One of the Most Important Jobs in the State — Teaching Our Young People

by Lynn Wallis

October 1, 2019

Elementary and middle school teachers are tasked with preparing students with the knowledge and skills that will see them into adulthood. Teachers work in both public and private schools. They help students develop appropriate social and academic skills to prepare them for high school and beyond.

Work Environments

Elementary school teachers usually instruct young students from kindergarten to fifth grade although some areas include sixth grade. Elementary school teachers generally teach most, if not all, of the core subjects. According to, the day-to-day experience of an elementary school teacher versus a middle school teacher can be quite different. Elementary teachers can teach a wide range of students from early childhood up to preteens in the fifth grade. Younger children will require more structure and attention, while the older students will be capable of working on independent tasks for long periods of time.

In contrast, middle school teachers typically teach students in the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades and their day-to-day teaching experience is highly departmentalized. Most middle school teachers are responsible for one subject at one or two grade levels. A typical middle school teacher can teach more than a hundred students a day compared with a typical elementary teacher who may have classes totaling 30 to 60 students. Middle school teachers help students build on the fundamentals learned in elementary school to prepare them for the more difficult subjects in high school.

Educational Requirements

According to the Teachers Certification and Education Online Guide, both elementary and middle school teachers in Oregon must have at least a bachelor’s degree and complete a state teacher certification program. There are also a number of examinations to pass as well as a state and federal background check. The state offers several different licensure certification options, listed in the Oregon Teaching and Certification Resource Guide.

Outlook, Salary, and Jobs

In 2018, there were 15,430 elementary school teachers and 6,304 middle school teachers in Oregon. Demand for these two occupations is projected to grow 8.5 percent from 2017 to 2027, adding 1,468 new jobs. This is slower than the average growth rate for all occupations at 12 percent. An additional 12,570 replacement openings are expected for these two occupations due to retirements and job churn. The average wage for elementary school teachers in 2019 was $69,116 and middle school teachers averaged $76,610, although it could vary by school district.
Both elementary and middle school teachers work during school hours when students are present. They may meet with parents, students, and other teachers before and after school. They often spend time in the evening and weekends grading papers and preparing lessons. Many teachers work the traditional 10-month school year and have a two-month break from teaching during the summer.

According to, a day in the life of a middle school and an elementary school teacher shares both similarities and distinct differences. In many ways they are two variations on the same theme. As an example, both emphasize that someone needs to be in charge to help control student workloads. Elementary schools hand this over to the teacher in the self-contained classroom while middle schools often create teacher teams to achieve the same goal.

Then there are the tradeoffs, with elementary school teachers taking on smaller caseloads and more planning while the opposite is true in middle schools. As middle schools sort students by relative ability, creating an atmosphere of completion, elementary schools emphasize task mastery, maintaining a single classroom with multiple abilities. But in spite of these differences, both occupations share the same goal: to educate students. Is there any more important job than this?


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