Primary School Teachers

Grade 1 Teacher

Jo, 27, is a Grade 1 teacher in central Ontario. Her BA in English and geography (1998) is from Trent University in Peterborough and her B.Ed (1999) is from Queen's University in Kingston.

Stephanie: What made you decide to become a teacher? How did you become a teacher? What area do you specialize in and why did you decide to specialize in that area?
I decided to become a teacher at a very young age. I enjoy working with children. I specialized in early primary education and also in special education. I chose to specialize in these areas for two reasons. First, I enjoy working with young children. Second, I find that many early primary classrooms do not offer educational assistance for their special needs students. Therefore, an early primary specialist is synonymous with a special education specialist.

Stephanie: What do you like about your job?
I love going to school and working with six-year-olds every day. I find that they are eager to learn and excited about everything. The worst part of their day is if they fall down and skin their knees. For me, the most wonderful part of the job is watching my students' development. They enter Grade 1 with only early literacy and numeracy skills and leave with basic reading skills and are able to add and subtract. The pure joy of learning is thrilling.

Stephanie: What is your least favourite part of the job?
The most challenging part of the job can be dealing with parents. If parents are overworked and tired, they can bring their stress and resulting negative emotions to parent-teacher interviews.

Stephanie: What advice do you have for someone considering becoming a teacher?
I would encourage them to get experience in the field, and to be sure they enjoy working with children or young adults. If they are really serious about teaching as a career option, they should try to enrol in a concurrent education program. I personally chose this option and I realized very early in the program that I would prefer working with younger children. This decision allowed me to change my focus from working at the secondary level to working at the early primary level.

The reason for my change was I found that I enjoyed the challenge of teaching all subject areas - I did not enjoy teaching a single subject! The only way I was able to make this discovery was by working in a variety of classrooms. I would encourage students interested in teaching to do the same!

Stephanie: What kind of an education do you need to be a teacher? What kind of education did you get?
To teach in the public education system in Ontario you need at least a three-year bachelor of arts or science degree and a one-year bachelor of education degree. You then need to write an exam through the Ontario College of Teachers. Once you are a member of the Ontario College of Teachers, you are certified to teach in Ontario. You will then need to re-certify every five years. Yearly membership fees are paid to the College in order to remain a certified teacher. You are recommended for certification by the university which awarded your bachelor of education degree.

Standards differ from province to province. Some provinces require a three-year bachelor of education degree while others require a four-year bachelor of arts or science degree followed by a two-year bachelor of education degree. Be sure you know the standards for your particular province of choice.

If you plan to teach in the private education system, the standards are set by each school individually - you'd have to check with the specific school prior to application.

I did a four-year BA in English and geography at Trent University, and then continued at Queen's University to finish the Concurrent Education program.

Stephanie: What was your favourite subject when you were in high school?
I enjoyed a number of subjects in high school. My main preferences were music, drama, English and geography. However, if asked to choose the subject with the most influence on my adult life, I would have to choose music.

We are always trying to find new careers to feature in the spotlight! If there is a career you would like to know more about, please let us know what it is, and we will do what we can to include it on the site. E-mail your suggestions to