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Early Childhood Education

Preschool Guidance & Materials

The Role of the Master Teacher

Master teachers are funded in New Jersey’s Abbott districts’ early childhood departments 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

  • Visit classrooms on a regular basis to coach and provide feedback to teachers to improve teaching practices through the reflective cycle
  • Use curriculum developer reports and results of structured classroom observations (Early Childhood Environmental Rating Scale – Revised (ECERS-R), Supports for Early Literacy Assessment (SELA) & Preschool Classroom Mathematics Inventory (PCMI) to determine and support a high level of curriculum implementation
  • Administer structured program evaluation instruments (in assigned classrooms) in the fall-winter to measure quality practices in preschool classrooms (e.g., ECERS-R, SELA, PCMI, High/Scope Preschool Program Quality Assessment, Creative Curriculum Implementation Checklist)
  • Plan specific goals and training opportunities to improve weak areas identified from structured observation evaluations (aggregated data), curriculum developer reports, performance-based assessment results, Early Learning Improvement Consortium reports, and other information sources                                                                                               
  • Confer with early childhood supervisors to coordinate, articulate, and provide professional development for all early childhood staff
  • Provide individualized follow-up support to the teacher's level of development and plan small group meetings/trainings for teachers with similar needs
  • Support implementation of performance-based assessments to ensure reliable collection of child information through portfolio review meetings and professional development
  • Train teachers on the administration of the Early Screening Inventory–Revised (ESI-R)
  • Reflect on own professional development needs, attend workshops, read research articles, consult with others, etc.


  • Coordinate with the preschool intervention and referral team regarding requesting assistance for children with challenging behaviors
  • Confer regularly with the preschool intervention and referral team to discuss how to support teachers and parents with children who have challenging behaviors
  • Confer regularly with the community parent involvement specialist to plan for smooth transitions for children entering preschool or going to kindergarten and assist in planning parent involvement activities (e.g., ensuring that the results of the performance-based assessment along with other information about the preschoolers are shared with kindergarten staff, planning parent workshops together, planning visits to kindergarten classrooms)
  • Provide technical assistance to district and provider administrators to discuss curriculum goals, professional development, performance-based assessment, structured observation visits, etc.            
  • Master teachers with specific expertise (e.g., inclusion, bilingual education, mathematics, literacy) should provide consultation to other master teachers
  • Perform additional duties as assigned that are directly related to classroom improvement

Required Qualifications

  • A bachelor’s degree and teacher certification;
  • Three to five years experience teaching in preschool programs;
  • Experience providing professional development to classroom teachers;
  • Experience in implementing developmentally appropriate preschool curricula;
  • Experience with performance-based preschool assessments; and
  • Beginning September 1, 2007, newly appointed master teachers shall hold certification as follows:
  • Preschool through grade three standard instructional certificate; or
  • Standard elementary school instructional certificate and the equivalent of two academic years of full-time experience teaching three and four-year olds under the certificate in a position that would require the preschool through grade three endorsement; or
  • Standard New Jersey nursery school instructional certificate; or
  • Preschool through grade three endorsement in addition to other standard instructional certificate, except as indicated at N.J.A.C. 6A:9-11.2 and 11.7. 

Priority 1: Master teachers should dedicate the greatest amount of time to classroom visits using the reflective cycle. 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 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 Expectations: Standards of Quality, the school district’s DOE approved curriculum and their 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.

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 should complete the “Preschool Leadership Track: Role of the Master Teacher” course offered by the Division of Early Childhood Education.

Additional Qualifications Determined by the Population Served and Identified by the Needs Assessment

  • The master teacher with a specialization in bilingual education should possess bilingual or English as a second language certification and either possess or pursue early childhood certification.
  • Master teachers with a specialization in inclusion should possess special education certification and either possess or pursue early childhood certification.

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).

Recommended Model

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.