30+ Best Teacher Interview Questions & Answers (Special Education, Kindergarten) [2020]

A teacher is a professional who can understand curriculum needs and design in-classroom educational activities to allow children of all ages to educate themselves. In short, a teacher is a person who helps students to acquire knowledge, competence, and virtue. Teachers can instruct on a variety of subject matter. From history to math. Or from social studies to science. A teacher can work in a school both privately and publicly and educate students from grade levels K-12. And focus on subjects like language arts, science, math, English, and more. Teaching is one of the most popular jobs across the U.S., with more than 1.9 million jobs available each year.

A teacher can be found within a preschool, elementary school, primary school, special education school, and more. A career professional in education is one that has a qualified teacher status and some previous in-classroom experience.

here are varying types of school teachers that go by different job titles. Those include high school teacher, elementary teacher, elementary school teacher, preschool teacher, primary school teacher, private music teacher, headteacher, language arts teacher, English teacher, special education teacher, early childhood education teacher, and music teacher. While each job title shares similar duties, they may have specific requirements and duties associated with the focus area.

teacher interview questions

Teachers are questioned by principals, faculty, and other administrators during the interview process. A teaching interview is unique in this sense since other jobs have the interviewer questioned by hiring managers. Here are the things that principals and staff will value from you, the educator, or teacher:

Teaching skills and abilities: It’s important for principals and faculty to hire teachers who have classroom experience. Having any previous in-classroom teaching experience is going to help you during the interview. For example, having previous student teaching experience.

Technical abilities: Teachers now engage in technology more than they used to. Whether it’s using smart technology to embrace teaching, using data to help educate, or simply being familiar with technology in order to be more organized.

Subject matter familiarity: Teachers are often hired to educate specifically on English, Science, Language Arts, Mathematics, Geography, Biology, Chemistry, and other subjects. Principals want to know your proficiency in these specific subjects.

Faculty ability: Teachers need to work together to educate students. Faculty members need to hold themselves accountable for working as a universal system. As principals interview a potential teacher, they want to learn how the future staff member can bring solidarity to children's education.

Teamwork: While it may sound simple, teamwork is an important aspect of how a teacher or educator works with the school district, works with students, and utilizes resources available to them. For example, a special education teacher needs to be working with service provides or other aides to facilitate progress for a student with disabilities. While teamwork may sound simple, it's vital for educators.

Data proficiency: Data in the classroom is more than test-taking. Data proficiency is about using multiple learning methods and seeing how students respond. For a special education teacher, this provides "data" and "insights" that can inform a student's IEP. Or can assist in speaking with the parents about creating a more inclusive relationship between the educator and the parents.

Accountability: Teachers need to develop high-quality and informed lesson plans. Administrators rely on the educator to provide these lesson plans and make calibrations to their teaching methods based on data and insights. An ESL teacher or special education teacher will have a more challenging time putting together these lesson plans.

Common Teacher Interview Questions & Answers

Below is a list of each interview question and a sample answer to a question you might receive when in a teacher interview or job interview for a teaching position. These are common interview questions asked when interviewing for a teaching position.

Why did you decide to become a teacher?

Sample answer: I've prepared a small mission statement that explains why I'd like to change students' lives for the better. I would love to send you this either separately or read part of this statement to show you that I believe my own views on teaching align with the school's vision statement and how our goals are mutually beneficial in being able to work together.

How would you cultivate good relationships with students and create a class community?

Sample answer: I can recall a few situations where a student needed some extra attention. Certain subject matters we know can be difficult. This includes statistics, mathematics, and reading. When a student is showing signs of stress, it's important to consider Individualized Education Plans (IEP's) of the student. And try to provide them with social skills and learning skills that will be applicable to the classroom. For me, this is the best way to try and create a sense of community. Is to guide and be a mentor to students rather than only teaching and trying to use that as the method of connection.

How would you use data to differentiate instruction? And support students who have specific learning disabilities?

Sample answer: I like to first address this using differentiated instruction strategies. This includes creating learning stations like completing puzzles, reading an article, or creating artwork. Second, I like to use task cards. This is a group activity that can show a lot of data-rich analysis on the student body. Or simply interview students and try to determine their favorite four types of lesson plans, which projects they're most proud of, or which exercises help them remember key lesson points. These are my favorite ways to develop the data that I need to be able to support students. If we identify a disability from there, then we can address that with Individualized Education Plans (IEP's) or take the appropriate next steps with the parents.

