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Job Profile: Life Skills Teacher

Being a life skills teacher can be extremely rewarding, albeit challenging. These teachers are responsible for not only the academic education of students with special needs, but also for the implementation of basic social skills that the student will utilize in everyday life. The purpose of this article is to outline the average salary, beginning salary, key responsibilities, necessary skills, degree requirements, pros and cons, tips to get started, and future outlook of being a life skills teacher.

Average Salary

The average salary of any educator varies widely between states. On average, a teacher in a public school district who has been employed for a period of 10-15 years would make approximately $50,000-$65,000 each year.

Beginning Salary

A beginning teacher salary also varies widely depending on the state that an educator chooses to work in. On average, a beginning life skills teacher would start out at between $30,000-$36,000 each year if employed in a public school district, according to the NEA.

Key Responsibilities

A life skills teacher has several key responsibilities that he or she needs to execute on a daily basis. The first is, of course, to manage the education of the students in the classroom. This means that a life skills teacher must provide engaging, interactive lessons that will teach life skills students the abilities that they need to succeed in society. Lessons such as basic money management, food preparation, written and verbal communication skills, and filling out job applications are essential parts of the life skills curriculum. In addition to planning engaging lessons for students, a life skills teacher also needs to be in constant communication with parents. Finally, making sure all legal paperwork is filed appropriately is another key responsibility of a life skills teacher.

Necessary Skills

In order to be a successful life skills teacher, a person must possess several necessary qualities. First, the potential educator must be well organized. Teachers at any level have mountains of paperwork each day to grade and if there is no system of organization set up, it will surely result in disaster. Second, life skills teachers must be comfortable speaking in front of an audience. Even though it is unlikely that class sizes will be large in a life skills room, teachers still must present material to students each day in an engaging and easy to understand manner. Finally, life skills teachers must be caring about their students. Students with disabilities such as those found in a life skills room need extra attention on a regular basis and educators who work with these students must be willing to provide this extra level of support.

Degree and Education Requirements

A four year degree in special education from an accredited college or university is required to become a life skills teacher in most states. In addition, teachers in most states must also pass the Praxis Test(s) for their given subject area. For a life skills teacher, this means that he or she must pass the basic Praxis I exam on reading, writing, and mathematics comprehension and also must pass the more in depth Praxis II exam. Depending on the particular field of special education that the educator plans to go into, one of several Praxis tests could be taken. Tests on teaching students with emotional challenges, mental retardation, and speech challenges are among some of the exams that a life skills teacher would have to master in order to be successful in the classroom. Once in a school district, many states require educators to continue their education by obtaining at least 24 graduate credits in their field of study within the first six years of teaching.

Rewards and Challenges

The rewards and challenges of a career in life skills education are abundant. The greatest reward of working in this type of environment would be to be able to see the direct impact that the teacher has on a child’s life. Daily successes, such as a student earning an A on an exam or learning to cook a simple dinner, mean more to life skills teachers than to other educators due to the nature of the student’s disability. There are some specific challenges that also present themselves to those considering a career in life skills education. One of the greatest challenges is the level of disabilities that are present in a typical life skills classroom. Though there are usually aides to assist a teacher, there could be several students with severe disabilities (mental retardation, cerebral palsy, autism, etc.) that all require an extreme amount of attention.

Getting Started

To get started in the field of a life skills educator, it is important to have experience with students who have varying degrees of disabilities. As mentioned above, life skills aides are in the classroom with a teacher, but are not responsible for as much. This would be a great entry point into this field while obtaining an education. Another way to get started in this field would be to apply as a Therapeutic Support Staff member through a school district. This would allow for individualized work with one student with special needs, which would allow a potential life skills educator to become very aware of the challenges presented with a specific kind of disability. Public school districts, private institutions, and support centers are examples of places that might hire a life skills teacher. Once in a position, a life skills educator has the opportunity for advancement if desired. He or she can obtain principal certification, special education administration certification, or guidance counselor certification to further use the skills that he or she has acquired in the life skills classroom.

Future Outlook

The good news is that there will always be a need for teachers in the United States. If someone interested in this field is willing to travel, there are almost certainly jobs available. Competition for these spots is high, however, so whatever an applicant can do to make him or her stand out from the pack would be beneficial.

In conclusion, a job as a life skills educator is one that can be very rewarding, despite the many challenges. A high level of education is required and teachers are responsible for many things on a daily basis, but there are few other professions where a person is able to see the impact that he or she makes on the daily lives of children.

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