Gym teachers instruct students in physical education at primary schools and secondary schools. If you want to become a gym teacher, also called a physical education teacher or PE teacher, you will need at least a four-year college degree. Many gym teachers obtain their degrees in physical education, athletic training or a related area; physical education degrees sometimes offer concentrations in areas such as health education or exercise science. To instruct in a public school in kindergarten through 12th grade, you also will need a teaching certificate, which essentially is a teaching license showing that you are trained in educational techniques and qualified to instruct. Private schools might not require teaching certificates.
When aspiring to become a gym teacher, think about what grades you wish to teach. There are degree programs that prepare students for certification to teach specific grade levels, such as primary school or high school, and others that are more rounded and prepare students for certification throughout the K-12 system. It is important when looking at schools and programs to do your homework about what different programs provide toward your ultimate grade-level goal. Just a few examples of basic classes that students in physical education programs might take include human anatomy, motor development, physiology of exercise and biomechanics. Gym teachers must also take classes in cardiopulmonary resuscitatio (CPR) as well as other first-aid and lifesaving courses.
To prepare to become a gym teacher, you should take health, fitness and basic science classes while still in high school. Get involved in sports and fitness programs at your school or through outside organizations. Observe the job responsibilities and teaching styles of your own gym teachers and don't be afraid to ask them questions about their career choices. Make sure that you are in good physical shape yourself so that you can set a good fitness example and be an inspiration to your students when you become a gym teacher.
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The life of a gym teacher isn't all about running around outdoors playing sports. Gym teachers also incorporate classroom training in fitness, nutrition and other areas into their curriculum. Some schools expect gym teachers to instruct other courses, such as health, in addition to teaching physical education. Knowing how to operate computers and prepare classroom presentations that will keep young people interested are important skills. Being able to speak comfortably in front of a group also is an important quality for teachers and one that can be practiced by joining an organization such as Toastmasters International.