What are some ways you might support literacy for all students, including ESL students?

Sample answer: I firmly believe we are all different. Education requires a variety of approaches and strategies to ensure that education is being well received and adopted. I like to think of literacy as a few key points: making language visual, building in group work, allowing some scaffolding with the native language (if the student is English as a second language), and trying to understand the culturally unique vocabulary that needs a unique approach. For me, these are the ways I try to think about supporting literacy in the classroom. Computer systems and computer software can be very helpful in this regard, too.

How would you define the job duties of a teacher?

Sample answer: I'd like to share with you some bullet points on what I feel the job duties of a teacher should be. They would be classified as one or more of the following:

  • Develop assignments and classroom curriculums that are on par with our state board educational requirements.
  • Turn the classroom into an environment conducive to education.
  • Build, assign and grade homework assignments.
  • Build, assign and grade classroom projects.
  • Attend parent-teacher conferences and address children's needs with their mothers and fathers.
  • Evaluate students' progress and ensure each student is meeting goals you have for them.
  • Plan and implement educational activities.
  • Perform the regular administrative duties required to conduct a healthy classroom.
  • Deploy multiple teaching methods to ensure students receive world-class education.
  • Work closely with students to ensure the student needs are put as a first priority.
  • Ensure each child or student clearly understands the purpose of your lesson.
  • Provide general instruction and guidance to students and create a classroom environment conducive to learning and education.
  • Instruct students on homework assigns and classroom projects.
  • Comfortable conducting meetings with parents to review a student's progress and student performance.
  • Reviews lesson plans for the week and ensures that the classroom is prepared for the needs of the lesson plans.

Why is resourceful and physical stamina two key skills that all teachers should have?

Sample answer: Let's make the assumption that the position is for a kindergarten teacher. They are the best teachers who require these types of skills. Kindergarten and elementary school teachers must be able to get students engaged in learning. They also should be prepared to adapt their lessons to meet students’ needs. And working with kindergarten- and elementary-age students can be tiring. Teachers need to be able to physically, mentally, and emotionally keep up with the students.

How would you help students stay engaged in the classroom?

Sample answer: I like to think about the various engagement techniques that we can use and try to adopt them and move between them throughout the school year. I think of these techniques as the following: having curiosity, having a choice, having creativity, having construction, having collaboration, having controversy (polite and agreeable controversy), having critique, commentary, and critical thinking. If we can consider these types of methods in the classroom, students will stay engaged. For example, light controversy in the classroom can be very engaging. Seeing different viewpoints or hearing about multiple types of backgrounds. This can be useful to a students' life.

What is your teaching style or teaching philosophy?

Sample answer: Every student learns in their own way. Whether it’s hands-on learning, learning through reading, visual learning, or other. The key is to learn how students prefer to be educated and make sure each student in the classroom has exposure to that style of teaching. The teaching method should transform and mold according to the student body.

What’s your method for classroom management?

Sample answer: General accountability to students can be very helpful. For example, setting deadlines, expectations of what success looks like as a classroom, and setting examples for unacceptable behavior during the classroom experience. My method for classroom management is to ensure that students are familiar with these principals.

How do you prepare students for standardized testing?

Sample answer: Not all students will appreciate testing. It’s important to provide students with multiple methods for improving their testing abilities. Whether it’s educating them on ways to memorize information or to reduce stress during testing, educating students on these methods can be very helpful to prepare all students for a standardized test.

What should all teachers excel at?

Sample answer: All teachers should have empathy and passion for education. This should come out in the form of unique and professional communication skills to the student body. This should be a reflection of the respect that the educator and teacher position has for the students and their education.

How do you deal with a difficult young person?

Sample answer: If a student is misbehaving, they should be pulled aside and reminded of the classroom principals. A veteran teacher is going to recognize that this is the best first step. Then to help the student to understand how their behavior is affecting others. From there, if they continue, obedience should be taken by the principal or senior educators and faculty. This comes in the form of classroom discipline and is set by the district and principal.

How do you follow a lesson plan?

Sample answer: It’s important to comprehend the lessons before and after the lesson plan. This sets the context for what the students need to learn and in the correct amount of time. From there, the methods of ensuring that education is being received can vary. From homework assignments to quizzes or other teaching methods. It’s imperative that I learn and understand the lesson before deciding to execute it for the students. Each lesson should be properly prepared by me in advance.

