As with any career, the first stage of preparation is a good educational program. For English Language Arts teachers, there are several things to consider when selecting your teacher preparation program. The first decision is where to attend school.
Most states require at least a bachelor’s degree when you first seek a state certification or license. Each state will have a list of accredited institutions that are qualified to award a degree appropriate for licensing. As you look through your choice of schools, you will want to cross reference them with the State Board of Education’s approved list of schools (completing a degree program that isn’t accredited can result in disqualification for licensing).
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Selecting a School
As you look at the qualified schools you may find that your state offers both traditional programs at local colleges and universities as well as online programs. Each type of education has its own set of benefits. For instance, if you currently have a job and need to fit that into your school schedule, a more flexible option from an online school may be a good choice for you. On the other hand, if you are just out of high school and want to have an on-campus experience such as participating in dorm life and extra-curricular activities, a traditional approach may be better the better choice.
Selecting a Degree Program
You will also select the level of education you want to complete. You may choose the minimum requirements, or consider a postgraduate degree. A higher degree could result in a higher starting salary. If this is your first college experience, it might be easier to stay in school for the additional time now, rather than going back at some time in the future.
A bachelor’s program will be broken down into sections. The first years of your education consists of general education, core English classes, and electives in lower division courses. The next phase will be the same only in upper division work. The final phase will be the teaching program. This portion will consist of pedagogy and your teaching internship. An additional master’s program will typically include core coursework as well as a master’s thesis.
if you are seeking a teaching credential in English and already have a degree, you also have options. Most states take into account past college credits. Many states are in need of English teachers especially in certain demographic areas. You may be able to participate in an alternative pathway to teaching that will credit your past degree while completing the required teaching preparation. This alternate path typically allows you to earn a full-time teaching position and salary while you take classes.
English Language Arts, Grade-Level, and Basic Skills Exams
Each state has a required set of state exams that determines your qualification to teach. Some states incorporate part of the exams as a requisite for entrance to that state’s teaching program, while others allow you to complete all the exams after you are out of school.
There are a variety of names used for the exams, but the most common are: The National Evaluation Series (NES) and Praxis. One section covers your basic skills in writing, math, and reading. The next section will cover your content knowledge in English Language Arts (if you will teach secondary school) or elementary education (if you will teach younger students).
Each state’s licensing page will have a portal to the appropriate testing site. There you will have the ability to register for an account, sign up for a test date, and access your account information. You will also be able to request your test scores from this account and find practice materials.
Applying For Your State License or Certification
Once you have completed your education and met the testing requirements for licensing, you are ready to apply for your state certification or license to teach English in your state. All states have general steps that must be completed in order to apply for your license. These steps include:
- Compiling official documents for proof of education, letters of recommendation, teaching experience, and completion of any specific courses unique to your state.
- Completing a background check and fingerprint card.
- Paying the appropriate fee.
- Filling out an application, which may need to be notarized.
Once all of these steps have been met, you are typically ready to send in all of your documents and application to the address given on your state’s licensing page. Many states allow you to complete much of the process online. You will, however, still have to send hard copies of requested documents in by regular mail.
The time that it takes to complete the process varies from state to state. It can also vary depending on the time of the year. Some states have a shorter window for processing during the off-season when they aren’t as busy. One way to streamline the process is to know how soon you can accomplish each step in the licensing process. For instance, it may take weeks for a completed background check. This may be something to complete as soon as you are able to. Sending for official transcripts and test scores as soon as they are available will also save you time.