How to Become an Elementary School Teacher, According to 3 People Who Did It

Teachers’ role is essential in developing and shaping young minds. Children look up to their teachers and see them as role models. At the young age of 4 to 12, these students start learning mostly from their teacher. This stage is crucial in setting the groundwork for success.

Thus, being a teacher, especially of young age groups such as elementary students, can be challenging, yet very rewarding.

Here are some ways on how to become an elementary school teacher, according to three educators:

Dr. Ellenmorris Tiegerman

Ellenmorris Tiegerman

Founder & CEO, Tiegerman Schools

For those of you who are interested in becoming an Elementary school teacher, there are several pathways to consider:

The straightest direction is completing an undergraduate course in education and then a master’s degree with a specialization in elementary school education.

Almost every undergraduate program at a College or University has a “teacher track” that includes about 30 credits of undergraduate coursework. In most states around the United States, teachers are now required to get a master’s degree, usually with a specialization in elementary school education, before they apply for state certification to teach.

This is the straightest path, so have a clear sense of direction, and know for sure that you want to become an elementary school teacher.

The second pathway is a little more circuitous because you might already have majored in a completely different area and graduated with a bachelor’s degree.

Worry not, it is possible to take the undergraduate coursework in education by going back to college and then applying for a master’s program in education. This pathway clearly will take a little longer. Still, the result will be the same – you will complete your master’s degree in elementary school education and have the opportunity to apply for your teaching certificate.

The third pathway is that you are married and you have children.

You have had an epiphany experience and decided that you want to become an elementary school teacher. It is possible to take the appropriate coursework through an adult education program at the University that provides an option for evening and weekend courses.

This pathway will take longer, and given your home situation will be more complicated to accomplish, but the result again will be the same. You will probably complete your coursework in three or three and a half years instead of two, but you will be able to get it done and apply for your teaching certificate in elementary school education.

To sum up, you will need a master’s degree in elementary school education to teach.

Some states may allow new teachers to apply for a teaching certificate while they are in a graduate program, but eventually, you must have a master’s degree.

Teaching is an outstanding profession offering professionals careers that are meaningful, relevant, and exciting. There is nothing nobler than teaching children or adults with and without developmental disabilities.

Related: The Benefits of Being a Teacher

Delilah Orpi

Delilah Orpi

Literacy Specialist | Owner, Thrive Educational Services

If you are interested in becoming an elementary school teacher, there are quite a few steps you need to go through:

You have to get a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education, which requires a 3-4 month internship in a classroom

This was the most valuable part of the program since you are mostly doing the job with a mentor. You also have to pass the certification exams in your state, which would include an elementary education exam and possibly ESOL or Special Education endorsements that vary by state. I had to take three exams to get my initial teaching certification in Florida. After this, I had to secure a job, and that was the hardest part.

It helps if you also have ESOL and Special Education experience and endorsements or certifications

Many schools look for this. I was only able to find work in Special Education, so I believe that it was essential to securing a teaching position. With the trend towards inclusion in the classroom, having the Special Education certification is a great benefit.

Find a mentor who can guide you once you start to look for work

Experienced teachers are full of helpful advice and connections which could help you find a position more easily.

Related: 75+ Great Questions to Ask Your Mentor

When I thought that I wanted to become a teacher, I first worked in daycare, with preschoolers and then with the school-aged kids. I wanted to make sure I liked working with kids as much as I thought I would. (Luckily, I did!)

Then, I went to Eastern Michigan University to get a Bachelors’s Degree in Elementary Education. As part of the degree, students do pre-student teaching, which is doing isolated, prepared lessons in someone else’s classroom. It lets you see how it feels to teach in a classroom a bit. They set this up for me.

At the end of the degree, I spent an entire semester student teaching.

EMU placed me in a grade I was interested in teaching; they do this if possible. At first, I just observed the real classroom teacher and saw how she ran the classroom. Then, she gave me only one subject to take over for a week, more the next, and we worked our way up to me finally running the classroom for a few weeks.

Usually, she stayed in the room and offered feedback and suggestions and help. But also, sometimes, she left me alone, which was also nice to let me try things out and see how they’d go.

After student teaching, I subbed in the district that I wanted to teach in for a few months. Then, luckily, I got hired full time. I taught 1st grade my first year, 2nd grade my 2nd year, and 3rd grade my 3rd year. It was a LOT to learn as a new teacher for sure. But when I ended up settling in 2nd grade, I loved it.

I later went back to Eastern Michigan University to get a Masters Degree in the Teaching of Reading.

Being a teacher for the past 30 years has been the most rewarding career I could imagine.

Related: Best Books for Teachers

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some common misconceptions about being an elementary school teacher?

Teaching young children is easy: While working with young children can be rewarding, it can also be challenging and require a lot of patience and creativity to keep children engaged and learning.