What was the biggest thing you learned while student teaching?

That all children and students are unique. And that the teaching job requires creative thinking and analytical abilities to ensure students are receiving an education, not simply hearing their education pass them by.

Special Education Teacher Interview Questions & Answers

Below are special questions that you might receive as a teacher candidate for a special needs role. These teaching interview questions and answers would be for those in the K-12 special needs educator positions.

Explain what you would do if a student decides they don't want to complete their work.

Sample answer: When a student isn't feeling particularly motivated to complete work and is feeling like they would like to push back against the lesson plans, it's best to try and work one-on-one with that student. Try and understand their motivations. Rather than using threats or other methods of trying to discipline the student. While that may work in a regular setting. We need to consider the IEP's of that student before we move forward. Generally speaking, trying to work one-on-one is best and provide assistance. I've found in the past that, it usually comes down to frustration with the work.

Tell us about how you lesson plan.

Sample answer: I tend to look at students' progress, evaluate the classroom if I need to, think about the curriculum, and any upcoming testing that might need to be completed, including projects. And then from there, determine the appropriate material that needs to be covered. I look at this on a monthly, weekly, and daily level.

How do you foster positive relationships with parents?

Sample answer: In special education, fostering positive relationships with parents is really important. I've found it's best to try and spend one-on-one time with the parents, ask questions about how the child is doing at home. And what they're currently working on. And try to be a guiding force for what the parents are trying to work on and adopt in the household, as well. For example, if I try to push my thoughts and opinions on the parents and this is not in alignment with what they're working on at home, this could create a hostile relationship that might not be adopted.

How often will you collect data on IEP (Individualized Education Plans) goals and objectives?

Sample answer: I try to collect information and data frequently. I use multiple teaching methods and engagement techniques to try and measure how the IEP's are working. For example, if it's a group project where engagement should be taking place and I see a student deciding not to be engaged with that, I might take note of that data or information—then make some calibrations to the IEP for that student.

What are the benefits of progress monitoring?

Sample answer: The benefits are bountiful. We can use this information to inform lesson plans, IEP's, parent-teacher conferences, and more. It's great to have a teaching assistant in the classroom who can be looking for progress monitoring opportunities, while I might be focused on the student's active needs. And then from there, the teacher's aide and I can review that information and make calibrations to the classroom, Individualized Education Plans, and more.

What is your experience teaching with technology?

Sample answer: I'm very comfortable with technology myself. And I've found that technology in the classroom can be beneficial to students. Primarily, working with computers, creating projects with computers, and exploring what computers can offer in terms of creativity. Other methods of integrating technology into the classroom include the use of smartboards, which can assist in presenting visuals that assist with education. 3D learning is certainly one of the methods that I try to focus on and see how the students respond. The use of technology has advanced dramatically and as teachers, we can explore something greater than movies or television.

How do you put technology into educating?

Sample answer: For me, it's about a couple of different opportunities. The first is to consider embedding technology throughout the content of the education material. This includes computer tools like email, apps, and programs. And then integrating technology into other class assignments. This includes using Google or relying on the students to challenge themselves with the newly developed computer skills. And then embracing discomfort, meaning seeing how the technology can create a sense of confidence for the student, but how that confidence relays into the project or assignment. And then lastly applying the SAMR Model created by Dr. Ruben Puentedura. Which consists of:

  • Substitution: Technology acts as a direct tool substitute, with no functional change.
  • Augmentation: Technology acts as a direct tool substitute, with functional improvement.
  • Modification: Technology allows for significant task redesign.
  • Redefinition: Technology allows for the creation of new tasks, previously inconceivable.

Donna Beyer from Meyer Elementary School first introduced technology into their school system. I have studied Mrs. Beyer's methods. She says, "It’s not about substituting and using programming just for remediation or just to express a learning product that we could have done in writing." And says, "give students additional ways to express their learning, to go out and find information, to learn how to pull that together, to be able to use their own voice in making a product that will show what they’ve learned. Going forward, students need to know how to learn."

In your opinion, what is the most important part of the IEP?

