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What is Early Childhood Education?

Tennessee children, as in all states, need solid Early Childhood Education. After all, preschool provides a foundation for all later growth and learning. Studies have shown the dramatic efficacy of pre-k instruction and developmental nurture. From a purely pragmatic standpoint, when states invest in their youngest children, they reap great rewards.

James Heckman, a Nobel-prize winning economist, has shown that economic development is not a trickle down from adults to children, but the reverse. When states make an investment in their children, the kids repay the adults with a seven to ten percent rate of return.

Tennessee has been mulling a new educational center that would teach Early Childhood Educators. Added to this, in 2018 the national legislature agreed to provide over five billion dollars in block grants to states. This money is earmarked for Early Childhood Education and Development. If Tennessee commits to this new learning center and then its cities begin applying for federal block grants, Tennessee will soon reap great rewards, as will state teachers.

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Steps to Become an Early Childhood Education Teacher in Tennessee

The first step to becoming a Tennessee Early Childhood Educator is to discover whether or not that field is your passion. Tennessee preschoolers and elementary students deserve teachers who are 100% committed to teaching and helping them develop into the best people they can be. If you are unsure, you might consider becoming a paraprofessional for a year, or working in a preschool. Once you determine that Early Childhood Education is the career for you, you should enroll in a state-approved teacher-preparation program, pass the necessary tests, and start your life's work. Here are the specific steps to become and Early Childhood Educator in Tennessee.

Teachers form the backbone of our society. On top of the proverbial 3-Rs, they nurture and educate our young children as to the best ways to conduct themselves in our society. Teachers wear multiple hats on any given day. They are tasked with being teacher, social worker, administrator, counselor, disciplinarian, and friend, just to name a few.

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However, though teaching is one of the toughest jobs in our culture, it is also one of the most rewarding. When you see a youngster's eyes light up when they finally understands multiplication, or when a little one cackles with delight when they finish their first puzzle, you can share in that moment. There is no paycheck large enough to match that. That is why teaching is such an esteemed and sought after profession.

Step 1. Earn Your Degree

A bachelor's degree in Early Childhood Education is the first, and most strenuous, step toward becoming a Tennessee teacher. You need to find a program that is approved by the state and which is fully accredited. Luckily, most education programs touting a teacher-prep track are fully accredited and approved.

During your time in school, you will need to complete a student teaching experience. This will allow you to work with a mentor on how you manage a classroom, deliver curriculum, and generally operate as an educational professional. This is more than a course, this is on-the-job training that will be enormously helpful on your path to the classroom.

Step 2. Pass Your Exams

To become a fully-licensed Early Childhood Education teacher, you need to pass three PRAXIS exams. You don't need to take all three at once, but you will need satisfactory scores to qualify for a full-time position. These tests include:

  • Education of Young Children – Qualifying Score 160
  • Elementary Education: Content Knowledge – Qualifying Score 163
  • Teaching Reading: Elementary Education – Qualifying Score 162

Step 3. Standards and Qualifications

To fully qualify all of your materials, you must submit to a state and federal background, have your official transcripts sent directly from your school or other valid source, and submit a letter of recommendation from your school.

If you have any serious infractions on your record, including severe traffic infractions such as a DUI, you should account for these on your application. If you have fulfilled all of the court's requirements, including payment of all fines, then you can assert as much. If you still have court documents verifying your statements, you should include copies.

Once you’ve received your licensure, you will need to maintain it. This will require the completion of 45 ‘renewal points’ for every five years you hold the license. You can fulfill this requirement with college courses or other professional activities. However, keep in mind that if you earn enough college credit to earn your master’s and have your employing school complete a performance evaluation, you will be exempted from this ongoing requirement and open future teaching opportunities for yourself.

