The Role of the Master Teacher
Master teachers are funded in New Jersey's State Preschool Program to provide and maintain high levels of quality by helping and supporting preschool teachers. Their primary role is to visit classrooms and coach teachers using reflective practice to improve instruction. Specific responsibilities include:
Curriculum & Professional Development
Priority 1: Master teachers should dedicate the greatest amount of time to classroom visits engaging teachers in reflective practice. During these visits, master teachers should observe classroom practices and provide feedback directly to teaching staff, plan and model exemplary practices and meet with the program directors or principals. Recordkeeping, including use of the Reflective Cycle, should be maintained during these visits.
Priority 2: A substantial amount of time, but less than that devoted to classroom visits, will be dedicated to providing and planning for professional development experiences for classroom teachers. Professional development experiences should be aligned with the New Jersey Preschool Teaching and Learning Standards, the school district's DOE approved curriculum and the district's DOE approved professional development plan. Experiences should be differentiated to match varying levels of experience and expertise of the instructional staff. Professional development should be presented in a variety of participant settings, ranging from small groups to cohorts to entire staff.
Accommodating English Language Learners and Children with IEPs
Within the master teacher allocation, each district must maintain appropriately credentialed master teachers who can assist preschool teachers and other master teachers in working with specialized populations. Districts with a substantial proportion of English language learners (ELL) or children with individualized education plans (IEPs) served in general education classrooms are required to hire bilingual and inclusion specialists as master teachers. The specialists provide specialized professional development and consultation to other master teachers and in-district and private provider teachers.
The Role of the Specialized Master Teacher
Master teachers with a specialization will conduct the same duties of all other master teachers and will have the added responsibility of providing professional development and support for other master teachers regarding inclusion or supporting ELL practices. A district may want to consider assigning each master teacher in their program a specialization (e.g. mathematics, literacy, ELL, inclusion, etc.)
Professional Development for Master Teachers
Master teachers also need professional development to support the goals of the early childhood program. Whenever possible, they should be trained by curriculum developers using training of Teacher Trainer models. This will help to ensure sustainable and high quality curriculum implementation. New master teachers must become Early Childhood Professional Development Fellows by completing all requirements of the The Role of the Master Teacher course offered by the Division of Early Childhood Education. Master Teachers should also attend annual Master Teacher meetings sponsored by the Division of Early Childhood. School Districts should support Master Teachers in receiving additional training related to their specialization and roles as instructional coaches.
The recommended model to use when budgeting for master teachers is predicated on the understanding that novice teachers and teachers serving children with IEPs and English language learners need greater guidance. Self-contained preschool disabled classroom are not included in the classroom count for this purpose. General education classrooms including students with IEPs should be counted. At a minimum, one master teacher is provided for every 20 preschool classrooms. Each district, regardless of size, is provided at least one full-time master teacher.