How to Become a Second Grade Teacher


Second grade is generally known as a year to reinforce concepts and skills introduced during first grade. As a result, second grade teachers spend a great deal of time evaluating students to ensure they are reaching all of the benchmarks required for their grade level. Teachers then use their training to effectively intervene and bring students up to speed, or reinforce and further develop core literacy and numeracy skills. As with many elementary education positions, second grade teachers will encounter increased job opportunities across the U.S. as student populations continue to grow and nationwide school enrollment surges.

How can I become a second grade teacher?

In addition to being certified to teach in their state of residence, second grade teachers are expected to hold a bachelor’s degree in an education-related field (or a bachelor’s degree in another subject followed by a bachelor’s degree in education with an elementary teaching specialization). Prospective second grade teachers must fulfill specific requirements that differ on a state-by-state basis before they can work with public elementary school students, which typically include the following steps:Young teacher at geography lesson

  1. Earn a Bachelor’s Degree: In order to gain the academic and practical skills required of a second grade teacher, aspiring educators must complete a four-year undergraduate degree program in Elementary Education. During this time, students become well-versed in the methods of teaching basic literacy and numeracy skills to children, as well as develop a familiarity with the milestones that mark a child’s development in the six- to eight-year-old range. In addition to taking courses in topics, such as child psychology and human development, future second grade teachers also complete coursework that introduces them to educational theory, classroom diversity, special education, and emerging technology for the classroom.
  1. Complete a Teacher Preparation Program: All prospective second grade educators must undergo teaching experiences in the real world before earning their degree. The majority of colleges and universities have partnerships with local school districts that allow aspiring teachers to interact with elementary school students under the supervision and observation of a teaching professional. The process typically transitions a student teacher from completing rudimentary classroom tasks to eventually teaching a class or lesson plan on his or her own. In addition to receiving assessments from the supervising teacher, some professors also require recordings of independent teaching sessions for further evaluation.
  1. Pass Exams: Upon completion of an undergraduate degree program, graduates must take a state-issued certification exam to receive a teaching license. Many states rely on the Praxis® Core Academic Skills for Educators exam, which tests an individual’s understanding and teaching knowledge of math, reading and writing on the K-6 level. Depending on a state board of education, prospective teachers may also have to submit the scores from their Praxis® Subject Assessments (formally known as the Praxis II tests), which measures a graduate’s knowledge of specific elementary subjects and various teaching methods, such as special needs education.
  1. Apply for Licensure: In order to work in a public school within their state of residence, a second grade teacher must apply for licensure – a requirement that is not expected of all private schools. The licensing process varies on a state-by-state basis, and may include submitting college transcripts, passing a criminal background check, and paying license fees.
  1. Train in a Specialty: Depending on their certifications, most second grade teachers are prepared to teach any grade between first grade and fifth grade. It is not uncommon to see elementary school teachers pursue certification in a specialty, such as art or music. Others may seek supplementary training and credentials to qualify for open positions requiring unique skills, such as being able to work with students with special needs.
  1. Become Nationally Certified: Teachers with at least three years of experience opt to demonstrate a commitment to meeting high professional standards by earning National Board Certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). Many states and school districts reward teachers who are nationally certified with added compensation, such as a supplemental pay.
  1. Earn an Optional Advanced Degree: It is not a requirement for second grade teachers to earn a master’s degree in Elementary Education or Early Childhood Education, but the career move can translate into qualifying for higher-paying positions.
  1. Professional Development Training & Continuing Education Credits: Elementary school teachers must renew their license according to the requirements set by their state of residence. For instance, teachers currently employed in the state of Ohio are expected to complete the following when renewing their teaching certificate: six semester hours of coursework related to classroom teaching and/or the area of licensure, as well as fulfill 18 continuing education units (CEUs) or 180 contact hours.

What can I expect as a 2nd grade teacher? 

By second grade, most students are able to read and write at a basic level. A key component of the second grade curriculum is a focus on advancing students’ reading comprehension skills. By the end of second grade, students should be able to do much more than read basic sentences; they are expected to identify clues and context, which is an important step in graduating from picture books to short chapter books.

Second grade teachers also create lesson plans that teach a variety of subjects, such as science and history. They often use an array of text, engaging activities, and printables to help students explore math, reading, writing and other topics geared towards their age group.

