In 2002, West Virginia passed legislation that expanded funding for preschools throughout the territory with the goal of better preparing all four-year-olds for grade school by the year 2013. Now in 2014, 100 percent of four-year-olds and many three-year-olds now have access to quality preschool programs, with last year’s enrollment totaling 15,472 young children. This legislation also introduced more stringent rules regarding teacher qualification requirements.
As you prepare for what could be a fulfilling career, review these steps to learn more about how to become a preschool teacher in West Virginia:
|Earn a Degree in the Field of Early Childhood Education|
|Become a Certified Preschool Teacher|
|Consider Your Employment Options in West Virginia Preschools|
|Maintain Your Teaching Qualifications|
Step 1. Earn a Degree in the Field of Early Childhood Education
Funding for West Virginia’s preschools is largely supported by the state, which works closely with county partners to determine the best way to allocate funds. Under West Virginia law, county boards require that:
- Teachers in preschool programs have at least a bachelor’s degree and teaching certification issued by the West Virginia Department of Education
- Teachers in preschool-daycare (blended) programs have at least an associate’s degree and be working towards teaching certification by the Department of Education
According to West Virginia law, candidates with a bachelor’s degree must be given preference for early childhood education jobs over less qualified candidates.
As you complete your studies, you can expect to take courses in:
- Child development and family studies
- Infant and early childhood development
- Contemporary issues regarding family relations
- Family interaction and communication
- Leadership in early childhood
- Early socio-emotional growth and development
- Early childhood education and cultural diversity
- Identification and teaching of exceptional and disabled children
- Preschool practicum and student teaching
As part of West Virginia Department of Education preschool teacher certification requirements, you will also need to complete an approved educator preparation program in early education. This will focus specifically on pedagogy and culminate in a student teaching experience where you will be placed directly into a preschool classroom. There are nine approved early education preparation programs located throughout West Virginia.
If you have already earned a bachelor’s degree in a different subject area, you can also consider studying for a master’s degree such as an M.A.T., M.Ed. or MATL with a concentration in early childhood education. This type of master’s degree will qualify you for employment and certification as a preschool teacher as well as provide you with additional opportunities for career advancement and specialization.
Step 2. Become a Certified Preschool Teacher
West Virginia Department of Education testing requirements consist of:
- Core Academic Skills for Educators Exam
- Principles of Learning and Teaching Exam
- Early Childhood Education Exam
These exams are all administered by Educational Testing Service (ETS) and can be taken at an ETS- affiliated testing center in Dunbar near Charleston at 1020 Grosscup Avenue.
Core Academic Skills for Educators Exam
The Core Exam is designed to ensure you have the basic and essential skills that are required on every preschool teacher job description in West Virginia. The exam evaluates you on three key subject areas:
You can be exempt from taking this exam if you meet any of the following conditions:
- Have a master’s degree
- Are already a certified preschool teacher in another state
- Have achieved any of the following minimum test scores:
- 26 on the ACT
- 1125 on the SAT between April 1996 and February 2005
- 1170 on the SAT since March 2005
Principles of Early Learning and Teaching Exam
The Principles of Early Learning and Teaching Exam for grades K-6 is will ensure you have learned the basic pedagogical skills needed to be effective teacher, drawing on many subjects covered in your educator preparation program.
Early Childhood Education Exam
The Department of Education offers two different types of preschool teaching certifications for early childhood educators, one of which requires you to pass an early childhood exam:
- For certifications in Preschool Education for newborns to preschoolers, you do not need to take a test
- For certifications in Early Education for preschoolers and kindergarteners, you will need to take the Pre-Kindergarten Education Exam. You will be allotted 120 minutes to complete this test, which is comprised of 100 select-response questions from five main topic areas:
- Learning and teaching – 25 percent
- Community, professionalism, and family – 24 percent
- Creating an environment that is developmentally appropriate – 20 percent
- Early Childhood Development – 17 percent
- Supporting and teaching diverse children – 14 percent
Once you have completed your testing and education requirements you will be ready to fill out an application for certification.
