What is a Lower School Associate Teacher?
Historically, the easiest way for new candidates without teaching experience to enter the independent schools was to become a lower school associate teacher. For candidates who have teaching experience, there are many ways to come into the system. We have included a description of the lower school associate position in order to help new candidates understand this option more fully.
Most independent schools in New York City have Associate Teacher positions in their Lower School (Grades PK/K-4 or PK/K-5). The Associate Teacher position gives teachers who are relatively new to teaching the opportunity to work with an experienced head teacher on all aspects of classroom life. In turn, the Head Teacher/Associate Teacher team allows schools to provide a low student:teacher ratio, small-group instruction, and individualized attention in the elementary grades.
Who is an Associate Teacher?
Schools look for candidates who have a master’s degree completed or in progress, and/or an undergraduate degree in elementary education. Many Associates have one or two years of teaching experience and may have completed or are working toward a master's degree. Every so often, an Associate Teacher is a mid-career changer with almost no experience in the classroom but a great deal of life experience to contribute.
Why be an Associate Teacher?
Associate Teachers are an integral part of the success of both Head Teachers and the youngest students in these independent schools. They bring with them new ideas, a great deal of energy, and tremendous support to the students and teachers. Being an Associate Teacher is an amazing learning opportunity for less experienced educators who are interested in working with children, learning the scope and sequence of curriculum, and practicing their teaching skills in order to lead their own classroom some day. Associate Teachers develop the skills required of an independent school Head Teacher, a sought-after position that is typically offered to outstanding elementary educators with multiple years of experience. In many schools, Associates may apply for Head Teacher openings that occur within the Lower School faculty. Associate Teachers often go on to be Head Teachers at their own or other independent schools.
What are the responsibilities of an Associate Teacher?
Associate Teachers have an array of classroom responsibilities and duties that can vary from school-to-school or even teacher-to-teacher. Responsibilities are often dependent upon the level of the Associate Teacher’s experience. Associate Teachers with a master’s degree are typically given greater autonomy and responsibility. It is important to ask about the specific duties and opportunities that would be a part of the position at a particular school.
Typically, Associate Teachers share with the Head Teacher the task of maintaining and organizing materials and preparing for the week's lessons and activities. Associate Teachers also spend a great deal of time helping their students with class work and projects, as well as facilitating social interactions between students. Virtually all Associates have opportunities to teach small and large group lessons alone or with the assistance of the Head Teacher. Most Associates partake in the planning of curriculum for the week or the month and many have the opportunity to plan and execute their own unit of study at some point during the year. While communicating with parents via email, telephone, or in person is usually the responsibility of the Head Teacher, Associates often participate in parent conferences and may contribute to the writing of student reports. Associate Teachers attend faculty meetings, and some schools have structured programs with weekly meetings specifically for Associates.
What about salary and benefits?
Because each school establishes its own salary and benefits package, it is important to ask each school about the salary and benefits available to Associate Teachers. While Associate Teachers are paid less than Head Teachers, salaries have improved significantly in recent years. Benefits include contributory medical plans and other basic benefits that a school would make available to other full-time employees. Associate Teachers may also be eligible for professional development funds for conferences and or reimbursement for graduate school tuition.