Second grade teachers generally focus on helping their students reach and enhance their ability to accomplish the following academic milestones:

  • Increase speed and accuracy in reading. Students work on being able to read short stories and answer who, what, when, where, and why questions about these stories.
  • Enhanced writing skills. Teachers encourage children to write short paragraphs, and even compose short stories with a clear introduction, beginning and end.
  • Tackle increasingly difficult math concepts, such as place value, symmetry, measurement, and working with larger numbers.
  • Improved math comprehension. Students start reading and responding to very simple word problems related to mathematics.
  • Learn about the natural world. Lessons may include learning about the Earth, its natural resources, and the history and changes of the world, from fossils of prehistoric creatures to the life cycles of plants and animals.
  • Broadened knowledge of the world. Second graders start recognizing the differences between other people, places, communities, regions, and the rest of the world.

Socially, children in the second grade start becoming more independent at home and school. They are also more selective about the friends they make at school, and may find themselves resolving minor conflicts with classmates on their own. Second graders are also expected to possess a deeper understanding of school rules, and being able to follow directions given by their teachers. 

Second grade teachers typically work a schedule that accommodates the needs of students both during school hours, and at times, afterschool. Scheduled meetings with parents, students and staff can take place before and after the school day starts. Elementary school teachers are also expected to participate in schoolwide events, such as parent-teacher conferences, fundraising activities, and school plays. The traditional work schedule for elementary school teachers lasts for 10 months with two months off in the summer.

In the end, second grade teachers belong to a career field that is viewed by many as a satisfying profession. For example, the U.S. News & World Report identified elementary school teaching as being the #3 Best Social Services Job and the 39th Best Job on their Top 100 list. 

What is the typical salary and benefits of a second grade teacher?

In 2014, the median annual salary for an elementary school teacher, which includes second grade teachers, was reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as $54,120. With notable variations in teacher salaries across the U.S., the lowest paid teachers earned approximately $36,000 per year, while the highest paid teachers made over $84,000 per year.

Geographic location plays an important role in the amount of money a second grade teacher earns. For example, New York leads as the top-paying state for this occupation with an annual mean wage of $74,830, followed by Alaska ($71,460), Connecticut ($70,820), California ($69,990), and Massachusetts ($69,890).

Other factors that affect the overall compensation of second grade teachers include the status of the local economy, and the cost of living of the state where they teach. For example, Michigan is a state that pays their teachers an average salary of $61,560 – one of the highest in the country. The cost of living in the state pushes the adjusted income of a teacher more towards $64,937.  However, in school districts experiencing a struggling economy, educators may take pay cuts or lose their jobs. Additionally, statewide changes in Michigan have weakened the bargaining power of teachers unions, which would have otherwise negotiated contracts in favor of increased salaries for educators.

In addition to earning a yearly salary, elementary school teachers also receive a certain level of health benefits, 401(k) contributions, and other forms of compensation depending on their place of employment. For example, those working at a private school may receive discounted or free tuition for their children to attend. Second grade teachers also fall under a category of public sector employees that are offered various incentives, such as signing bonuses and student loan forgiveness, for working in underserved school districts and communities.

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

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projected a 12 percent growth rate from 2012 to 2022 for elementary school teachers, which translates into an additional 150,000 new and open teaching positions. The demand to accommodate growing student populations and fill positons left open by retired educators contributes to the steady employment growth for the occupation. A portion of these new and replacement positions will be filled by second grade teachers.

Second grade teachers who meet the following qualifications often qualify for increased job opportunities and positions (many of which that pay a higher salary):

  • Special Education Credentials: In 2010 alone, over 600,000 children required the guidance of a teacher trained in special needs education, which are in short supply. Therefore, educators certified in and/or possessing an advanced degree in Special Education are in high demand.
  • Bilingual Education Credentials: If one in five elementary school children speak a language other than English at home, roughly 20 percent of every public school classroom is reported to have students struggling to fully understand the concepts being taught during lessons. As a result, schools are constantly on the lookout for teachers who can teach English as a Second Language (ESL).

Other qualifications that increase the job prospects for second grade teachers include earning an advanced degree, such as a master’s degree in education (M.Ed.); gaining specialized training and certifications; and possessing years of experience.

In conclusion, second grade teachers work with children who are in their early formative years. The age-group typically thrives in classrooms that incorporate fun, engaging material, educational games, and teaching approaches into the curriculum. However, aspiring second grade teachers must first earn a degree, complete a teaching preparation program, and become licensed before they are qualified to expand the academic knowledge of six- to eight-year-olds

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