linguistic abilities. 

As kids grow, these opportunities typically decrease. Older children and adults have competing demands like social lives, jobs, and busy schedules that command their focus and attention. A preschooler has the opportunity to spend eight hours a day with the new language, whereas older learners may only get an hour or two to practice their skills. It becomes harder to achieve fluency in new languages as we get older simply because we don’t have as much time to practice. Because of this, there’s no time quite like the first five years of a child’s life for them to be introduced to another language.

Learning Languages Together

Some parents worry that teaching their child a new language before they’ve completely mastered one will create confusion and prevent them from properly learning either one. But this, too, is a common misconception. In fact, parents shouldn’t wait at all. Young children are perfectly capable of taking on two or more languages at once. 

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, one of the best methods of bilingual teaching is to use the two languages from the start. 

The Benefits of Immersion Programs

Instead of small doses of instruction, preschool immersion programs allow children to dive headfirst into new languages and cultures. Being bilingual comes with a number of unique benefits ranging from sociocultural competency to cognitive flexibility.

The Cultural Benefits

Immersion programs do more than simply offer instruction for another language— they offer a look into another culture. So often, parents are focused on the academic achievement aspect of bilingualism that they fail to see the advantages of learning about other cultures. Immersion programs help foster growth, acceptance, and respect for people across all walks of life. It also gives parents the opportunity to have these types of conversations with their children, starting from a young age.

“Children will have an opportunity to gain cultural awareness about an ethnic group that they are probably not a part of,” García-Mateus noted. Learning multiple languages allows children to develop a level of understanding and empathy for others that can help them bridge divides that may have been harder to overcome otherwise.  This carries over to other aspects of their lives as well because it teaches children that there are multiple ways to describe and understand the world around them.

Cognitive and Economic Benefits

On top of the sociocultural competency advantage that bilinguals have, research has revealed time and time again the cognitive and economic benefits of learning a second language. An article published by Michigan State University described greater cognitive flexibility, a better ability to focus, and an increased adeptness at solving mental puzzles in youth who speak more than one language. While bilingualism isn’t necessarily a magic bullet key to success, it can certainly make individuals stronger candidates over their monolingual peers.

But for bilingual educators like García-Mateus, these additional advantages are just icing on the cake.

What Parents Should Keep in Mind

Once you make the decision to enroll your child in a language immersion program, there are a few steps you can take to set them up for success. 

Finding the Right Preschool and Immersion Program

At the preschool level, children should not be seated in classrooms listening to lessons on grammatical structures.

“I cannot emphasize this enough,” García-Mateus stated. “They need to learn through play, through songs, and through meaningful interaction.” Children need to be able to interact with others in the language that they are learning, and the best opportunity for that is through structured play, outdoor time, and project-based learning. García-Mateus went on to say that for parents who are observing preschools, “a positive indicator that they are playing to learn is seeing children being children.” 

As for which specific type of immersion program is best for your child, that all will depend on the student demographic. For example, Spanish dual-language education is designed for populations that have a mix of Spanish-speakers who may be bilingual already and English-speakers. For populations where there are no to few Spanish speakers present, methods like structured immersion would be more appropriate.

Promoting Bilingualism at Home

For children to develop their skills, learning shouldn’t stop in the classroom. Parents often ask what they can do to supplement their child’s second language acquisition, especially if they do not speak the language that their child is learning. García-Mateus outlined a few important practices that parents can do to support their emergent bilingual at home.

Simple things like playing music, tv, and videos in the second language can go a long way in reinforcing the skills that they are learning at school. As children begin reading, parents can have their child read aloud to them in the language, even if they don’t understand what is being said. Parents should ask questions about the stories. What did they learn? Who were the main characters? What did the characters accomplish? By doing this, children hone in on their biliteracy, pronunciation, and comprehension skills.  

Lastly, García-Mateus described how parents should show their children how they love the language that they are learning. This means never, ever putting down those who speak the language and how the speakers pronounce words. “Parents really need to uplift the language that the children are learning in their home,” she noted. Doing this will create a positive association with the language and get their child excited about learning it.

Opening Your Mind to a New Culture

García-Mateus offered one last piece of advice for new parents with children in immersion programs. “If you’re coming into these programs, and [the language] isn’t a part of who you are, consider yourself a guest and be honored to be a part of that community.”

As a parent with a child in an immersion program, you will likely encounter cultural norms that are different from your own. Children are observant and see how you adapt, adjust, and respect other cultures. Keep this in mind, and know that this is a special opportunity for you to learn and grow with your child. 

Preschool is an important time in your child’s life and presents unique language-learning opportunities. In immersion programs, they’ll have ample opportunity to build and practice their skills through play and meaningful interaction. The benefits of bilingualism go beyond the often talked about economic and cognitive advantages. Being bilingual gives children a chance to immerse themselves in another culture, opening up an entirely new world of possibilities for them and their future.