Step 3. Consider Your Employment Options in West Virginia Preschools
As part of its diversified approach to ensuring all preschoolers have access to a good education, West Virginia has several types of preschool programs throughout the state:
- Head Start programs
- Blended preschool programs
- Community collaborative programs
- Non-collaborative programs
Head Start Programs – Head Start is a national program whose aim is to ensure disadvantaged preschoolers have access to high quality preschool programs. Funding is distributed to the state affiliate West Virginia Head Start, which in turn allocates resources according to need. To receive Head Start funding, preschools must employ the most qualified preschool teachers.
Community Collaborative Preschool Programs – these are supported by at least two sources of funding and can be located in a public school or community-based setting. These programs can include head start and blended programs.
Blended Preschool Programs – this type of program refers to preschools that are combined with daycare programs. If this program is also community collaborative, preschool teachers may be employed to teach if they are working towards obtaining a Department of Education teaching certification and have at least an associate’s degree in one of the following fields:
- Early childhood development
- Child development
- Occupational Development with an emphasis in early childhood/child development
Non-Collaborative Programs – these programs have only one or two sources of funding. Public non-collaborative programs require that preschool teachers have a Department of Education teaching certification in one of the following areas:
- Birth to 5 years of age
- Early childhood education
- Preschool special needs
- Elementary education with a preschool/kindergarten endorsement
Additional Preschool Educator Opportunities in West Virginia
In addition to the position of Preschool Teacher, prospective educators can also consider gaining experience as an Assistant Preschool Teacher. The minimum requirements for this position are:
- High school diploma
- Commitment to complete, or prior completion of, Department of Education courses covering the subjects of:
- Preschool special education
- Child development
- Early childhood language and literacy
Step 4. Maintain Your Teaching Qualifications
All preschool teachers and assistant preschool teachers must complete 15 hours of staff development every year. The content of this development is determined by your local county, and will be focused on making any necessary improvements based on needs.
In addition to these 15 hours of staff development, once you become a certified preschool teacher you will need to start thinking about the Department of Education’s certification maintenance requirements.
To renew your certificate you will need to complete what is known as the Beginner Educator Internship, and one of the following:
- Six credits of college coursework that will improve your preschool teaching
- A master’s degree, such as an M.A.T., M.Ed. or MATL
- Earn National Board Certification as a Generalist Early Childhood teacher
The Beginner Educator Internship is comprised of a group of professionals who will help you transition into your new career as a preschool teacher in West Virginia. This will include a preschool teacher who is assigned to be your mentor and work with you one-on-one. At the end of the year, your internship team will evaluate you. This evaluation will determine any further development you need to complete, as well as promotions or demotions.
Because earning a master’s degree is one of the ways of fulfilling your teaching certification renewal requirements, many preschool teachers choose to take this route. Having a master’s degree in a field related to early childhood education will improve your expertise in this subject area and can also reflect positively in the performance and development of your preschool students.
As you research preschool teacher career options in West Virginia, you may also find valuable information from some of the state’s professional organizations that specialize in this area:
- West Virginia Head Start
- West Virginia Association for Young Children – WVAYC
- Southern Early Childhood Association – SECA
- West Virginia Early Childhood Training Connections and Resources – WVECTCR
West Virginia Preschool Teacher Salaries
The 2014 average preschool teacher salary in West Virginia was $29,167 Virginia according to Workforce West Virginia. Experienced preschool teachers earned $34,489 a year, while those entering the workforce averaged $17,804.
In 2014 there were 1,400 preschool teachers employed in West Virginia according to Workforce West Virginia.
Workforce West Virginia provides 2014 salary information for Workforce Investment Areas (WIA). West Virginia preschool teacher salaries for the average and experienced categories were highest in the West Central portion of the state:
Nearly all of the 61 jobs that will become available each year on average in the current ten-year period leading up to 2020 will be due to the need to replace teachers who will leave the workforce. Only 3.4% of the annual jobs will be due to growth in the field.
More than half of the 35 preschool teacher job openings in fiscal year 2013 were in two counties. 10 jobs were advertised in Wood County, and 8 were advertised in Ohio County. Harrison County had the third greatest job availability with 5 advertised preschool teacher jobs.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides a detailed analysis by percentile of 2013 West Virginia pre-K teacher salaries throughout the state: