How to Become a Third Grade Teacher

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By third grade, most students have mastered the basic skills they need to start investigating new concepts on their own. Now 8-to-10 years old, third grade students are often classified as highly inquisitive, creative and energetic. Teachers who enjoy working with a demographic on the threshold of discovering the world beyond picture books thrive at this grade level. As seen with many elementary schools across the nation, the need to hire qualified educators continues to grow. With increased enrollment and an escalating number of school-aged children in the U.S., the field offers passionate third grade teachers plenty of job opportunities.

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How can I become a third grade teacher?

Third grade teachers must complete a bachelor’s degree in Education or bachelor’s degree in any other subject followed by a bachelor’s degree in education, with a specialization in elementary school teaching. Graduates must also be certified to teach in their state. Since each state has its own specific requirements, certification steps can vary significantly depending on location. However, the following steps are generally required of third grade teachers before they are able to accept a position in the U.S.:shutterstock_107801354

  1. Earn an Undergraduate Degree: Individuals with an interest in becoming a third grade teacher often pursue a four-year degree, such as Early Childhood Education, Elementary Education, or Child Development, which provides a curriculum that focuses on teaching reading, writing, and numeracy skills to students aged eight to 10. As part of their teacher training, aspiring third grade teachers typically complete courses that prepare them to teach other subjects, such as science, social studies, art, and music at the elementary level.

Depending on a prospective teacher’s state of residence, he or she may have to fulfill undergraduate credit hour requirements for certification in specialty areas. For example, in New York, undergraduate prerequisites for Elementary Education majors require 30 semester hours of subject-specific coursework in addition to fulfilling semester hour requirements related to General Core and Pedagogical Core work.

  1. Undergo the Student Teacher Experience: Prospective teachers, such as Early Childhood Education majors, cap off their college career with a semester or two under the guidance of a seasoned third grade teacher. Known as a student teacher, he or she will spend time completing basic tasks in a real-world classroom setting, such as grading papers, creating bulletin boards, and leading classroom activities. Student-teachers create lesson plans and get a chance to teach a classroom. As part of the experience, their teacher-mentor observes and submits evaluations of their performance to their college professor.
  1. Pass State-Issued Exams: In order to become a third grade teacher, candidates must pass state certification exams related to testing knowledge of elementary education. Most states require the submission of Praxis scores, which serves as a national standard for assessing the aptitude of an elementary school teacher. The Praxis® Core Academic Skills for Educators exam concentrates on measuring an individual’s knowledge and understanding of teaching reading, writing and mathematics at the K-6 level. Teachers who take the Praxis® Subject Assessments exams (formally known as the Praxis II tests) have typically undergone additional training in specific subcategories of education, such as counseling or foreign languages.
  1. Obtain a Teaching License: Teachers who work within the public school system must become licensed to qualify for a job within their state of residence. The process varies according to state, but generally involves submitting the proper paperwork (such as college transcripts), passing a criminal background check, and paying license fees. While this is a requirement of public schools, third grade teachers can qualify for employment in some private schools without gaining a license from the state.
  1. Earn Credentials Associated with a Specialization: The majority of third grade teachers in elementary schools are qualified to teach students in grades first all the way through fifth, depending on their certifications. With supplementary training, education and years of experience, some teachers may opt to specialize in a certain field or elective, such as music or art. Others choose to seek additional training and certification in an in-demand field, such as special education, which can yield a higher salary and increased job opportunities.
  1. Earn an Optional Advanced Degree or Certification: Third grade teachers who go on to pursue an advanced degree, such as a master’s in Elementary Education or Early Childhood Education, or who earn certification in a specialty such as Special Education, tend to increase their chances of landing a promotion or earning an increased salary. Teachers with supplementary training and credentials also qualify for a greater number of jobs. Third grade teachers pursuing a position at certain private school may have to gain special certification. For instance, some Catholic schools require their educators to be certified by the NAPCIS Teacher Certification Program.
  1. Professional Development Training & Continuing Education Credits: To maintain a valid teaching certificate, educators in elementary schools must fulfil specific professional development requirements as set by the state. For example, in the state of California, requirements for professional development sees third grade teachers earning credits for taking courses, such as Behavior in the Classroom; Language Arts Skills; and Disorders and Disabilities.

What can I expect as a 3rd grade teacher?

From building comprehension and analysis skills to explaining fractions, third grade teachers primarily work with students aged eight to 10 who are continuing to expand their language, speech and math skills. Using a range of activities, worksheets and workbooks to supplement group projects and short classroom assignments, third grade teachers often find creative ways to keep their student’s attention focused on multiple subjects.

