Think back to all the teachers you have had over the years. You may have had classroom teachers at school who encouraged you and made a difference in your life. You may also consider family friends or mentors to have served as teachers by guiding you along a successful path. Anyone who has taken the time to get to know you and to help you learn and grow as a person can be considered a teacher.
As you begin your college journey, you may be thinking about becoming a teacher yourself. When you earn a teaching degree, you create the opportunity to make the same transformative difference for your students that teachers in your life made for you. When you think back to the times in your life when teachers were most important, remember the attributes that they had that made them so impactful.
Why Become a Teacher
Teaching can be a wonderful career for many reasons. Here are some of the most common reasons to pursue a teaching career.
1. There Is Room for Growth and Change
A person who has earned a teaching degree has many skills that are applicable across multiple fields. Not all teachers stay in the classroom for their entire career. Some work their way up in the education field by becoming curriculum leaders, school administrators or district-level leaders. Additionally, the skills teachers have are in high demand in many other fields and can easily be applied to careers in areas such as communications and sales.
2. Teaching Can Build on Personal Interests
Teachers, in general, are lifelong learners. They want to know about the world. Since teaching is a career that allows for specialization, teachers can focus on topics that match their personal interests. For example, creative teachers can become art teachers or theater directors. Teachers interested in helping those with special needs can earn a special education teaching degree. Those who love reading and literature may decide to become an English teacher to share that passion and develop our next generation of writers.
3. Teachers Are Always Developing Their Craft
Teaching is a professional career that requires regular learning and training in order to maintain an active certificate. Teachers are required to take courses and improve their skills to stay current with the most impactful teaching techniques. Many schools bring training opportunities to teachers so they do not have to travel. Others send teachers to conferences and special training programs.
4. Being a Teacher Provides Connections to Many Different Communities
Teachers work with students and their parents for the duration of their careers. This allows them to maintain close ties to their communities. Many teachers volunteer in the communities where they teach, offering their leadership and decision-making skills. Teachers also develop professional communities with their colleagues and through their continuing education studies.
5. Teachers Make a Big Difference
Many teachers stay in the career for the long run because they are passionate about what they can accomplish with students. They know they are making a difference in the lives of children and adults in their communities. This work can be extremely gratifying.
These are just a few of the many reason to become a teacher. Now let's explore some of the types of teachers:
8 Kinds of Teachers
1. Preschool Teachers
Preschool teachers work with students before they enter elementary school. Preschool is not required for young children and is often seen as babysitting --but it is much more. There is evidence that students who receive a preschool education are better prepared for kindergarten than those who do not. In page 6 of the National Institute for Early Education Research it explains the 2016-2017 school year saw both progress and regression for state-funded preschool over the past year. Enrollment continued to increase, but growth slowed. Research has found larger benefits from attending two years (compared to one year) of quality preschool.1 Preschool teachers can set children up for future academic success.
To become a preschool teacher, you need to earn either an associate or a bachelor's degree in education. In both kinds of degree programs, future preschool teachers complete an internship or a student teaching assignment where they work with children under the supervision of a mentor teacher.
Preschool teachers manage the day-to-day activities in a preschool classroom. They create lesson plans to help children build academic skills. They initiate imaginative play when it is developmentally appropriate. They also help children build classroom, behavioral and social skills to prepare them for elementary school.
2. Elementary School Teachers
An elementary school teacher can have an incredible impact on students. The elementary school teacher lays the foundation for all future academic and classroom learning. Elementary school students work with teachers to gain knowledge in all academic and social areas.
Most elementary school teachers run self-contained classrooms. They may teach any grades from kindergarten through fifth or sixth grade, depending on the school. They may teach all subjects, from reading to math to social studies to science. At some upper elementary schools, teachers specialize in a specific subject, and students rotate between classrooms. However, most elementary school students spend the bulk of their day with a single teacher. This teacher has tremendous influence in their lives and can help children grow and develop in positive ways.
Elementary school teachers must have at least a bachelor's degree. They go through a teaching degree program that includes coursework in topics such as pedagogy, assessment, special education and subject-specific teaching methods. A student teaching experience under the supervision of a certified teacher prepares them to run a classroom on their own.
Elementary school teachers write lesson plans, conduct learning activities, assess student growth, help students build social skills and interact frequently with parents and other teachers.
3. Middle School Teachers
Middle school usually spans grades six through eight. Middle school teachers help students build on the academic foundations they acquired in elementary school and prepare them for the more rigorous work they will encounter in high school.