The Importance of Play and Movement in Pre-K Learning

When you think of your child’s pre-k curriculum, you probably think of the academic concepts that they will sit down and learn. And while instruction on 1-2-3s and A-B-Cs are certainly important, it’s crucial to realize the pivotal role that movement and play take in your child’s preschool learning.

Acting out stories, twirling and dancing, running and jumping, and making up games are more than just entertainment for children. They are the ways that they discover the environment around them, develop socially and emotionally, and learn how to express themselves in a healthy way. Because of this, movement and play should be one of the methods through which your child is taught in pre-k.

Benefits of Movement and Play

Play is the foundation through which a child acquires essential knowledge about their world and gains skills that will be used throughout the rest of their lives. In fact, play has been shown to have both a direct and indirect effect on brain structure and functioning, meaning that it actually has the ability to literally transform the physical brain. In short, there is no aspect of a child’s development that is not influenced by these types of activities.

Working Together and Understanding Communication

Playing with others teaches children the basics of communication and how to interact socially with others. They’ll develop skills such as sharing, negotiating, and conflict resolution.

Language skills are also sharpened during this time by talking to other children, explaining games, and working through problems aloud when alone. By listening to others speak, they’ll pick up on new vocabulary and draw connections from objects to the words that describe them. Without realizing it, they’ll also begin to pick up on the grammatical structures of the language. This is one of the reasons why Spanish immersion schools are so effective in fostering second language fluency in children.

Processing Emotion

When engaging in dramatic play, children take on the persona and emotions of other people and characters. This gives them the opportunity to process and work through feelings like fear, anger, and emotions around specific situations they may be facing. For example, the classic childhood game of playing doctor can help a child overcome anxieties related to going to their actual pediatrician. By acting out other characters, your child will also pick up on the basics of empathy. 

Play also helps build a child’s self-esteem and self-confidence. Think of a child wanting to do the monkey bars on a playground for the first time. They recognize and establish a goal, then formulate a plan to accomplish it. Through trial, error, and eventual success, a child builds the confidence to try and take on other new things.

Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

Puzzles and games provide an excellent opportunity for your child to hone in on their critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Even made up games among children are often complex and require children to strategize and think ahead to some degree. They’ll master basic skills like evaluating information and making decisions based on what they know.

Building Healthy Bodies and Minds

Play and movement are also crucial in your child’s physical health and development. It’s never too early to create active lifestyle habits in your children, and it all begins by encouraging play. Through games and movement, children discover their range of motion, develop balance, build muscle strength, and fine-tune their coordination. 

Like many aspects of development, the skills a child builds early on are the basis of other skills down the line. For example, completing tasks with their hands in play helps a child build the muscles and control that’s needed later on for writing. 

The role that play can have on mental health is also astounding. One study examined the correlation between the decline in play in the American classroom and the rising incidence of anxiety, depression, feelings of helplessness, and narcissism. The study contends that the two are in fact related, and that the decline in play has contributed to the rise in psychopathology in youth. The American Academy of Pediatrics has also noted the role that play has in managing “toxic stress” and forming “safe, stable, and nurturing relationships with all caregivers that children need to thrive.” 

Making Connections

Free play allows a child to make connections between what they experience and what they are taught through passive learning. For instance, a child might notice how whenever a ball is thrown in the air, it always comes back down. They may develop their own theories and perform self-guided experiments. Does the ball go higher if I stand on top of the play scape and throw? Does it go farther if I throw harder?  Though they know no formulas or technical jargon, your child has discovered gravity. 

A teacher may explain basic science concepts in the classroom, but until a child sees it in action, it may just remain an abstract concept. According to the Harvard Graduate School of Education, it’s possible to play with purpose and to guide children in understanding concepts with playful learning. Both structured and unstructured play is a time for a child to independently seek answers to their questions and delve further into their own interests.

Conclusion

The benefits of movement and play are endless, yet, schools are giving children less time to play than ever before and opting for a passive learning approach. When looking for the perfect preschool for your child, it’s important to consider the role movement and play will have in their curriculum. An exceptional pre-k will give your children ample time for play and allow them to move and express themselves in the classroom.

What Are the Different Types of Preschool Programs?

We’ve all heard the phrase “kids are like sponges” and it’s a saying that couldn’t hold more truth. From the moment they’re born to age 6, children continuously absorb and process the environment around them. In fact, research shows that by age five, 90% of the brain has developed. This is a crucial time in your child’s life, and there’s no better time to give them a head start that will set them up for social, emotional, and academic success down the line. Pre-k provides this foundation for a life of learning and lays the building blocks for their education to come.

