Typically in the United States, teachers are classified into early childhood, elementary, middle and high school (sometimes called secondary), and special education teachers. It is important to identify which age group you want to teach because each level has different preparatory requirements.
Early childhood education (birth-third grade)
An early childhood teacher works with children from birth through third grade. Early childhood teachers are prepared to work with young children with typical and atypical development. Early childhood teachers are very involved and invested in the development, growth, and learning opportunities for the children and families they work with.
Elementary education (kindergarten-sixth grade)
An elementary teacher works with children from kindergarten through sixth grade. Elementary teachers are knowledgeable about a number of different subjects and plan lessons on everything from basic reading to math and science. Elementary teachers work closely with students to create hands-on learning experiences.
- Elementary education foundations undergraduate major
- Elementary education teaching licensure/master’s program
- Elementary education: dual language immersion
Secondary (middle and high school) and K-12 specialty teachers
Middle and high school teachers (also known as secondary school teachers) work with children from about grades five through twelve. Teaching is more specialized at this level, so they have the opportunity to choose the subject they want to teach. Often, teachers have students circulate through their classroom, sometimes teaching more than 100 in a day. Secondary teachers often become mentors because they assist students not only in learning their subject area, but also on how to navigate life experiences.
Specialized teachers work with students in grades K-12 divided by a specific area rather than the age of the students. At the U of M, we offer specialized teaching programs in: art, dance, English as a Second Language, music, second languages & cultures, and theatre arts.
- Agricultural education
- Arts in education (dance, theatre arts, visual arts)
- English education
- Mathematics education
- Music education
- Science education
- Second languages education (world languages and ESL)
- Social studies education
Special education teachers (K-age 21)
Special education teachers develop individualized instruction for students with disabilities. They work closely with families, service providers (such as occupational and physical therapists), social workers, and other school support staff. At the U of M, there’s more than one way to earn your teaching license in special education.
You may obtain an Academic Behavioral Strategist teaching license as an undergraduate or graduate student, which is a general special education license that qualifies you to teach students with mild-moderate disabilities from kindergarten through age 21. Once you have your ABS licensure, you may work toward an additional licensure that qualifies you to teach students with moderate-severe disabilities in one of these areas: autism spectrum disorders; developmental disabilities; emotional/behavioral disorders; or learning disabilities.
Alternatively, you can earn your special education master’s degree and teaching licensure without the general ABS licensure by specializing in one area right away such as: autism spectrum disorder (ASD), deaf/hard of hearing (DHH), early childhood special education (ECSE) and learning disabilities (LD).