Preschool teaching assistants (also known as paraprofessionals or paraeducators) are classroom aides who provide support for preschool teachers. By providing students with individual attention and serving as a secondary authoritative figure in the classroom, preschool teaching assistants offer the head instructor more time to plan lessons and teach the class as a whole. Qualifications for preschool teaching assistants vary by state and school district.
Preschool teaching assistants typically must have completed high school and received a high school diploma. Teaching assistants who wish to work in Title I schools--often urban schools where a large percentage of students come from low-income households--must hold a two-year or higher degree, have a minimum of two years of college, or pass a rigorous state or local assessment, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In addition, many employers require applicants to have completed college coursework, ideally in education studies, child development or human development.
Experience, Language and Soft Skill Qualifications
Preschools typically seek teaching assistants who have previous experience working with and teaching children. This experience can either be in a previous school system or from a day care or child care centre. Experience with special education students can be a plus. Increasingly, teaching assistants who can speak a second language, Spanish in particular, are in high demand to aid in the instruction of students with a primary language other than English. Preschool teaching assistants should be able to work well with students and collaborate effectively with the head instructor.
Most preschools will require applicants to have a valid driver's license, insurance and a clean driving record. In addition, many employers require teaching assistant applicants to agree to a background check. Some preschools may require that teaching assistants join a union. In 2008, approximately 37 per cent of teaching assistants belonged to a teacher's union (either the American Federation of Teachers or the National Education Association), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.