But did you know that not all preschools are the same?  And we are not just talking about the faculty, facilities, and quality of school lunches. Just like elementary school and beyond, quality preschools follow a pedagogical program and curriculum. Pedagogy is how teaching is done, as compared to a curriculum, which is what is taught. Great preschools should have both. In pre-k, the curriculum should address all aspects of a child’s development, provide ample time to learn through exploration and play, and teach the basic skills needed to succeed in kindergarten. 

While schools can utilize their own unique approaches, many opt to follow existing pedagogical programs. We’ve broken down some of the most popular pre-k programs including:

  • Montessori
  • IB
  • Reggio Emilia
  • Waldorf
  • Highscope
  • Bank Street 
  • Language Immersion

Montessori

Montesorri education is defined by practical application of sensory-based and self-directed learning that focuses on establishing self-discipline, independence, and self-esteem. Montessori allows students to learn at their own pace and classrooms are typically multi-age, allowing children to build a unique learning community. Children are viewed as individual learners with teachers serving as guides.

The environment and classroom materials and resources play a big role in the Montessori education. You’ll find special wood instructional materials called manipulatives, math aids, puzzles, blocks, and practical items organized on open shelves.

To be a Montessori instructor, teachers must graduate from a specialized training program. There are also two Montessori organizations that a school can be affiliated with: Association Montessori Internationale and the Amercian Montessori Society. However, a school may claim to be a Montesorri without actually being affiliated with one of the organizations.

International Baccalaureate (IB)

The International Baccalaureate curriculum serves students ages 3-19 in over 150 countries throughout the world. The Primary Years Programme (PYP) is geared towards children ages 3-12 and prepares students to become “active, caring, lifelong learners who demonstrate respect for themselves and others”. The PYP has five essential elements: knowledge, concepts, skills, attitudes, and action.

The curriculum is designed to support the students’ efforts to construct meaning from the world around them. Emphasis is placed on social and emotional development, communication, and deeper-level thinking skills. Students are encouraged to be active participants in their learning through hands-on activities and play. 

In order to implement the Primary Years Programme, teacher must attend specialized training provided by the International Baccalaureate.

Reggio Emilia

In a way similar to Montessori, students take the lead in their learning with a Reggio Emilia curriculum. This student-centered learning is driven by experiences and relationships with each other. Young children are encouraged to be curious about the world around them, express themselves, communicate, think logically, and problem solve. The Reggio Emilia approach follows four main principles:

  • Emergent curriculum: What is taught in the classroom stems from the interests of the children. Teachers communicate with students and parents to determine what subjects the students find to be most interesting. 
  • Representational development: New ideas are presented in multiple formats and mediums.
  • In-depth projects: Students complete in-depth projects on subjects that they are most interested in. They learn to explore, ask questions, and represent what they learn. 
  • Collaboration: Teamwork and collaboration is encouraged.

Waldorf

Rather than early exposure to academic content, emphasis is placed on creative thinking and imagination in the Waldorf approach. Focus is placed on a child’s spirit and soul with instructors fostering a love for curiosity and learning. The daily structure is predictable and dependable, allowing children to gain security and familiarity in the rhythm of their days.

Daily activities include imaginative play, arts and crafts, storytelling, music, cooking and other creative learning experiences. The Waldorf approach is also noted for its exclusion of electronics and digital media. 

Teachers receive special training through the Waldorf organization, and schools must be affiliated with the organization to claim the name.

Highscope

With the HighScope program, your child will follow consistent daily routines in a well-organized classroom setting. There is a heavy emphasis placed on academics and teachers encourage students to build their skills through “active participatory learning”.

HighScope is noted for its “play-do-review” format of the school day. Students participate in a play-based activity, develop a plan to reach their goals, and analyze the results at the end of the day. This curriculum has been noted to be especially beneficial for students who might need more one-on-one attention.

Bank Street 

With the play-based approach of Bank Street, students learn through experience. Your child will participate in a great deal of hands on activities like dramatic play, art, blocks, and puzzles in a Bank Street school. The world is considered to be the greatest teacher of all, and lessons are typically focused on social sciences like history, geography, and anthropology.

This curriculum is designed to develop emotional, social, physical, and intellectual aspects of a child’s life. Like Montessori classrooms, Bank Street preschool classrooms have mixed ages, allowing children to work together at all stages of development.

Language Immersion

Early childhood is the most crucial time in our lives for language acquisition. Cornell University research shows that the earlier a child begins learning a new language, the more likely that they will develop fluency as well as the other cognitive advantages that come with being bilingual.  

Language immersion preschools take advantage of this fact with classes that are either partly or completely conducted in another language. Learning styles, structure, and content may vary from school to school, but the goal is to provide fluency in a second language. 

Conclusion

With so many options out there, it can be hard to choose. But no matter what pedagogical program and curriculum your child’s pre-k utilizes, it should address all aspects of a child’s development, provide ample time to learn through exploration and play, and teach the basic skills needed to succeed in kindergarten. 

