Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Expert Advice on How to Become a Teacher

Image of a young man smiling confidenly at the camera.  illustrated images of teaching like a book, A+ grade.  Text: Learn how to be a teacher

Ready to launch your teaching career?  Rio Salado Teacher Education staff member Paulina Ngo has advice and answers to some of the most common questions for newcomers to the teaching profession.

“How do I become a teacher?”
image of a young, male school teacher surrounded by grade school children

As a field experience coordinator in a college educator preparation department, I can say that this is the most frequently asked question we get.

Most states have the same standard licensure requirements: completing an approved educator preparation program, clearing a background and/or fingerprint check, and passing the state’s exams for the certification.

While these requirements may appear pretty basic, it is helpful to break down each requirement into manageable steps.

Completing an approved educator preparation program
image of a young woman walking onto a college campus

Investigate potential colleges or universities to see if they offer a state-approved educator preparation program. You will want to ensure the program you are pursuing leads to certification and not just a degree.

For example, some universities offer a degree in education but do not include all of the state certification requirements such as student teaching.

Don’t rule out community colleges, which have the unique advantage of offering bachelor degree pathways with partnering universities at a lower tuition cost. And remember, community college does not mean low-quality. Many community college educator preparation programs are national award winners!

Some colleges also offer post-baccalaureate certification programs. These are tailored for individuals who already have a bachelor’s degree, but require specific coursework for teacher certification.

When researching programs, keep in mind that colleges and universities may differ in how they deliver their programs – in-person, online or hybrid. So choose a learning method that is right for you.

Clearing a background and/or fingerprint check
image of a finger print scan

Any person seeking teacher certification must clear a state background and/or fingerprint check. These checks are made through the Department of Public Safety (DPS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). For specific instructions, visit your state’s department of education website. As a rule of thumb, expect the process to take 6-8 weeks. School districts may require a separate background check for job applicants.

Passing the state’s exams for the certification
image of a keyboard.  The word test is in place of "enter" key.

Generally, there are two state mandated exams required for certification: a subject/content knowledge exam and a professional knowledge exam. Teaching candidates must receive a passing score on both exams. The subject/content exam measures how much a person knows about a specific subject area as defined by the state’s academic standards. The professional knowledge exam measures how much a person knows about teaching/pedagogical skills.

Explore teaching
Image of hand writing on a chalkboard.  Text: "Rio Salado Teacher Education Orientation Sessions In-person and via webinar.  Free!"

Now that you’ve learned the basics of how to become a teacher, I encourage you to research programs in your area for specific information.

At Rio Salado College, we offer an Explore Teaching Workshop that covers our program pathways and requirements. For more information visit www.riosalado.edu/teachers or contact a Rio Salado College Academic Advisor at (480) 517-8580. 

image of Paulina Ngo

Paulina Ngo serves as the Field Experience Coordinator and Coordinator of Marketing for Rio Salado's Teacher Education program.  She is celebrating 10 years of service with the college and nine years as a member of the Teacher Ed team.