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What makes for the best preschool teachers?

Characteristics to look for in preschool teachers and staff

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Preschool can be one of a child’s most important early learning environments. Kids often are first exposed to formal instruction in a preschool or daycare. But what makes for a great preschool teacher?

Training

First, preschool teachers must have proper training and credentials. At a minimum, they should have some post-secondary training related to Early Childhood Education (ECE). There are some other kinds of training that help, though.

Special traits

Education and training isn’t enough, though. The best preschool and daycare teachers will have a number of skills and traits that allow them to get the most out of their students (and give the most to them).

  • Good communication skills
  • Good organization skills
  • Strong understanding of child psychology
  • Strong social skills
  • Enthusiasm
  • Patience
  • Kindness
  • Warmth
  • Creativity
  • Flexibility

Teacher-to-student ratios in preschool

It’s important to note that preschools in Canada are all required by the Ministry of Education to have a specific teacher-to-student ratio. This ratio varies based on where you live and the age of your child.

These ratios are enforced to ensure your young child is properly cared for. Whether you’re looking at a private preschool, not-for-profit preschool or homecare by a licensed childcare provider, you should ensure these ratios are maintained.

 

Preschool questions (read our in-depth answers)

 

 

Answers to the question “What makes for the best preschool teachers?” from educational consultants and school officials

“By thinking about how teachers make good things happen, parents can establish a sense of whether their child’s learning experiences are the best they can be. Here’s an ‘A’ checklist that offers a framework for thinking about what transpires (or should transpire) within classrooms.

  • Authenticity: How are children encouraged to find and develop their interests, values, and own ways of being?
  • Activities: What kinds of activities and learning experiences are provided?
  • Augmentation: How are children encouraged to build upon their strengths and bolster their areas of weakness?
  • Autonomy: In what ways does the teacher respect and foster children’s independence?
  • Achievement: How does the teacher celebrate children’s achievements, and help children learn from setbacks?
  • Affirmation: What steps are taken to make sure that each child’s sense of self and unique abilities are affirmed?
  • Accountability: To what extent are children given responsibility to select learning opportunities, and to engage meaningfully with them?  
  • Attitude:  How does the teacher model creativity and a love of learning?” Joanne Foster, educational specialist, and co-author (with Dona Matthews) of Beyond Intelligence, Secrets for Raising Happily Productive Kids

“Here are five important characteristics to be an awesome preschool teacher:

1. Passion

If you have a burning desire to make a real difference in the lives of young children, you have one of the most important qualities of a great preschool teacher. There will be many days when teaching feels extra difficult. Whether the pay seems too low or the parents act ungrateful, getting through the low points of teaching can be overwhelming. However, when you have a true passion for educating young children, your positive drive will sustain you through the hard times.

2. Patience

Along with an undying passion for teaching, great preschool educators need plenty of patience. Every class has students with different developmental skills. Especially with young children, constant reminders about manners, hygiene, and classroom procedures are part of a typical school day. From slow learners to behavioral challenges, it takes patience to keep the classroom environment balanced and in order. On top of that, working with demanding administrators, difficult parents, or other teachers requires additional patience outside the classroom. Great preschool teachers understand how to keep their cool under many different kinds of pressure.

3. Creativity

Creativity in the classroom is more than making fun art projects for your students. For instance, you may be asked to teach with limited resources or in a restricted environment. Your class may also require creativity on your part to teach children from different cultures or backgrounds. You may also need to draw from your creative side to take risks and make decisions outside the norm in the best interest of your students. Of course, creativity is essential to make learning fun and exciting for your preschool class.

4. Flexibility

You can have everything planned out for each lesson, but great preschool teachers know that unexpected turns can happen at any time. When you remain flexible to deal with change, you can handle almost anything. This could include something as simple as having an alternative plan for rainy days or more drastic like adjusting your entire curriculum to accommodate for a reduced budget. Even the very nature of teaching young children requires constant fine tuning and dealing with minor issues. By staying flexible, you can tackle every kind of educational challenge with poise and grace.

5. Dedication

Great preschool teachers are dedicated to their students and their career. When you are determined to stand up for your beliefs on behalf of your educational values or your students’ needs, you will gain respect from your colleagues, parents and students. Moreover, excellent educators are dedicated to the love of learning and inspire their students to learn more. At the preschool level, making the classroom a place where learning is fun can resonate with children for the rest of their lives. Most of all, truly successful teachers are dedicated to bring out the best in their students.” Lee Venditti, director of J. Addison, a Montessori school in Markham, Ontario

“A teacher should have certain qualities, such as; passion, patience, organization, dedication, creativity, flexibility, etc. Teachers should be able to distinguish which approaches to use with children. Not all approaches work, they need to be able to be inventive. Temperament: teachers should be patient, friendly, understanding, exciting, and more. Teachers accept responsibility for supporting children’s development and provide occasions for children to acquire important skills and knowledge.” Marcel Pereira, director of Century Private School, a Montessori school in Richmond Hill, Ontario

“Preschool teachers should have formalized education/training in early childhood development and learning. This may be a university degree in education or an ECE diploma. They should be knowledgeable about how young children learn, the emotional and social needs of young children and also be aware of typical childhood development, so they can support children’s learning in all areas and give suggestions to parents as well. Preschool teachers should be patient, creative, engaging, empathetic, be able to redirect children’s behaviours appropriately and have high (yet appropriate) expectations of their students. Preschool teachers should also have current and relevant professional development, so that they are up-to-date on current trends in early childhood education.” Kate Meadowcroft, teacher at Elmwood School (the early years program), in Ottawa, Ontario

“Teachers in a preschool classroom must hold a minimum qualification of being an RECE. Training and credentials aside, preschool teachers should love what they do and love children. They should be authentic, friendly, kind, and fun. They should love to learn themselves and share this with their students. Enthusiasm should be evident when you walk into their classroom, and they should be open minded and allow students to be independent and part of everything that happens in the class. They should be welcoming and warm. If you walk into a preschool classroom and hear the students accidentally calling their teacher ‘mom,’ that is a good sign.” Nora Ibrahim, preschool teacher and IB PYP (Primary Years Program) coordinator at Académie de la Capitale, in Ottawa, Ontario

“Preschool teachers should be trained Registered Early Childhood Educators. RECEs have studied and understand the developmental needs of the very young child. They need to be kind, patient, well grounded, and respectful of the children and families in their care. Fostering open and supportive relationships with parents should be a priority.” Jennifer Deathe, head of admission at Waldorf Academy, a Waldorf school, in Toronto, Ontario

“Preschool teachers should be loving, calm, reassuring, and have a vested interest in their students and their care. As with all teachers, the true art is identifying and understanding the child’s needs and learning style. Preschool is a wonderful opportunity to foster a lifelong love of learning. Preschool teachers have the responsibility to provide a positive experience for children, so they can move forward throughout their academic careers with a secure and confident mindset.” Corina Gill, assistant head of the lower school at Bayview Glen Independent School, in Toronto, Ontario

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