These tips work for a multitude of scenarios, including you wanting to: increase your class size and hire an assistant, transition out of being the preschool teacher/director and solely being a director, and even hiring multiple teachers.
Two years ago I was in the same boat as you, asking myself: “How in the world do I find an amazing preschool teacher?” You see, I had just found out I was pregnant with my daughter. And at the time, I was a one-woman show: the director, the teacher, the business owner… But I was teaching full-time (M-F 9-2:30 p.m. each day) and realized it might be difficult to teach while taking care of a brand new baby. After all, the preschoolers need a teacher who can devote her full attention to them!
But that question didn’t stop there, and I soon found myself asking:
- Where do I advertise?
- What do I put in the ad?
- What should I look for in an applicant?
- How can I learn more about the applicants?
- What should I do in an interview?
- What kinds of legal forms do I have to file?
- And once I hire a preschool teacher, how will I KEEP my teacher!?!
Now, I didn’t know it at the time, but KEEPING my teacher was the absolute most important question I should have been thinking at the time, not how do I hire one. Because I soon found out that even if you get the best teacher out there, if you can’t keep her, you risk your preschool parents rebelling and your preschool falling apart!
After hiring my first teacher, she ended up leaving just five months later during Spring Break. “What did I do wrong?” I asked myself. I was a great employer who simply wanted to hire a preschool teacher. I paid her well, praised her constantly, and made her job as simple as possible. But none of that mattered when it came down to the truth of why she left: she needed a full time job with benefits… and I couldn’t give that to her.
Now, thankfully, my parents didn’t rebel and my preschool didn’t fall apart, but the fact of the matter is: it could have. And yours could, too, if you don’t follow some important strategies that will help you hire the right teacher who will not only improve your preschool program, but who will be loyal to your program as well.
So with that in mind, let’s answer the questions above, all the while remembering that our primary goal is to get a preschool teacher that stays!
*CAVEAT: As always, please understand that this information was gleaned through my own experience when I wanted to hire a preschool teacher and might not be true for you. So please take what you can out of it, meld it to your own needs, and consult with your own legal and financial advisors for your situation.
The Interview Process
- Where to advertise
- What to put in the ad
- How to choose ideal applicants
- How to learn more about applicants
- What to ask in an interview
If you want to receive more applications (or if you don’t have Craigslist in your area) you can always advertise in the newspaper classifieds section. If you’re going to advertise in the newspaper, though, you won’t be able to write as much as you’d like, so I would suggest referring candidates to a page on your website where you’ve written the job description and requirements.
Don’t forget that some of the best employees come from connections from people you know, so start talking to your family members, friends, neighbors, and anyone in your community. But a little caveat here: Don’t say you’re interested in THEM specifically, just say, “I’m looking for a preschool teacher, so if you, or anyone you know, wants to apply, let me know.” Then have them apply just like everyone else. That way you don’t feel bad about saying they don’t get the job… it simply comes down to the matter of someone else having better qualifications then they do.
You’ll want to put in your teacher ad:
- Your name, preschool name, website, address, and email address
- Their job title (Preschool Teacher, or Preschool Assistant)
- Work hours (Put in your preschool hours, remember to say it runs Sept.-May, with holidays off)
- Compensation (I pay my preschool teacher $12-17/hr. depending on education and experience)
- Duties (What will your preschool teacher do? Teach, write curriculum, etc.)
- How to apply (They should email you with their cover letter addressing WHY they will stay at your preschool for a long time, and their resume should address WHY they would make a great preschool teacher)
That’s right… when I hire a preschool teacher, I place a LOT of weight on someone who’s stayed at a particular job for a long time because it shows me two things: That person is loyal to the employer (and therefore will probably be loyal to me and STAY) and that person probably did a good job (and therefore will probably do a good job for me.)
Of the other two things to look at, you’ll want to look at their type of Employment and Education. An ideal candidate would have several years’ experience teaching preschool and a Bachelor degree in Early Childhood Education. I’ve also seen that college students in the middle of their ECE degrees are excellent preschool teachers because they have so much passion and excitement for implementing the activities/practices/teaching methods they are learning right then.
That being said, I also realize that someone with a love for children, an ability to be teachable, and a desire to educate herself in developmentally-appropriate learning methods could still make a wonderful teacher. Just remember that you’re going to hire a preschool teacher, so why not pay someone whose education and experience can help your preschool look even better to prospective parents?
- Describe your dream job.
This will tell you what they need out of a job… full-time employment, benefits, different position, etc. It should help you find out if they will be fine with being a preschool teacher for several years.
- What is one of your greatest achievements?
This helps you see where their priorities lie.
- Have you ever run your own in-home daycare, preschool or childcare? If Yes, please tell me about your experience.