Popular Career Choices

  • Preschool Teacher
  • Kindergarten Teacher
  • Elementary School Teacher
  • Special Education Teacher

Additional Specialization Certifications

Special Education: To attain this endorsement, you will need to complete additional coursework and pass the corresponding Praxis examination. There are many sub-endorsements that fall under the rubric of SPED. Here are a few you can choose from:

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  • SPED Comprehensive K-12
  • SPED Hearing K-12
  • SPED Interventionists 6-12
  • SPED Modified K-12
  • SPED Preschool Early Childhood Education PreK-3
  • SPED Speech Language Pathologist PreK-12
  • English as a Second Language :This endorsement requires additional coursework and another Praxis examination. It will help you teach Tennessee's newest residents as they learn to adapt to their new home.
  • Gifted and Talented Education :Even the brightest students need additional supports to make sure they are adequately stimulated and engaged. You'll need to take more tests and then pass the requisite Praxis examination to attain this endorsement.

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  • Practitioner License: This will be your first Tennessee license. The Practitioner-level licensure is a three-year credential that you may renew one time. You can add endorsements to this license.
  • Professional License: Once you have performed admirably at the Practitioner level, you can apply for a Professional license. This is a six-year licensure that you may renew for the remainder of your career. Like the Practitioner license, you may continue to add endorsements to this license.

Achieving a degree from an accredited Early Childhood Educator Preparation Program is a vital first step towards a fulfilling career in education. Your degree will form the foundation from which you launch off, and you will surely recall bits of wisdom from your professors throughout your time in the field. Tennessee has countless educator-preparation programs. Here is a brief list:

  • Austin Peay State University
    Degrees Offered:
    • School Counseling and Guidance Services; Master’s
    • Curriculum and Instruction; Master’s
    • Reading Teacher Education; Master’s
    • Special Education and Teaching; Bachelor’s

    Accreditation By:

    • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
    • National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE)
  • Belmont University
    Degrees Offered:
    • Early Childhood Education; Bachelor’s
    • Elementary Education and Teaching; Bachelor’s & Master’s
    • Special Education and Teaching; Master’s

    Accreditation By:

    • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
    • Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education
    • National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE)
  • Vanderbilt University
    Degrees Offered:
    • School Counseling and Guidance Services; Master’s
    • Curriculum and Instruction; Master’s
    • Early Childhood Education and Teaching; Bachelor’s
    • Education/Teaching of Individuals with Hearing Impairments Including Deafness; Master’s
    • Educational Leadership and Administration; Master’s & Dr.
    • Elementary Education and Teaching; Bachelor’s & Master’s
    • Reading Teacher Education; Master’s
    • Special Education and Teaching; Bachelor’s, Master’s, & Dr.
    • ESL Teaching; Master’s

    Accreditation By:

    • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
    • Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP)
  • University of Tennessee – Chattanooga
    Degrees Offered:
    • School Counseling and Guidance Services; Master’s & Post-grad Certificate
    • Early Childhood Education and Teaching; Bachelor’s
    • Elementary Education and Teaching; Master’s
    • Special Education and Teaching; Bachelor’s & Master’s
    • ESL Teaching; Post-grad Certificate

    Accreditation By:

    • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
    • National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE)
  • University of Memphis
    Degrees Offered:
    • School Counseling and Guidance Services; Master’s, Dr., & Post-grad Certificate
    • Curriculum and Instruction; Master’s & Dr.
    • Education/Teaching of Individuals with Autism; Post-grad Certificate
    • Special Education and Teaching; Bachelor’s
    • ESL Teacher; Post-grad Certificate

    Accreditation By:

    • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
    • National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE)
  • Southwest Tennessee Community College
    Degrees Offered for Early Childhood Education:
    • Associate (A.A.S.)
    • Technical Certificate
    • Associate of Science in Teaching K-5
    • Associate of Science in Teaching Pre K-3
    • TN eCampus Associate of Science (A.S.) Degrees
    • Associate of Science in Teaching
    • University Parallel, Teacher Aides/Paraprofessionals Preparation
    • University Parallel Associate of Science (A.S.) Degrees

    Accreditation By:

    • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges

Potential Careers and Salaries for Graduates

Where You Can Work in Tennessee as an Early Childhood Educator

  • Public Schools
    Tennessee educators by and large choose this route. Public schools offer more opportunities and provide a high educational standard for their students. To teach in a public school you will need to complete the route to licensure as prescribed by the state. Once you begin teaching, you will have the state's support and thus enjoy a fruitful, rewarding career.
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  • Private Childcare
    Families often like to hire independent childcare professionals to take care of their little ones. These positions are as individual as the families you'll work with. Some will want a care provider who can help their kids learn to read earlier, master a foreign language, or establish a foundation in the arts. Keep in mind that you may still need to carpool the kids to activities, but the experience is bound to be as memorable as it is rewarding.
  • Private Schools
    While it may be not as financially rewarding as public schools, teaching in a private school has many other rewards. You will have more control over the curriculum you teach, your work environment is bound to be more intimate, and your class sizes are sure to be smaller.
  • Head Start Programs
    This federal program has been going strong since it was instituted in 1965. Low-income families have received a tremendous boost by being able to start their youngsters off in such a phenomenal program. Not all Head Start programs insist on a state teaching credential, but you will be well served by at least carrying a degree from a state-approved teacher-prep program.
  • Community-Based Programs
    These programs are perhaps the least formal and structured of them all. They are often geared towards activities such as sports, arts, or simple daycare. However, you can learn a lot about children while working in such a program. Community-based programs might be a great place to begin your work with children.
  • Faith-Based Programs
    If you wish to include your faith in your career, then you should seek out a church, synagogue, or temple that includes Early Childhood Education. You might also find stand-alone schools that are dedicated to a specific religious doctrine or belief system.
  • Military Programs
    If you want to advance your own education while teaching soldier's children, then you should investigate teaching on military bases. You will need a Tennessee (or other state) teaching credential, but then you will be ready to apply. You might work on bases stateside, or you might make a career that spans the globe, including Germany, Japan, and even Hawaii.

Early Childhood Education Teaching Salaries in Tennessee

  • Public Schools
    Teaching little ones is a lot of fun. Whether you work in a public school or a specialty preschool, such as Montessori, you will facilitate the growth and development of students in a profound way. In fact, studies show that a solid preschool experience has a lasting impact throughout the entire course of a person's education.
  • Elementary School Teacher
    This occupation will find you in an inclusive classroom where you are tasked with teaching students all subject areas. For this reason, you will need to pass a comprehensive set of Praxis examinations to ensure that you have mastery over Reading, Mathematics, Social Studies, and Science.
  • Professor of Education
    Though some move into post-secondary education after a long tenure in the classroom, others move directly from their undergraduate program into a master's, then doctoral degrees. You will want to achieve a doctoral degree to teach in college so that you are assured the better teaching positions and have a shot at tenure.
  • School Principal
    Tennessee requires that you complete an Instructional Leader Preparation Program. You can attain an initial, 3-year license if you are enrolled in such a program.
  • Special Education Teacher
    Your special classroom will facilitate learning for a wide range of differently-abled students. Whether your students have profound cognitive impairments, dyslexia, or are hearing/visually impaired, you will make a dramatic impact on their lives.
  • ESL Teacher
    Tennessee provides educational opportunities for students who are new to our English-dominated society. You'll need a special endorsement for this occupation, but the extra work is worth it.
  • School Psychologist
    With a minimum of a master's degree, you can counsel students through difficulties with learning, their peers, and even family issues. Schools are wise to include school counselors in their programs, since developmental difficulties are both common and disruptive to the overall goals of education.
Occupation Entry-Level Mid-Career Late-Career
Preschool Teacher $25,200 $26,500 $26,800
Elementary School Teacher $40,300 $42,700 $48,000
Professor of Education $60,200 $70,200 $99,000
School Principal $73,400 $79,000 $86,000
Special Education Teacher $41,200 $46,300 $58,000
ESL Teacher $40,500 $42,700 $48,000
School Psychologist $54,200 $61,000 $73,000

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