Sample answer: Well, to me, an IEP is more than just a legal document or a plan. It's a map of how we might be able to support special education instruction. Because the plan is designed to meet the student's unique needs, I believe the annual goals are a really important part of the IEP. While the student's progress and reporting on that are great, in addition to the services that the student is receiving, I believe referring to the annual goals on a regular basis is a really important aspect of the IEP. And it can inform how education is being presented in the classroom. Lastly, I've found referring to those annual goals can assist conversations with parents, when there might be disagreement about progress. For example, if the parents feel the student isn't seeing "progress."

Can you please tell me what the 11 learning disabilities are?

Sample answer:

While not all 11 learning disabilities, these are most common:

  • Dyscalculia
  • Dysgraphia
  • Dyslexia
  • Non-Verbal Learning Disabilities
  • Oral / Written Language Disorder and Specific Reading Comprehension Deficit
  • ADD/ADHD

What are your methods for working with special needs students?

Sample answer: Compassion is first. Each student has their own set of disabilities. And it’s important to comprehend what each of those are so as a teacher, I can be sure to manage my own expectations. This can help me to determine a proper lesson plan and teaching method for the student.

Elementary Teacher Interview Questions & Answers

Below are questions and answers that you might receive when interviewing for a kindergarten teacher, preschool teacher, or other elementary education level teaching positions. Prospective teachers should prepare for all of the questions above plus the following.

What is the most important part of the job for the elementary school teacher?

Sample answer: Understanding that children are at a very moldable and young age which requires a great deal of empathy. For a kindergarten teacher, for example, children need to be shown basics first before we can push them further. It’s imperative to really understand the mental development stage of the child.

Kindergarten Teacher Interview Questions & Answers

Below are interview questions specific to the kindergarten teacher role.

How would you handle young infants and young children in the classroom?

Sample answer: It's very important to provide activities as a learning method. And ensure that these activities are ones that can help basic mental development. For example, learning about hygiene or food. Young children like mental stimulation during this time of their life and let that be their main education method. Planning activities in advance and ensuring parents are aware of them can be very helpful to create a world-class classroom experience.

Do you incorporate collaborative and project-based learning?

Sample answer: Yes. Of course, cooperation is a cornerstone of any teacher’s game plan and is always occurring in a well-functioning classroom, but actual collaboration is the hallmark of legitimate group work. This means that these two types of education styles, while similar, need to be approached with distinction. If a task does not absolutely necessitate two or more students working closely together, where each individual is contributing an equal and necessary part, then it is a project-based learning opportunity. The vital element to the end product where two or more minds are achieving something much greater than one individual could produce on their own is the objective of the collaborative-based method of learning. It's important to design the education opportunity around this. I've noticed it can be confusing for educators and it's important to consider.

What is a student-centered classroom?

Sample answer: I'd say it's about a few key pillars. Readiness, interests, learning preferences, and 3D instruction. These are a few key learning approaches that can be incorporated to create a student-centered classroom. Each pillar has its own methods of approach. And the educator should be conscious of these methods throughout the school year, learning how the students are responding to them and how to adapt. For example, depending on the established "common language," we can engage students in a reflective conversation about a range of ways that they prefer to make sense of different types of tasks.

How do you believe a teacher's personality affects their ability to have success with the students?

Sample answer: I believe it's important for teachers to be conscious of their own characteristics. And how that's playing a role in the classroom. For example, knowing that a person is particularly impatient during testing, can be a critical part of ensuring that our own characteristics, competencies, and traits are not interfering with the student's success. I'd say humans of all kinds have personality traits that can affect their work. For teachers, it's important to note how we see the students responding to those personality traits and being conscious of them, that's the most important.

How would you organize this classroom?

Sample answer: Personally, I try to organize the classroom around what feels best for the students. At the beginning of the school year, I start with a general template for what I'm looking to achieve. And then, based on how I see the students interacting in the classroom, I might make some material more accessible. Or see that the efficiency of the classroom needs to be improved by organizing or moving parts of the classroom material around.

How do you manage your teaching duties?

Sample answer: I try to think about this on a weekly level. Meaning, on Fridays, I try to take time out of the day to consider the following week. Or Mondays, I try to address the classroom and prepare them for the week. Throughout the middle of the week, I'm reviewing paperwork, grading homework, and providing students invaluable feedback on their assignments. For me, this weekly schedule has worked best and I've noticed the students tend to get a good sense of the rapport, as well.

What is your favorite subject to teach and why?

Sample answer: I wouldn't say that I have a least favorite or favorite subject to teach. But what I can say is that I've found most students, due to their age group, appreciate being able to have a hands-on or 3D method of learning. Whenever there is potential for that to be the case, whether it's a group engagement activity or a project-based activity, I've found learning with the students to be especially fun. To make sure this is clear, I would say it comes down to the project, rather than the subject area.

Describe your worst teaching day, what did it look like?

Sample answer: For me, this was a day where I lost my patience with the students. I don't believe that losing my patience is something that sets great examples. While I was suffering from some personal life difficulties, it's no excuse. I need to be able to come into the classroom, "turn on" my teaching abilities, and address the classroom with the utmost patience and adult-like behavior. This sets a good example for the students. That was the last day that I lost my patience with the students. Since then, it has not happened again.

What teams, clubs, or extracurricular activities were you involved in while you were in school?

Sample answer: I was heavily involved in sports and academic clubs. I felt strongly about challenging the mind as well as challenging myself physically. I believe what's important about this is that I was able to see how I felt accomplished and what that measurement was for myself. By doing this, I learned that everyone has a different method of measurement when it comes to "success." And this has done me well when it comes to my teaching abilities. Understanding that "we are all different" and that approaching motivation, success, adoption, and education needs to be special to each person or the chemistry of the classroom as a whole.

What questions do you have for us?

Sample answer: Thank you for asking this question. There are a few questions that I have.

  • Does the school district provide any type of mentor program for teachers and students?
  • What professional development opportunities are available for a teacher to grow in this school district?
  • What is the school culture like here?
  • How is the culture of the school fostered across campus?
  • How does the administration support the teacher's development and growth?
  • Who is responsible for scheduling and running the IEP meetings during the school year?
  • Can you tell me what you personally value about the company culture here?
  • What are some of the short-term goals for the role?
  • What are some of the long-term goals for the role?
  • How would I be able to apply my problem-solving skills in this role?
  • Can you tell me more about what the onboarding process is like for this role?
  • What do you think the work-life balance will look like for this role?
  • When looking at me as a candidate, what do you think the team will value the most?
  • What are you most concerned about when it comes to myself as a candidate?
  • What skills do you feel every candidate should have in this role?
  • What is your personal management style?
  • Can you tell me more about what the hiring process has been like for this role?
  • What follow-up questions would you ask if you were trying to get hired in this role?
  • What competencies do you feel the team will value the most?
  • What are the long-term plans for the department or team I'm going to be working with?
  • What strengths and weaknesses do you feel this role should have more of?
  • What are the good qualities you think the candidate should have in this role?

Other Interview Questions for the Teaching Position

Depending on what you’re interviewing for, you may be asked questions specific to the role. For example, if you’re applying for a role as an English teacher, you should expect customized interview questions that speak to literature or writing abilities and teaching methods. Similarly, applying for a role as an ESL teacher, you may be asked questions about languages spoken and your teaching methods for learning new languages. A good answer to any interview question is one that’s customized to what you perceive the faculty member or school system to value.

Aside from the common teacher interview questions provided, you should expect to be asked behavioral interview questions. These are questions where the teacher asks you situational questions. They normally start with “tell me about a time” and may ask about classroom situations that are specific to teaching.

As a candidate, when you hear a behavioral interview question, consider answering using the STAR technique or “STAR Response”. It is defined as:

Situation — Explain what the issue is.

  • What is the problem?
  • What needs to be accomplished?
  • What restrictions are present?
  • What business outcomes are expected?

Task — Describe the responsibilities needed.

  • What needs to be done?
  • Who needs to be doing these things?
  • How soon do they need to be done?

Action — Describe the steps that need to take place.

  • The explicit decision to take an action.
  • The choice of taking action.
  • The action is strictly defined.

Result — Describe the end result.

  • The business outcome.
  • The result of a client or customer.
  • The result of the team.
  • The response of the team or the customer.

Preparing for a teaching job interview should consist of learning about the faculty system, school system, district rules, and other values that the school system holds. Once you’ve completed your interview, you may be asked to attend the next interview which could be with a faculty member or other teacher to ensure you’re suitable for the role.

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author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is an experienced executive who has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley hiring and coaching some of the world’s most valuable technology teams. Patrick has been a source for Human Resources and career related insights for Forbes, Glassdoor, Entrepreneur, Recruiter.com, SparkHire, and many more.

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