Middle school can be an exceptionally difficult time for students. Adolescence can make students less engaged in their schoolwork and more oriented toward the approval of peers than that of adults. Middle school teachers understand how to create meaningful and relevant learning experiences to motivate and engage this population.
Like an elementary school teacher, a middle school teacher develops lesson plans and manages a classroom. However, most middle school teachers focus on teaching one or two subjects. Moving from one specialized classroom to another in middle school mimics the experience students will have in high school.
Middle school is often the earliest school level where teachers also act as athletic coaches or run other extracurricular activities. Middle school teachers who choose to stay after school and work with students understand the importance of supporting students in their interests and goals.
4. High School Teachers
High school teachers usually teach a single subject, though they may teach that subject across multiple grades. For example, an English teacher may have a class of freshmen and another class for students taking an Advanced Placement exam in English. Like teachers in all the earlier grades, high school teachers plan lessons and manage classrooms. They also work with students outside the classroom as coaches and activity leaders.
High school teachers can be extremely influential in their students’ lives. As high school students are beginning to mature into young adults, they may see their teachers as mentors and seek advice from them. High school teachers often write their students letters of recommendation for college or for jobs. These connections between high school teachers and students are supportive and can help students overcome challenges in their lives.
5. Special Education Teachers
Special education teachers work at every level of education, from early childhood to the post-secondary level. A special education teacher may work with students who have social, emotional, mental, learning and/or physical disabilities.
In traditional public schools, a special education teacher may work with general education teachers to create and implement an individualized plan for student learning. Some special education teachers work in a private setting or in a self-contained classroom as a student’s only teacher.
Special education teachers work closely with counselors, school administration and specialized providers such as occupational therapists and speech therapists to ensure that students have the services they require. They may also work with school social workers to ensure that students and their families are accessing resources outside of school.
What kind of education a special education teacher provides depends on the needs of the student. Some special education teachers work with students who have mild to moderate learning disabilities. These teachers focus on academic strategies. Other students have greater needs in developing life or social skills; their special education teachers help them learn how to interact with others and function effectively in the world outside of school.
Special education teachers are known as advocates for their students. They undergo more training and certification than general education teachers in order to serve the needs of their students.
6. Bilingual Teachers
Bilingual teachers work in many different types of programs. In some cases, they work in full-immersion schools, where they teach only in a language other than the students’ home language. Other bilingual programs are designed so that the teacher speaks in one language for half the day and another language for the other half of the day.
Bilingual teachers are important to students who may be new to the country. Learning in their home language allows students to not miss any academic information while they are adjusting to the new location. In addition, bilingual teachers help students acquire a second language while they are young so they can more easily become fluent in it as they grow.
7. Home-School Teachers
In the past, many home-school teachers were the parents of the children they taught. Recently, the home-schooled population has grown,2 and home-school teachers are taking on more students who are unrelated to them. These home-school teachers are often certified teachers who leave the classroom and offer their expertise to families who wish to educate their children outside of a school environment.
Homeschool teachers allow families to teach their children in a flexible setting. They often teach a curriculum associated with certain religious or moral values so that students are participating in educational programming that reflects their family's beliefs.
8. Vocational Teachers
Some impactful teachers are not certified teachers at all. Instead, they are professionals who share their knowledge and expertise with students wanting to learn or go into trades. Many community colleges and technical schools offer degrees and certificates in hands-on fields such as beauty, plumbing, construction and auto mechanics. The people who teach these trade-specific classes are often practitioners rather than trained teachers.
Despite not being certified teachers, practitioners and vocational teachers can indeed make an impact on the lives of the students they teach. They help students define their career paths and learn the skills essential for success in their jobs.
Now that you’ve learned what kinds of teachers there are, if one of these career paths resonated with you, join us at Grand Canyon University, where you can earn a bachelor's degree in any of numerous teaching areas. As a teacher, you will be able to put your empathy, dedication and interest in a particular field to good use supporting and influencing future generations.
Earning your teaching degree can lead to an incredibly rewarding career helping prepare the next generation of leaders. Check out all the teaching degree choices at Grand Canyon University’s College of Education and get started on the journey to find your purpose.
1The National Institute for Early Education Research, The State of Preschool 2017, in May 2021.
2The National Home Education Research Institute, Big Growth in Homeschooling Indicated This “School Year”, in May 2021.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.