The best teachers have the ability to influence students and help them grow. Because academic skills are basic to the profession, teachers at public schools must usually meet state education requirements, including at least a bachelor's degree and a license or certification. Teachers also need people smarts, management skills and creativity.
Teachers need academic knowledge in the subject matter they're expected to teach. An elementary school teacher, for example, must master basic skills in a variety of subjects, including arithmetic, language arts, social sciences and science. Depending on the curriculum, she may also need some skills in art and music. On the other hand, a high school math teacher needs number skills at a more advanced level, often including calculus.
Teachers must have pedagogical skills.They must understand their students' needs, abilities and learning styles and the various ways of teaching the subject matter. For example, a high school chemistry teacher needs the ability to demonstrate and explain experiments. A first-grade teacher needs a mastery of the various methods of teaching reading. At all levels, teachers must be able to make difficult concepts understandable, both verbally and using props and other nonverbal methods.
Strong people skills can help teachers can rise above average to become truly effective. First of all, teachers should be oriented toward helping others. A love of teaching and for students creates warm relationships that enhance learning. Teachers need a pleasant and engaging personality to keep students focused on the lesson. In addition, strong communication abilities are essential for dealing with students, parents, staff and administrators. Teachers also need patience, especially when dealing with younger students and those with learning difficulties.
Teachers need teamwork skills to cooperate with the administration, other teachers, support staff and parent-teacher organizations. In addition to meeting goals for the individual class, they fulfill the school goals and implement the grade-level curriculum. For example, they make sure that their reading instruction aligns with the standards of the school and district.
Management and Organizational Skills
Teachers must be strong managers who command respect and lead by example. Organizational skills are also necessary to plan lessons for each class, week and semester. Keeping students on task requires a well-ordered classroom. Teachers must also organize papers, files and their own workload so they can grade and return papers in a timely manner. Attention to detail is necessary to maintain accurate and up-to-date records.
Teachers need creativity to keep students interested. Ingenuity is necessary to adapt materials to the needs of each class or student. Teachers also need creativity to address discipline problems effectively without taking too much class time.
2016 Salary Information for Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers
Kindergarten and elementary school teachers earned a median annual salary of $55,480 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, kindergarten and elementary school teachers earned a 25th percentile salary of $44,220, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $70,600, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 1,565,300 people were employed in the U.S. as kindergarten and elementary school teachers.