Unlike elementary, middle school and senior high teachers, pre-kindergarten teachers aren't always subject to state certifications. Although any early childhood educator who is working in a licensed child care center must meet specific professional and educational qualifications, these requirements are different than state certification for teachers. However, according to the National Association for the Education of Young Children, having qualified professional teachers teaching preschool is key to creating better childhood learning outcomes.
In their position statement on "Professional Preparation Standards" NAEYC notes that preschool teachers should possess knowledge of child development to effectively create and maintain a challenging learning environment. Teachers with a strong education in child development are better equipped to understand pre-kindergarten children, create developmentally appropriate activities for them and interact with them in positive ways.
For example, the early childhood educator who has taken college-level classes in child development will understand a three-year-old's low level of emotional maturity, which makes tantrums or outbursts normal in the face of powerful feelings and frustration. This prepared teacher can understand and handle such behaviors, and use them to teach valuable lessons that promote healthy emotional development.
While grading your child on an A through F scale is certainly not part of an effective early childhood program, preschool teachers often must assess the children in terms of their development and learning. A prepared and qualified preschool teacher will know what to look for during an assessment and what evaluation tools are appropriate to use. For example, preschool teacher training may include classes on how to observe young children when it comes to looking for developmental changes in general or in a specific area such as social skills. The teacher can then use this information to document changes and create plans to help the child learn and develop in the best way possible.
Qualified preschool teachers -- those who have at least some post-secondary education or training in child development or early education and professional experience through work or internship programs -- are able to construct an effective class curriculum that meets the students' needs, creates a positive learning environment and interests young minds. According to NAEYC, early childhood educators who are well-prepared can understand the different content areas that young children should learn about and can structure a curriculum around their abilities.
Continuity of Care
If your child's preschool or child care center has more than more than one classroom, you probably would like to think that the education he gets is the same as his friend in the next room. Hiring professional and qualified teachers can help a preschool to ensure that each child gets a similar education and a high level of care. NAEYC recommends that teacher preparation programs help educators develop a shared set of professional values that include understanding cultural and family diversity, acting in a professional manner and using principles of child development as a base for programming.
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