Elementary teachers teach only basic skills: While elementary teachers focus on teaching foundational skills such as reading and math, they also teach various other subjects and skills, including social studies, science, and critical thinking.

Teaching is a 9-to-5 job: Teaching requires a lot of time and effort outside the classroom, such as lesson planning, grading, and communicating with parents and colleagues. In addition, many teachers participate in extracurricular activities and events outside regular school hours.

Teachers get summers off: Although teachers typically have a summer break, many use this time to pursue professional development or to plan for the upcoming school year. In addition, some teachers work in other fields during the summer to supplement their income.

Teachers don’t make enough money: Although teachers’ salaries may not always be as high as in other professions, many teachers receive benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans, and paid time off. In addition, some schools and districts offer incentives such as sign-on bonuses or loan forgiveness programs for teachers who commit to working in high-need areas.

Knowing what the elementary teaching profession is like and dispelling common preconceptions will help you make an informed decision about whether it’s right for you.

What can I expect from a typical day as an elementary school teacher?

A typical day as an elementary school teacher can be busy and varied. Some of the tasks you may do daily include:

• Preparing lesson plans and materials for daily instruction
• Teaching lessons and leading class discussions
• Grading student work and providing feedback
• Communicating with parents and colleagues
• Attend meetings and professional development sessions
• Supervising students during recess, lunch, and other activities

In addition to these duties, you may also be responsible for planning and executing special events and field trips and collaborating with other teachers and staff to create a positive and engaging learning environment.

What are some challenges of being an elementary school teacher?

Teaching can be rewarding and fulfilling but also comes with challenges. Some common challenges that elementary teachers may face are:

• Managing large classes with diverse learning needs
• Dealing with challenging student behavior
• Balancing the demands of lesson planning, grading, and administrative tasks
• Navigating complex and ever-changing educational policies and regulations
• Maintaining a positive and supportive classroom environment in the face of outside stressors such as budget cuts or community problems

Despite these challenges, many teachers feel that the hard work and dedication to their profession are worth it when they can make a difference in the lives of their students and help them grow and develop.

What are some strategies for engaging and motivating elementary school students?

It can be challenging to engage and motivate elementary school students, but there are some effective strategies:

Use hands-on learning activities: Incorporate activities that allow students to engage with the material hands-on, such as science experiments or group projects.

Make learning fun: Incorporate games, songs, and other fun activities into lessons to keep students engaged and motivated.

Use technology: Integrate technology into lessons, such as educational videos or interactive online activities, to engage and maintain student interest.

Differentiate instruction: Provide opportunities for students to work at their own pace and learning style.

Incorporate students’ interests: Consider students’ interests and incorporate them into lessons.

Provide opportunities for student choice: Give students choices in how they approach assignments or projects to increase engagement and motivation.

Establish a positive classroom culture: Create a safe and welcoming environment where students feel comfortable sharing their ideas and taking risks.

How can I stand out from other applicants when applying to be an elementary school teacher?

When applying to be an elementary school teacher, you can set yourself apart from other applicants:

Highlight your passion for education: Express that you love working with children and are committed to helping them grow and develop.

Showcase your relevant experience: Provide examples of your experience working with children or in educational settings, such as volunteering or tutoring.

Emphasize your skills and strengths: Highlight your strengths in communication, organization, creativity, or other relevant skills that would make you an effective teacher.

Demonstrate your willingness to learn: Show that you are committed to ongoing professional development and staying up to date on current educational trends and best practices.

Provide references: Provide references from former supervisors, professors, or colleagues who can provide information about your strengths and qualifications as a teacher.

In addition, it may be helpful to tailor your application materials to the school or district to which you’re applying. Research the school’s mission and values, and highlight how your skills and experience align with the school’s goals.

Finally, be prepared to demonstrate your teaching skills during the interview, whether through a demonstration lesson or other teaching demonstration.

What additional resources can help me learn more about becoming an elementary school teacher?

There are many resources to help you learn more about becoming an elementary school teacher, such as:

State departments of education: Your state’s department of education can provide information about teacher certification requirements and the steps you must take to become licensed as a teacher in your state.

Professional organizations: Joining a professional organization such as the National Education Association or the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development provides you with opportunities to network, access resources for your professional development, and receive support from other educators.

Programs at colleges and universities: Many colleges and universities offer teacher preparation programs and resources to help you become a teacher. These programs offer valuable courses, mentors, and hands-on experience working with students.

Online resources: Many websites and blogs are dedicated to education and teaching, such as and Edutopia. Here you’ll find information on best practices, current trends, and tips for becoming a successful teacher.

Local schools and districts: Local schools and districts can provide information about job opportunities, mentoring programs, and other resources for aspiring teachers.

Take advantage of these resources and look for opportunities to gain experience and knowledge in the field. You can be well-prepared to embark on a rewarding career as an elementary school teacher.

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