Head Start Teacher Job Description

Head Start teachers organize and supervise classrooms for pre-K students from low-income families. They plan educational lessons, delivering them to their students. Head Start teachers prepare their students for elementary school. Candidates who love children and teaching excel in this role, an entry-level position that reports directly to the Head Start director. Head Start teachers must be available to work during normal school hours and may spend time after school hours preparing lesson plans or grading homework.


Head Start Teacher Duties and Responsibilities

A Head Start teacher may be responsible for varying tasks depending on the school and area in which they teach, but most perform these core tasks no matter where they are located:

Manage Classroom Operations

Head Start teachers manage general classroom operations. They deliver lessons and perform activities with the children. They also coach teacher assistants and classroom volunteers.

Develop Curriculum

Head Start teachers develop curriculum appropriate for children ages three to five. They work with teacher assistants and special needs aides to develop a curriculum that works for each child so no one falls behind.

Meet with Parents

Parents want to know how their children are performing in the classroom; Head Start teachers meet with parents to deliver progress reports. Head Start teachers sometimes work with non-English speaking parents.

Report Developmental Concerns

Head Start teachers monitor behavioral, educational, and developmental progress for each of their students. If they have concerns about a child’s development, they report it to the Head Start director.

Respond to Emergency Situations

If an emergency occurs in the classroom, Head Start teachers are the first to respond. They provide first aid when needed and manage conflict in an appropriate manner.


Head Start Teacher Skills and Qualifications

Head Start teachers are passionate about helping underprivileged children gain access to resources. They understand child psychology and use that knowledge to help children succeed in their education. Employers look for candidates who have at least an associate’s degree in early education, although candidates with a bachelor’s degree are preferred. Employers also look for Head Start teachers who possess the following skills:

  • Pre-K teaching experience – Head Start teachers, experienced working with and teaching children aged three to five, understand how children at that age learn and play
  • Time management – Head Start teachers are excellent at time management, keeping the classroom running by adhering to strict schedules
  • Instructional design – while Head Start teachers aren’t required to have education in instructional design, they are familiar with creating lesson plans and delivering them appropriately
  • Nurturing personality – a nurturing personality helps teachers to empathize with students who come from low-income situations
  • Communication – working with fellow teachers, parents, and children, Head Start teachers easily shift the way they communicate to accommodate their audience


Tools of the Trade

Head Start teachers often work with the following tools:

  • Google Apps (Docs, Calendar, Sheets)
  • Microsoft Office Suite


Head Start Teacher Education and Training

Successful Head Start teachers have, at a minimum, an associate’s degree in early education or a related field. However, many employers actively seek out candidates who possess bachelor’s degrees. Head Start teachers should also have CPR certification for infants and children. Many employers require their new Head Start teachers to undergo job-specific training to get them up to speed on the children’s individual needs and situations.


Head Start Teacher Salary and Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists the annual median salary for preschool teachers—a category under which Head Start teachers fall—as $28,790, or $13.84 per hour. Head Start teachers in the top 10 percent earn $54,310 per year, while those in the bottom 10 percent earn as little as $19,430 per year.

The BLS lists a positive outlook for Head Start teachers over the next 10 years. This positive outlook can be attributed to the fact that many parents are more educated about the benefits of early childhood education and the Head Start program is continuing to grow.


Helpful Resources

Read through some of these helpful resources to learn more about the Head Start teacher role:

Head Start Program – This is the official government website for the Head Start program. If you’re not familiar with the program, this is the place to start researching the role of a Head Start teacher. You can also search for your state’s specific Head Start program website, where you can read about news, policy and regulation, and events in your area.

National Head Start Association – This website is home for the non-profit organization that believes the Head Start program is “the most important social and educational investment in children, families, and communities that the United States has ever undertaken.” Here, you can find a wealth of resources and information about the program and how to get involved.

The Intentional Teacher: Choosing the Best Strategies for Young Children’s Learning – This book focuses on both adult-guided and child-guided learning activities that are focused specifically on what preschoolers want to learn. This is a useful resource for all Head Start teachers, regardless of experience.

Powerful Interactions: How to Connect with Children to Extend Their Learning – Since Head Start teachers are spending almost every moment of the day with the children they teach, they need to learn how to make each interaction powerful. This book helps teachers learn how to create meaningful and purposeful interactions with all their students. The book outlines these steps to create powerful interactions: “be present, connect, and extend learning.”


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