Very important… most likely if someone has owned their own business they’re not likely to settle for just being a preschool teacher. Because when you hire a preschool teacher, that’s exactly what you want.
- Please write down all your levels of education achieved and the year achieved, beginning with H.S.
Sometimes they don’t list everything on their resume.
- Do you have a current CPR/1st Aid Certification?
- Do you feel more comfortable teaching 3-year-olds, 4-year-olds, or both, and why?
If someone is great with older children but struggles with reigning in younger children, you need to know that.
- How many years would you like to see yourself dedicating to our preschool, and why?
Again, here is the loyalty question.
- Have you ever taught preschool by yourself? If so, how many children were in the class and for how many months or years did you teach by yourself? If not, how many children were in the class, how many adults were teaching the class, and were you the lead or assistant teacher?
If you’re going to hire a preschool teacher so you can transition out of being the preschool teacher role, and your teacher will be the only one with the children, you need to know that he/she feels confident in that position.
- Please tell me about your experience with teaching from curriculum that you have created yourself or curriculum that is already existing. Which do you prefer teaching from?
A lot of teachers like to create their own curriculum, but you still need to know that you can give her your guidelines and she’ll stay within those guidelines.
- Please briefly tell me about all of your experience with children ages 3-5 and why you like that age group.
This should help show his/her love for children.
- Why did you (or are you) considering leaving your last place of employment?
Also incredibly important, as you don’t want to hire a preschool teacher who will turn around a few months later and look for another job.
I like to ask a few generic questions to each candidate like:
- As you look around this room, please tell me one or two things that could possibly injure a child while at preschool?
This is GREAT, as you’ll quickly weed out the people who are used to babies and not preschoolers, because they’ll say things like “Well, that toy could be put in a child’s mouth,” or “You need a gate up so a child doesn’t fall down that step.” You can’t hire a preschool teacher that keeps treating the children like babies.
- What would you do if…
Give several different examples of a problem that could happen at preschool and ask for a response.
- Why should I hire you?
That’s right, be bold, and see how they respond. Are they confident or timid in their response? Prideful or humble?
I also ask questions specific to each candidate based on questions I had with their resume, cover letter, or questionnaire. These questions might include:
- Why did you leave your previous job?
- What did you like -and dislike- about your previous employer?
- What did you mean when you said…
After each interview, write down any comments and immediate gut feelings you have about each candidate. Your gut feelings are important! Because most likely, those gut feelings will also be felt by your preschool parents as they interact with your new preschool teacher.
Narrow it down to the top 3 candidates, and if you want, do a follow-up interview on the phone with them if you need any last questions answered. Then, schedule each candidate to teach a sample 15-minute circle time teaching activity for your class. Remember,you can always teach them what to teach… but you CAN’T teach them how to teach to a preschooler’s level, how to love children, or how to be more patient. So look for those qualities when observing their lesson.
After You’ve Hired
Your employee will need to fill out:
- Employee Contract:
You can make one up but be sure to include Employer information, Job Title, Time Commitment, Compensation, and Duties
- Form W-4
- Form I-9
If you’re licensed, your employee will also probably need to:
- Get CPR/1st Aid Certified
- Pass a Background Check
And remember, now that you’ll be paying wages, you’ll also need to deduct payroll taxes from your teacher’s paycheck each month. A good idea of how much you’ll really be paying is to think of adding a dollar or two of taxes onto your employee’s hourly wage. For instance, if I pay my teacher $12/hr., I’ll really be paying close to $14/hr. after I pay payroll taxes. Plan on paying:
- Medicare/FICA Taxes
- Social Security Taxes
- Unemployment Taxes
You might also need to withhold Federal and State Income from their paychecks. The best thing to do is to contact your state’s tax commission and tell them you’re thinking about hiring an employee. They’ll tell you all you need from there!
- Give Bonuses!
I love to give bonuses to my teacher around every other month or so. Usually a month into the new preschool year, at Christmas time, for her birthday, right before preschool ends, and a signing bonus when she commits to teach another year. I won’t divulge how much I give out on the bonuses, but I always consider how much I think would be a great bonus, and then go with that amount.
- Give Gifts!
That’s right, be thoughtful! Especially give gifts on the obvious occasions, but even more important is to give gifts when they’re not expecting anything.
- Write Notes or Emails!
Keep the communication always open.
- Praise, Praise, Praise!
Anytime you think your teacher has done a great job, and especially when he/she has gone above and beyond the job duties, praise your teacher!
- Ask Questions!
Find out what parts of the job are enjoyable to your teacher, and if there are parts that he/she would rather not do. If you’re fine with taking on those duties, great. If not, find out a way to make them more enjoyable to your teacher.
I hope this incredibly LENGTHY guide helps you in your search to hire a preschool teacher. Let me know if I left anything out, or if you have any more questions for me!