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Position 9: Head of Group/Leader Teacher (Preparation Level 2)

Definition: This position fulfills the role of teacher in child care and education programs, including Head Start. The Head of Group (Child Care Teacher) is responsible for day-to-day operation of the classroom including physical environment, curriculum planning and implementation, supervision and evaluation of each child, record keeping, and supervision of other staff including volunteers.

Knowledge, Skills and Dispositions: The Head of Group acts as a facilitator of children’s learning using NYS Early Learning Guidelines within an effective classroom learning environment that is sensitive to children’s learning styles, approaches to learning, cultural differences, and social/emotional needs.

Teaching is a social occupation that involves working, and communicating effectively with both adults and children. This occupation often involves assisting and providing service to others. Areas of understanding include child development, positive guidance, multiple intelligences and language arts (speaking, reading, listening, writing,). The teacher must have a, cooperative spirit, social perceptiveness, an appreciation for differences, organizational skills, and the ability to exercise confidentiality. 

The Head of Group demonstrates appreciation for all kinds of families and cultures, respect for the family as the child's first teacher, and willingness to work as a partner with the family. 

Employment Settings: Early Child Care and Education programs including Center-based, Family and Group Family Child Care (see Section II, Setting A), Head Start (see Section II, Setting B), and nursery schools.  

Required Qualifications: the New York State Office for Children and Family Services sets requirements for Head of Group in licensed early childhood settings outside the City of New York. Programs such as Head Start and Universal Pre-kindergarten which may be licensed as child care centers require teacher certification.

Head of Group working with Preschoolers 

  • Associate's Degree in early childhood, child development or related field. 

  • Child Development Associate Credential

  • Nine college credits in early childhood, child development or a related field AND 2 years experience related to caring for children (NYS Office of Children and Family Services (NYS Office of Children and Family Services (NYSOCFS) 418.1.13 (g)).

Head of Group working with Infants and toddlers 

  • Associate's Degree in early childhood, child development or related field.

  • Child Development Associate Credential 

  • Nine college credits in early childhood, child development or a related field AND 2 years experience related to caring for children (NYSOCFS 418.1.13 (g)) 1 year of training and/or experience in infant or toddler care.
  • Infant Toddler Child Care Credential ((NYSOCFS 418-1.13 (g))

Head of Group working with School-aged children 

  • Associate's Degree in Child Development, recreation or related field and no additional experience required. 


  • High School Diploma or its equivalent AND 2 years direct experience working with children under 13 years of age.

In New York City:

  • Department of Health licenses and regulates programs. Head of Group is licensed by the City Board of Education as a teacher in early childhood classes and has completed at least 150 clock hours of observation and supervised practice teaching in prekindergarten or kindergarten grades. 

  • NYS Early Childhood Teacher Certification 

  • NYS Childhood Prekindergarten-6 or Childhood Teacher Certification with 300 clock hours of observation and supervised practice teaching with at least 150 in prekindergarten or Kindergarten grads and 30 semester hours of study in professional education including one semester in sociological, philosophical or historical foundations of education, and 2 one-semester courses in educational developmental psychology, at least one of which will be in child development and three one-semester courses in instructional methods and materials including instruction in teaching the basic skills at least one of which shall be on the prekindergarten or kindergarten level and a one semester course in parent education and community relations. 

  • a plan for meeting the requirements specified in the first three options limited above within a reasonable time, submitted to Department.

Local regulation:  NYC Department of Health Article 47

Note: Preschool teachers who work in nursery or preschools outside of New York City (see Section II, Setting C) are not under New York State child care licensing regulations and therefore may have no qualification requirements. Individual programs may have their own qualification requirements. It is desirable that persons working in this position have the knowledge, skills and dispositions and follow the same qualifications as above.

Preparation: Heads of Group should have an Associate's degree or higher. Many Community colleges across the state offer coursework, certificates or degrees to prepare for the position of Head of Group. Courses may be listed under Early Childhood, Child Development, Human Services, or Child Care. The New York State Teacher certification in early childhood, birth through Grade 2 also prepares people for this position. See Section V, Preparing to Learn B - Higher Education.

Typical coursework includes general education, child development, planning appropriate learning environments and activities for children, supervised field experience.

Continuing Education: For individuals working in settings licensed by NYS, fifteen hours of training must be received during the first six months of employment with 30 hours completed within the first 2 years of employment and 30 hours every 2 years thereafter. Training must address the following topics:

  1. Principles of child development, including the appropriate supervision of children, meeting the needs of children enrolled in the program with physical or emotional challenges and behavior management and discipline.
  2. Nutrition and health needs of children
  3. Child day care program development
  4. Safety and security procedures, including communication between parents and staff
  5. Business record maintenance and management
  6. Child abuse and maltreatment identification and prevention
  7. Statutes and regulations pertaining to child day care
  8. Statutes and regulations pertaining to child abuse and maltreatment.

Note: Preschool teachers who work in nursery or preschools outside of New York City (see Section II, Setting C) are not under New York State child care licensing regulations. Requirements are set by individual programs. It is desirable that preschool teachers have the knowledge, skills, and dispositions and the same qualifications as Head of Group.

Alternate Pathways: People with extensive experience in the classroom as assistants to the head of group may obtain a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential.  See Section V, Preparing to Learn B - Higher Education.

Opportunity for Advancement: Advancing from classroom Head of Group to Program Director is possible in a child care program. See Director (Position 6).

Moving from the child care setting into a public school position will increase income but has different qualifications (outside of NYC) and requires additional coursework and licensure. See NYS Certified Teacher (Position 4).

Related Careers:

Serving Children Directly – In-home caregiver (nanny/governess), tutor, recreation leader, museum educator, camp counselor, cottage parent, family/group family child care provider

Serving Families Directly – Family resource worker, home visitor, parent educator, home care aide, child welfare worker

Providing Information Goods and Services – Resource and referral worker, children's product designer, sales, writer/author, trainer, and service agency educator.

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