Academically, third grade students learn how to conceptualize ideas (to create basic plans for projects or organize information using charts and diagrams). With an increasing command of language, third graders are holding conversations, debating, and explaining the choices they make. Third grade students also start to formulate opinions about their favorite and least favorite subjects, as they master some of the following new skills across the curriculum:

  • Reading: Third grade teachers are charged with the task of introducing students to new literary genres, from poetry to journalism. They may use various forms of media, such as newspapers, magazines and websites, as classroom resources and reading material. Third grade teachers must also use their training to identify and address students demonstrating reading difficulties and other learning deficiencies.
  • Writing: Taking more responsibility for editing, proofreading and revising one’s writing is also a critical skill learned in the third grade, which may include reports, creative fiction, and personal narratives.
  • Mathematics: Students move beyond addition and subtraction to multiplication and division, and start working with larger numbers—numbers in the thousands rather than hundreds. Fractions and decimal numbers are also part of the curriculum.
  • Science: Students also start to acquire new skills, including basic research skills for exploring the natural and human world. Third grade teachers prepare lessons centered on the sun, Earth, and moon. They’ll touch upon weather concepts, and introduce their students to living systems, such as the food chain. Other topics include bodies of water, and different states of matter, sound and light.

Socially, schoolchildren of this age start to place more importance on the friendships and interests developed outside of their home and family. Competitiveness in the classroom tends to increase in third grade, which can create anxiety and stress in some students. Third grade teachers in school districts with standardized testing may also address issues of distress amongst both students and parents.

Third grade teachers are primarily hired to work in private and public learning institutions. In some elementary schools, third grade teachers may work in teams, teaching a pair of complementary subjects, such as math and science.

The majority of third grade teachers work a traditional 10-month school year, followed by a two-month break during the summer. During school hours, teachers tend to student needs, and may schedule meetings with parents, students and other educators before and after school. It is not uncommon for teachers to devote their time to schoolwide after-hour events, such as open houses, parent-teacher conferences, and school carnivals.

Some teachers work in a district that follows a year-round schedule. After teaching for 8 weeks in a row, a one-week break serves as a buffer before the next session of school begins. Midwinter breaks for year-round teachers generally last for five weeks.

In general, third grader teachers are part of a career field that offers a range of employment opportunities, benefits, and perks. For instance, the U.S. News & World Report acknowledged elementary school teachers as the #3 Best Social Services Job. The profession also made the #39 position on their 100 Best Jobs list.

What is the typical salary and benefits for a third grade teacher?

In 2014, the median annual salary for an elementary school teacher (including third grade teachers) was $54,120, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Depending on where a teacher is employed, annual salaries vary. For example, the highest paid elementary school educators are based in New York State, making a mean annual wage of $74,830 and earning salaries affected by the state’s overall high cost of living.

The cost of living is an important factor that determines the general value of an elementary school teacher’s salary. For example, since Nevada has one of the lowest costs of living in the nation, a school teacher employed there is paid about $55,957, yet benefit from a value closer to $58,594. The National Center for Education Statistics also found that teacher salaries in Nevada have experienced a modest climb since the 1999/2000 school year – increasing by 3.8 percent.

Teachers who agree to teach in high-needs schools or fill openings for shortage subject areas may receive monetary incentives. For example, Maryland is a state that offers differential pay support for teachers satisfying their current education needs.

In most states, teachers also enjoy robust benefits, including health, dental and vision benefits, as well as 401(k) contributions. As public sector employees, most teachers are also eligible for student loan forgiveness after devoting a set number of years of service to the profession. Other forms of compensation for third grade teachers include summer program pay, as well as supplementary income when serving as a coach or advisor for sports or school activities. Depending on a place of employment, teachers in private schools may receive reduced or free tuition for their children, or free room and board as an added benefit.

What is the career outlook for becoming a third grade teacher?

As a result of growing student enrollment, smaller class sizes, and teachers nearing the age of retirement, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that jobs for elementary school teachers will grow at a rate of 12 percent between 2012 and 2022. This estimation translates into an additional 150,000 elementary school teaching positions becoming available during this time, with a portion of these jobs set aside for third grade teachers.

Third grade teachers generally experience an increased chance of qualifying for a greater number of job positions with more responsibility and higher-paying salaries when they possess the following qualifications and background:

  • Teachers with an advanced degree or certification in Special Education are in high demand, and typically encounter a wider range of job prospects. In 2010 alone, over 600,000 children required the assistance of a teacher trained in special needs education.
  • Third grade teachers, who are bi-lingual or have a degree or certification in Bilingual Education, are sought after by elementary schools looking to accommodate the one in five children who speak a language other than English in the classroom.
  • Educators with an advanced degree are also hired to assume elementary school positions that require a higher level of responsibility.
  • Third grade teachers who specialize in high-demand grade subjects, such as math, not only encounter more job openings, but may also benefit from signing bonuses and other incentives.

In conclusion, third grade teachers are trained to teach students up to the sixth grade. Before they qualify to assume a position in a public school setting, prospective educators must attend an accredited degree program, undergo a teaching preparation program, and pass the necessary exams to become licensed to teach in the U.S. After fulfilling all requirements, the new graduate is ready to oversee a classroom of students that are primarily focused on advancing their literacy, mathematics, language arts, and social skills.

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