Engaging children in physical activity is essential to increase oxygen to the brain for better alertness and productivity during the school day. Getting plenty of cardiovascular exercise also strengths children’s muscles and motor skills while reducing their waistline. That’s particularly important since the CDC reports that more than 33 percent of U.S. youth are overweight or obese. Physical education teachers are certified educators who organize fitness lessons and sports games in gymnasiums for PreK-12 students. It’s the P.E. teacher’s job to promote the physical development of children and adolescents for long-lasting health into adulthood. Whether they’re planning a basketball tournament, teaching about nutrition, or instructing on proper tennis form, P.E. teachers get students active. Many will also coach after-school sports teams from little league to modified and varsity.
Like other teaching specialties, physical education pays based on grade levels taught. Physical education teachers working in elementary schools can expect an average yearly salary of $57,730. Those employed in middle and high schools bring home a higher annual mean wage of $60,440. Physical education teachers also achieve average salaries of $51,430 in state government and $54,550 at colleges or universities.
After completing teacher preparation, new physical education teachers can expect to land a starting salary in the bottom 10th percentile around $36,190 per year. However, experienced P.E. teachers with years of teaching healthy lifestyles can eventually make over $91,190 annually. Keep in mind that physical education teachers may only be paid 10 months or have paychecks distributed over 12 months.
Physical education teachers are the nutrition and exercise experts of the school community who are responsible for educating students on healthy habits. Physical education teachers develop a curriculum with lesson plans that are centered on the children’s physical abilities and adapted for students with disabilities. They provide adequate gym equipment for students to complete assigned physical activities, such as dance, gymnastics, martial arts, or sports. At times, P.E. teachers may give quizzes on sport history, game rules, or human physiology. They meet regularly with parents or guardians to discuss students’ progress towards fitness goals. Physical education teachers must also establish clear gymnasium rules to keep students exercising safely and effectively.
Teaching physical education necessitates more than just athletic skill. Students rely on their P.E. teachers to be skilled communicators for explaining complex games in simplistic terms. They must be comfortable with public speaking in front of large classes. Physical education teachers need patience for working with students with varied physical abilities. Organizational skills are essential for P.E. teachers to maintain progress reports and lesson plans. Having the discipline skills to enforce gymnasium rules and maintain fair play is a must. Physical education teachers should have creative problem-solving skills to resolve conflicts and make curricula adaptive. Being authoritative, yet empathetic and caring is what physical education’s about.
Degree and Education Requirements
Public school districts in all 50 states require physical education teachers to obtain at least a bachelor’s degree from a four-year, accredited teacher’s college. Earning a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) or Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in physical education is the common route. Some may major in exercise science, coaching, physiology, sports management, or health education while minoring in physical education. Attending a college approved by the Council on Accreditation for Educator Preparation (CAEP) or its equivalent is suggested. If individuals already hold a bachelor’s in a non-teaching field, pursuing graduate school is necessary. Pre-licensure Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) programs frequently have physical education specializations.
Pros and Cons of the Position
Making the decision to become a physical education teacher will provide both victories and obstacles to overcome. On the plus side, P.E. teachers enjoy a casual dress code of exercise gear. The job allows sports lovers to spend the day playing games and staying active. Physical education teachers have greater flexibility in holding classes in the gym or outdoors on athletic fields. Like other teaching jobs, physical education comes with a decent yearly salary and great benefits. Hiring forecasts look favorable for the foreseeable future. Physical education teachers also reap the reward of motivating children to prevent weight gain. However, P.E. teachers are increasingly pressured to include Common Core curricula, especially STEM, in their exercises. Limited school budgets may leave teachers with worn-out and broken equipment. It’s common for physical education teachers to have overcrowded classes. In public school systems, P.E. jobs also require investing heavily in teacher training and licensing.
Fulfilling your state’s teacher certification requirements is the essential first step. Your bachelor’s program will involve completing field practicum before a senior student-teaching semester. Request at least one internship placement be within a physical education setting. Most states require passing Praxis exams, background checks, and fingerprinting. Gaining experience with children in a fitness-related capacity is also suggested. Options include volunteering at a summer camp, teaching classes at a local YMCA, or coaching youth league sports. After you’re licensed, begin applying for physical education openings at public, private, or charter schools. Employers will prefer candidates who have completed CPR and first aid certification through organizations like the Red Cross. For teaching disabled youth, consider becoming certified through the Adapted Physical Education National Standards (APENS) program.
Teaching is a universal profession that will endure economic dips and rises. Even though emphasis has shifted to STEM, physical education is another hot teaching specialty. To get students active, national initiatives like First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move! Active Schools” campaign have encouraged more physical activity. Nonetheless, government funding is dwindling in many school districts. Budget cuts often hurt the most in non-academic courses like physical education, music, and drama. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the overall employment of teachers will grow by 6 percent in elementary schools and secondary schools. Physical education teachers generally find best prospects in urban and rural districts.
Making high-quality physical education classes accessible to children is one of the best strategies to reverse trends in our sedentary, fast-food culture. Physical education teachers play a prominent role in motivating students to become more physically fit for healthier bodies and minds. It’s their job to incorporate nutrition and even academics into organized game play where children feel comfortable regardless of skill. If you become a physical education teacher, you’ll help countless kids get on the right track to long-term wellness and athletic skill.
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