Preschool lead teachers work in public and private schools, child-care centers and charitable organizations. Specific qualifications vary by state but typically require an associate's or bachelor's degree in early childhood development. Pay will vary by state, school and the teacher's level of education. Teachers are expected to provide rich learning opportunities and age-appropriate curriculum for preschool and pre-kindergarten children. In this position they will collaborate with teachers, staff and parents, as well as follow state licensing standards and school policies.
Preschool teachers educate and care for children between the ages of 3 and 5, helping them acquire social and academic skills before they enter kindergarten. Preschool lead teachers instruct children in reading, writing and basic mathematics in an interactive environment. They utilize early childhood development theories and emphasize fine and gross motor skills, creativity, positive behavior and peer relationships in a safe and nurturing setting. An effective preschool lead teacher will have strong organizational and interpersonal skills.
Preschool lead teachers have greater responsibility than their fellow teachers, leading curriculum instruction and making logistical decisions in the classroom, such as scheduling and lesson plans. They may also work more instructional hours than other teachers and occupy a leadership role within the school, usually by supervising instructional assistants and other staff. To reach the level of lead teacher, preschool teachers often start as assistant teachers and advance to being teachers and then lead teachers.
Preschool and Pre-Kindergarten
Lead pre-kindergarten teachers, a category of preschool lead teacher, specialize in a curriculum that teaches students the year before they enter kindergarten, in order to prepare them for academic and social skills required in that grade level. Like lead preschool teachers, they provide guidance to other teachers, ensure compliance with program requirements, assist with parent education programs and coordinate communications with parents. Lead preschool and pre-kindergarten teachers monitor student progress and growth for the purpose of assessment and parent communication.
Salary and Job Growth
In 2010, the median pay for a preschool teacher with an associate's degree was $25,700 per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That figure is expected to be on the higher end for lead teachers, who typically supervise other teachers, work more hours and/or have more responsibility and professional experience. Employment of preschool teachers was expected to grow by 25 percent from 2010 to 2020, faster than the average for all occupations, reports the BLS.
2016 Salary Information for Preschool Teachers
Preschool teachers earned a median annual salary of $28,790 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, preschool teachers earned a 25th percentile salary of $22,750, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $38,350, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 478,500 people were employed in the U.S. as preschool teachers.
Alison Lake has been a journalist and editor since 2001, working with numerous newspapers and magazines. She has served on the world news desk of the "Washington Post" and contributed to The Atlantic, Foreign Policy Online, Al Jazeera English and GlobalPost.