Supporting students and teachers efficiently is hard work, but very rewarding. The government defines the job as an assistant who supports children with learning, collaborates with teachers to facilitate effective learning experiences, and prepares displays and activities or the classroom. If you are the kind of person interested in the grassroots of education, online Teacher Assistant programs may be an option to explore.
No teaching certificate is required to be a teacher’s assistant, but some states require additional training, college courses, or a paraprofessional certificate. The position of a teacher assistant may be held by a student who is pursuing a teaching degree or a parent with school-age children. The primary requirement is to be certified. A GED or high school diploma is required. Having some college credit is an advantage. Just as the roles of teacher assistants vary, so do the requirements.
Some schools allow the time spent as a teacher’s assistant to be used toward extra college credit or an internship. Some states classify the position as a paraprofessional and expect a minimum of 48 college hour credits in child development and growth, reading, English, math, and other areas. They may also require a preliminary screening test. Prior childcare experience may also be a prerequisite. Working at a summer camp, church nursery, YMCA, or a local daycare helps teacher assistant candidates gain valuable childcare experience.
Having related field experience is nearly always required or preferred to work as a teacher’s assistant. On-the-job training teaches assistants to help teachers with special activities, organizing the classroom, grading papers, and office work. Being multilingual or bilingual may be an asset in areas that have students for whom English is a second language.
Some states require passing a rigorous local or state assessment and possession of a valid driver’s license. If a paraprofessional works in a Title I school, he or she has to meet specific requirements.
To be eligible for hire, and individuals must complete 48 college credit hours; complete an assessment that demonstrates competency in math, writing, and reading; or have an associate degree. Over the next two years, 96 continuing education hours must be completed.
Paraprofessionals who work with ESL and special education students must meet additional requirements in some states. California requires completion of two years of college, a clinical training program, and passing a test that is administered by the California Speech-Language Pathology, and Audiology Board.
According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, those who work with special needs students typically have to pass a skills-based test. Teacher assistants may be required to provide proof of a recent tuberculosis test and physical exam. Some schools have individual requirements, such as being certified in CPR and First Aid. Most communities require a background check for anyone who works in a school, regardless of the role.
Teacher assistants have to possess the knowledge required to manage and instruct children. They also must have a basic understanding of social studies, science, language arts, and math at the level they will assist. Knowing how to operate office and classroom equipment such as copy machines, computers, and overhead projectors is also necessary. Excellent communication skills are a must.
Working with children requires patience and mental and physical stamina. Teacher assistants need to work as part of a team. A teacher’s assistant must be willing to work with students as well as other education team members.