How Can Pre-Schools Instill a Love of Learning in Their Students

Aside from helping young children grow and develop socially, emotionally, and academically, one of the most important things that a child’s preschool experience can do is instill a lifelong love of learning. Cultivating a love of learning at an early age will enrich a child’s life as they get older and enter adulthood. A child that has developed a genuine interest in learning will be motivated to acquire new skills and knowledge in areas that they’re passionate about and be enthusiastic about exploring new topics. 

A love of learning can’t be taught, but it can be inspired. Because young children are naturally curious and inquisitive, pre-k is the perfect time in a child’s life to instill this passion.

Preschools can instill a love for learning in their students by:

  • Encouraging learning through play
  • Providing answers to questions
  • Supporting the student’s areas of interest
  • Holding engaging discussion instead of lectures
  • Providing a learning-friendly environment
  • Allowing teachers to lead by example

Encouraging Learning Through Play

Many see play simply as entertainment or diversion, but this isn’t the case. For young children, learning through play important for development and is one of the most effective forms of instruction— and the most fun! Play helps children explore and make sense of the world around them. Games improve motor skills, teach communication, and build critical thinking and problem-solving abilities.

An activity as simple as stacking blocks can teach a toddler the foundation of science and math like counting, shapes, and the concept of gravity. Games played with other children helps develop speech, language, and listening skills. Evidence also shows that children who engage in play-pretend activities have more sophisticated levels of interaction with others as well as higher cognitive abilities. 

Many preschools are play-based or at least incorporate play throughout the day as a form of instruction. 

Providing Answers to Questions

Why is the sky blue? What makes the grass green? Why do cows moo? We’ve all heard the endless stream of questions from inquisitive kids. Pre-k is a place where children can discover the answers to these questions and be challenged to ask new ones. Exploration is encouraged and new exciting discoveries will be made on a daily basis.

Preschool will also help children be able to figure out answers for themselves instead of simply accepting responses from those in a position of authority. By helping children work through problems and answers, they earn a sense of accomplishment and discover the joy of learning.

Supporting Areas of Interest

Kids are naturally going to be more interested in certain subjects and topics than others. Instead of trying to force interest in all areas, it’s beneficial to focus on the things that they love and explore those areas more. Preschool gives children the chance to delve more into subjects that they love. Some major pre-k curriculum are student-guided, meaning that students can choose activities based on their current interests.

In addition to this, preschool opens up a whole new world of possibilities for your child by exposing them to different experiences and subjects. 

Holding Discussions Instead of Lectures

The discussion-style teaching of pre-k allows children to take an active role in their own learning. Instead of a teacher standing in front of the class and simply telling students how to do a certain task, discussion style teaching lets students work through problems and encourages them to ask questions along the way. 

By asking open-ended questions, teachers can prompt students to think critically about the material that they are learning. Inspiring out-of-the-box thinking early on leads to better creative problem solving later in the child’s life.

Provide a Learning-Friendly Environment 

One of the main indicators of a quality preschool is the presence of a learning-friendly environment. Preschool classrooms should be set up to make learning fun and encourage free movement, but also have well-defined areas for special tasks. 

For example, a reading nook provides a quiet, relaxing area for children to look through picture books. More spacious areas and outdoor playgrounds are conducive to cooperative play. These types of setups also allow your child to determine which way they learn best. 

Aside from the physical layout of the classroom, good preschools provide a place where children feel safe. Children who are able to express their opinions and emotions without fear of angering or disappointing others will be more inclined to explore outside their comfort zones and develop a healthy sense of self-confidence. Preschools provide an environment where children are lovingly encouraged to learn from their mistakes. Failure is not seen as a bad thing, rather it’s viewed as an opportunity to learn and grow. 

Leading by Example

Attitudes towards learning are infectious; if the teacher is motivated to teach and learn alongside their students, this enthusiasm will be passed along to the children. On the other hand, if an instructor seems bored with the class material, children can pick up that sentiment. Teachers should enthusiastically share their own knowledge and experiences with learning with the class. 

Some adults like to respond “I don’t know” to shut down kids’ excited inquiries. While teachers should be honest about their lack of knowledge on a subject, they should also add “but let’s find the answer together” to the phrase. From a young age, children will see that one is never too old or too experienced to enjoy learning. 

While your kid may be hanging on to your leg on the first day of school, by the end, they may be hanging onto their teacher’s leg. Throughout the school year, children grow to look up their classroom instructors. One of the best ways that a teacher can lead their class to love learning is by example. 

Conclusion

In order for a child to truly develop a love of learning, a preschool teacher’s efforts must be supported at home. As a parent, you should be excited about what your child is learning at school. Encourage them to share their knowledge, and build upon it. This is one of the most important developmental times in your child’s life. Set them up for success and happiness down the line by showing them that learning is fun, rewarding, and worthwhile.