Preschool teachers educate and care for children, usually ages 3 to 5, who have not yet entered kindergarten. They explain reading, writing, science and other subjects in a way that young children can understand. Preschool teachers prepare children for kindergarten by introducing concepts they will explore further in kindergarten and elementary school; work with children in groups or one on one, depending on the needs of children and the subject matter; plan and carry out a curriculum; and organize activities so children can learn about the world, explore interests and develop talents.
Preschool teachers use play to teach children about the world. For example, they use storytelling and rhyming games to teach language and vocabulary. They may help improve children’s social skills by having them work together to build a neighborhood in a sandbox or teach science and math by having children count when building with blocks.
Many preschool teachers work in in formal childcare centers that have preschool classrooms. Others work in public and private schools. Still others work for charitable or religious organizations that have preschool programs or Head Start programs. Head Start programs receive federal funding for disadvantaged children between the ages of 3 and 5.
Seeing children develop new skills and gain an appreciation of knowledge and learning can be very rewarding. However, it can also be tiring to work with young, active children all day. Preschool teachers generally work during school hours, typically 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Many work the traditional 10-month school year, which includes a 2-month break during the summer. Some preschool teachers may teach in summer programs. Teachers in districts with a year-round schedule typically work 8 weeks in a row, then have a break for 1 week, and have a 5-week midwinter break. Those working in day care settings often work the whole year.
Employment of preschool teachers is expected to grow by 25 percent from 2010 to 2020, faster than the average for all occupations. It is widely accepted that early childhood education is important for a child’s intellectual and social development. As a result, there has been increasing demand for preschool programs, which is expected to create demand for preschool teachers. In addition, the population of children ages 3 to 5 is expected to increase. Because children between these ages are typically enrolled in preschool, increases to that population will increase the demand for preschool teachers.
Career information courtesy of the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook.