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What do you do if you want to become a teacher ?

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Alison’s Answer

Hi Nicole,
I got my teaching certificate in New York, and am happy to help. Teaching is a hugely rewarding job, but you will have to work hard to prepare for it, and to keep being successful in the job. Processes vary from state to state, so I strongly recommend choosing a college in the state that you want to teach in. Doing an education course in-state is definitely the easiest path to becoming a licensed teacher.

In New York, assuming you’re doing a teacher prep program at the college of your choice, here is the process:
(a teacher prep program will also walk you through this)
First, choose your focus. Do you want to go into something like Special Education or Teaching English as a Second/Other Language? Do you want to teach elementary (grades K-6) or secondary school (grades 7-12)? If you’re going for secondary, what subject do you want to teach, and sometimes, do you want to focus on middle school (gr 5-9) or high school (gr 9-12)? Got one? Great! Your college advisor will let you know all of the classes you’ll need to take for that focus. Some of them will be generalized, core classes, some of them will be generalized, education methodology/psychology/etc. classes, and some of them will be classes that are specific to your focus.

When your classes are done/almost done, you’ll be placed in a couple local schools for your student teaching/internship time. You’ll also have to take your certification exams. In New York, everyone takes at least two exams. Teaching candidates specializing in a content area take three. If memory serves, there are 5 or 6 exams that exist, but I don’t think I know of a situation where you’d have to take all of them. During this time, you’ll also need to get a background check and fingerprinting done.

Once you’ve graduated with your Bachelor’s degree, finished your exams, and cleared your background check, you’ll send all of this information to the state along with your application for your initial license (and of course, you’ll pay them for the privilege of sending it!). Your initial license certifies you to teach for five years before it expires. This allows you to get some experience before getting your professional license. Most districts require their tenured teachers to hold Master’s degrees, so this time allows you to continue your own education as well. To get and maintain your professional license, you’ll have to both teach for a certain amount of hours and complete a number of hours of professional development time each year.

Then, poof, you’re a teacher! Simple, right? Maybe not, so I’m including a link below for you that will walk you through the process. The article this link takes you to will also provide links directly to the New York State Education Department website, which is also an excellent resource, but sometimes can seem overwhelming in the amount of information it gives you.

Good luck in your studies and future career!

Alison recommends the following next steps:

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Helen’s Answer

Hello! I was a teacher for over 25 years and this was how I did it.

I had an undergraduate degree in Sociology and later went to a state school to get my preliminary teaching credential in multiple subjects, with authorizations in Social Studies and Science. One can decide to go into teaching with an undergraduate degrees with the teaching certificate. That would be the fastest route. Other universities offer an addition year to get your teaching credential and masters.

You will be able to teach kindergarten, elementary and some middle school grades with a multiple subject teaching credential and with authorizations, teaching through 9th grade. If you want to teach at the high school level, you will need an undergraduate major in the subject. However, some states will allow alternate ways to get a high school single subject certification such as passing an exam or having enough credits in the subject.

The most important thing is to get the teaching certificate in the state that you wish to teach. Some states will allow you to teach with an out of state teaching certificate but most public schools require an in state certification. The first certification is the preliminary teaching credential, after X years of teaching ( this varies from state to state), you can apply for a Clear teaching credential. This needs to be updated when you met certain requirements every 5 years or so.

I obtained my preliminary Multiple Subject Teaching Certificate from Michigan, but moved to California shortly after. So I took the CBEST, mandated by the state, and added a few required courses and full time teaching to get my CA Clear Teaching Certification in Multiple Subjects, prek-adult. Later, I pass several tests to become Highly Qualified in Biology, Earth and Planetary Science, and Mandarin. So I was able to get a CA Clear Single Subject Teaching Certificate to teach at the high school level.

I hope this helps!

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Kimberly’s Answer

Hey, there

As an educator myself, one of the most important things is having a passion for teaching others and knowing what you want to teach. Next getting experience such as volunteer work in an afterschool setting of teaching, or tutor, joining teaching organizations (teaching for America ..etc. working in a setting that involves teaching. Going to college getting a degree and masters (you need at least a master's degree to teach). Sometimes in other states are different, however (to be a safer side I suggest getting a master's in education). Also, after that get a mentor that will help you along the way. Lastly getting teaching certification (depending on where you live or region is different I would suggest researching the certification requirements (e.g. NEW YORK you have to take different tests, letter of recommendations, essays, and etc..)

Kimberly recommends the following next steps:

going to college and grad school
Volunteer in an educator setting

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Morgan’s Answer

Just to add to the answers above, I definitely recommend finding some employment or volunteer experience working directly with children/teenagers to see if you like it and it is a good fit for you. I was a camp counselor in high school and college and a volunteer tutor at a middle school. That helped me build an interest in working with young people. I went a non-traditional route to teaching, where I taught at a private school for 3 years, then was a volunteer Peace Corps teacher for 2 years, then returned to the U.S. and earned my masters in education and certification in order to make it a profession. I am happy with having gone that route, because I gained experience first then committed time, energy, and money to getting the degree and certification. I think it is good to explore various options and see which route will work best for you. Also, it may be good to investigate which teaching jobs are in demand and what interests you. When I was a high school principal and had an opening for an English teacher, I would have 30-40 applicants for 1 position. Not so much for science or math! Hopefully that gives you some perspective.

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Ted’s Answer

I decided to become a teacher after I had completed my undergrad degree and had several years experience in another career track first -- I worked in TV production for four years after college before deciding I wanted to become a teacher. I hadn't studied Education in my undergrad, so I knew I'd need more schooling if I wanted to become a teacher.

I tried to volunteer or take jobs in education that didn't require a teaching certification/credential -- just to see if I liked it as much as I thought I would. First I worked in an afterschool learning remediation center for kids with reading and math disabilities. Then I took a job as an instructional assistant in a high school special ed class while taking teacher training courses online at night. I went on to substitute teach, helping me develop my classroom management skills, philosophy of teaching, and teaching techniques before taking full responsibility for a class of students of my own.

This was a two-year stretch where I was able to work, make money, take classes, and build relationships and a reputation in my community before becoming a full teacher. Your path may be different, but there are lots of opportunities for you to do some little part of teaching until you're fully prepared to take on the full task as a career.

Best of luck,