How To Hire A Preschool Teacher

So if you’re thinking about either increasing your class sizes and want to hire a preschool assistant, or you’re thinking about transitioning out of being the preschool teacher/director and want to hire a preschool teacher instead, then this guide should really help you!

Two years ago I was in the same position, asking myself: “How in the world do I hire a 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!  So I asked myself the question: “How do I hire a preschool teacher?”

But that question didn’t stop there, and I soon found myself asking:

  • Where do I advertise?
  • What should I put in the listing?
  • 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 a preschool teacher!  Because I soon found out that you can get the best teacher out there, but 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!  So what did I do wrong???  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 a preschool teacher who will not only improve your preschool program, but who will also be loyal to your preschool program.

So with that in mind, let’s answer the questions above for you in your search to hire a preschool teacher, all the while remembering that our primary goal is to get a preschool teacher THAT STAYS!

And 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 and meld it to your own needs.

Where Do I Advertise?

When I thought about how I should hire a preschool teacher, I knew I needed to advertise and get the word out first.  My favorite place to advertise is Craigslist, because it’s free.  Out of the entire Boise area when I posted my ad on Craigslist, I received around 100 applications.  Out of those 100, only about 50 were worth considering.

That being said, when you try to hire a preschool teacher on Craigslist, the only people who will see your ad are people looking on Craigslist for jobs, so you’re not guaranteed to get a huge response.  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 website where you’ve written the job description and requirements.

I also recommend that if you want to hire a preschool teacher that you personally know, that you 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.

What Should I Put In the Advertisement?

When you’re writing your ad to hire a preschool teacher, be simple, be concise, and above all else: be specific about what you want!  After all, you can’t very well get what you forgot to ask for, can you?

You’ll want to state these 6 things:

  1. Your name, your preschool’s name, website, address, and your email address
  2. Their job title (Preschool Teacher, or Preschool Assistant)
  3. Work hours (Put in your preschool hours, remember to say it runs Sept.-May, with holidays off)
  4. Compensation (I pay my preschool teacher $13-14/hr. depending on education and experience)
  5. Duties (What will your preschool teacher do? Teach, write curriculum, etc.)
  6. 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)

What Should I Look For In An Applicant?

I told you earlier that you want to hire a preschool teacher you can KEEP, so the first thing you should look for when you hire a preschool teacher is their LENGTH OF TIME WORKING ON A JOB!  When you’re searching their work history, be sure to look not only for what types of positions they’ve held in the past, but also the length of the time they’ve spent at each job.  If you have two applicants who are on the same playing field in education and experience, but one has worked with 5 different employers over the past 5 years, and the other one has worked with only one employer for the past 5 years, guess who you should probably hire?

That’s right… when I hire a preschool teacher, I place a LOT of bonus points 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 of 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.  When I’m looking to hire a preschool teacher, I go first to the college students!

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 age-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?

How can I learn more about the applicants?

Before you hold interviews to hire a preschool teacher, you’ll want to narrow down your candidates to a list of your top 10.  At that point, contact those candidates and setup a time for them to come interview (I like to schedule interviews every 45 minutes) and I also request that they fill out a Preschool Questionnaire that they email back to me before their interview.  In the questionnaire, I like to ask the questions below, but feel free to modify the questions to fit your own needs.

  1. 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.
  2. What is one of your greatest achievements? This helps you see where their priorities lie.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Do you have a current CPR/1st Aid Certification?
  6. Do you feel more comfortable teaching 3-year-olds, 4-year-olds, or both, and why? If someone is great with younger children but struggles with reigning in older children, you need to know that.
  7. How many years would you like to see yourself dedicating to our preschool? Again, here is the loyalty question.
  8. Please explain why you chose your answer to question #7. This helps to understand why they will or won’t stay a long time.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. Are you currently employed? If Yes, why are you looking for another job? 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.

What Should I Do In An Interview?

The next step when you’re going to hire a preschool teacher is to interview each candidate.  I recommend spacing each interview about 45 minutes from each other, but keeping each interview under 30 minutes so you still have time to write notes and prepare for the next candidate.  If the interviews will be held in your home, remind the candidates to come at the specified time, and not earlier, as you will be interviewing other candidates.  (I had one candidate come an hour and a half early when I was trying to feed my brand new baby!  NOT OK!)

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?  Confident people can probably handle preschool crises better than timid people.

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.  When you’re trying to hire a preschool teacher, these 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.  Or, even better, have them come in and do a mock lesson plan for 30 minutes for your preschool class!  Remember, after you hire a preschool teacher, you can always teach them what to teach… you CAN’T teach them how to teach to a preschooler’s level, how to love children, or how to be more patient.  So those qualities are even more important than WHAT they actually teach.

What kinds of legal forms do I have to file?

That’s right, if you hire a preschool teacher, you’ll be filing some legal forms so you keep everything on the up-and-up with Uncle Sam and the good ol’ IRS!  Although this question alone deserves another 5-page guide (perhaps I’ll do one soon!) I’ll give you the basic gist:

Your employee will need to fill out:

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 of taxes onto your employee’s hourly wage.  For instance, if I pay my teacher $13/hr., I’ll really be paying about $14/hr. after I pay payroll taxes.  You can 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!

How Will I KEEP My Teacher?

Yes, you can be a great employer, pay wages on time, and generally make the job as easy as possible.  BUT…  you’ve got to go a step BEYOND that by being an EXTRAORDINARY employer!  You’ve got to be the kind of employer that an employee WANTS to be loyal to, and wants to continue working with!  I’ve found that these simple ideas below will help keep your teacher loyal to you, and hopefully will help you keep your teacher as long as you both enjoy working together:

  • 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!  I always love your comments!  :-)

– Joy