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How to Become an Elementary Gym Teacher: Career Guide

Research the requirements to become an elementary gym teacher. Learn about the job description and duties, and read the step-by-step process to start a career in the education field. View article »

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Should I Become an Elementary Gym Teacher?

Elementary gym teachers instruct students in the basics of movement through games and other physical activities while also teaching them about sportsmanship. Common duties include planning lessons, supervising children and preparing materials. This career can be physically challenging, so prospective gym teachers should be in good physical condition.

Career Requirements

The median annual salary for elementary school teachers according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics was $54,890 in 2015. To become a gym teacher, you must have a bachelor's degree in health, kinesiology or physical education. All states also require public school teachers to be licensed. The only experience you need is student teaching, which is usually done while in school. You'll also need patience, creativity and excellent communication skills.

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Steps to Become an Elementary Gym Teacher

Let's go through the steps that you'll need to take to become a gym teacher.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Health, physical education and kinesiology are common majors for prospective gym teachers. These programs are designed for completion in four years and blend courses in teaching with physical fitness, health and wellness.

Undergraduates learn the impact of physical education on anatomy, physiology and sociology and understand how to bring this learning to children at a variety of grade levels. Courses can include sports and exercise, physical education curriculum design and outdoor recreation. Students may also take courses in health, diet, nutrition and wellness, which have become increasingly more important.

  • Take communication classes. Elementary gym teachers must have excellent communication skills and the ability to clearly explain directions to young children.

Step 2: Complete Student Teaching

Most education degree programs require undergraduates to complete a semester of student teaching. The internship is usually taken as an upperclassman. Each school imposes certain requirements, such as a minimum grade point average or completed credits, to be eligible for student teaching. You should be familiar with these expectations early in your program.

Under the supervision of a mentor teacher, student teachers run their own classroom. As a gym teacher, you'll be expected to plan lessons and engage their students with learning and physical activity. You should do your best to match up your internship with the grade level you plan to teach. You will be graded and evaluated on your performance in the gym.

Step 3: Become Certified

Certification or licensure varies from state to state and is required to seek permanent employment as a gym teacher. You should be sure to check with their respective state education agency to learn about the requirements. For a majority of applicants, minimum requirements will include completing an undergraduate major for gym teachers, such as physical education, health or kinesiology.

In most states, graduates will also be asked to pass state-administered exams. While the number of tests can vary, aspiring teachers are typically required to pass a general skills exam and occasionally, a subject matter exam. Certification can also include an eligibility screening, typically via a background check, fingerprinting or similar method.

  • Prepare for the exam. You should find out what exam is required in your state and prepare by gathering any recommended books or practice exams.

Step 4: Begin Teaching

Once you have passed your certification exams, you can pursue permanent work as an elementary gym teacher. In some states, graduates may be hired for a designated period under a provisional license until they take and pass the needed exams. In elementary school, gym teachers will help students master basic skills in movement through activities. Children will explore hopping, jumping, kicking, running, striking, throwing and walking.

  • Consider substitute teaching. You can network and sharpen your skills by substitute teaching. Substitute teaching experiences can lead to recommendations that may help you gain full-time employment.

Step 5: Pursue Additional Education

Most states now require teachers to earn additional credits in their field to maintain their licenses. Some teachers decide to complete an advanced degree program, which helps them both with the present work and to advance into administrative roles. Master's degree programs generally consider teachers' schedules and offer courses in the evenings, weekends, summers and online.

Graduate degrees may be earned in physical education and complementary majors, such as health or recreation. Some elementary gym teachers may seek advancement as an athletic director or director of physical education.

To become a gym teacher, you need a bachelor's degree and must meet any state licensing requirements.

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