English teachers in Alabama for pre-kindergarten through high school in Alabama public schools face a challenge with a graduation rate of seventy-five percent. A few years ago Alabama had about 750k students in its districts with a ranking of 40th in the nation. This low ranking placed English (one of the core subjects) at the forefront of educational discussions and change.
In the summer of 2014, Governor Bentley announced that Alabama now ranked first in the nation in percent growth for students achieving qualifying scores on their English Advanced Placement test and the scores for minority students over the last six years was up 232 percent compared to the national average increase of 112 percent. In just a few years you will have an opportunity to join this upward trend by following these steps to becoming an English teacher in Alabama:
|Complete a Bachelor Degree and Teacher Prep Program|
|Apply for Your Certificate|
|Maintain and Upgrade Your Certificate|
|Pursue Graduate Work|
Step 1. Complete a Bachelor Degree and Teacher Prep Program
The process of becoming an English teacher in Alabama will begin with your own education. The steps that you will take to complete the process have some options that you will want to consider when you enroll in school.
In Alabama you will need at least bachelor’s degree with teacher preparation courses. Some students will opt to pursue a higher degree at this time while others may add it on at a later date. These choices will largely depend on what your future goals are as a teacher, what your financial capabilities are, and how long you want to stay in school. Whichever degree course you take, the school you plan to attend will need to be on the approved list for accreditation.
An undergraduate degree has common courses with many majors. You will find that at the beginning of your education most of your classes will focus on general courses. As you complete those courses, you will want to pay specific attention to any prerequisites that are required particularly for your core English classes as they often build on one another.
Your core classes will usually cover basic topics such as:
Each topic above will be broken down further into specific elements such as critical writing, Old English Literature, and modern novels.
The types of classes you will encounter in the teacher portion of your degree program will focus specifically on getting you ready to take over a classroom. You will have plenty of opportunities to learn how to create lessons, run a classroom, meet with parents, and get an understanding of how a child’s learning develops. Part of your preparation will also include student teaching. This allows actual hands-on experience.
The B.A. or B.S. English teacher preparation programs will lead to Alabama’s Class B certificate. When you have successfully finished your education, you are ready to move to the next step.
Step 2. Complete Testing
The next step in the process of certification is passing two exams: the Alabama Educator Certification Testing Program (AECTP) and Praxis. You will need to apply and pass both exams prior to your certification application. The AECTP test is designed to ensure that you have all the basic skills of reading, writing, and math. Once you have taken that exam, you will take the Praxis II test for your certification specialty. As an English teacher, you will need to take the English exam. For students who wish to teach in the lower grades you will need to take either elementary or early childhood education exams.
The testing process can take up to several hours for each exam. Some students want to get several out of the way at one time while others want to space it out; the choice is yours. When you are ready to take your exams, each one has practice testing material available that will help you to prepare. When you have completed the tests, your score will be sent over to the Alabama State Department of Education for their records and you will be ready to apply for certification once you receive a passing score.
Step 3: Apply for Your Certificate
Alabama provides a step process to certification for K-12 grades. The certification initially issued is the Professional Educator Certificate in class B. After that you can earn a class A or AA once you have met certain requirements for each.
A class B license requires a bachelor’s degree and teacher preparation. In order to receive a class A license you will need to hold a master’s degree in your field. For the AA license you will have to go further with your education by either seeking a PhD or a sixth-year educational specialist degree. The Professional Certificates are good for five school years from the time it’s issued.
The certification process is a step-by-step application that will require you to provide certain documents that you will find listed on the application. It will also require that you go through a background check. You will be fingerprinted. There will be a processing fee to pay and most of the work can be performed on line when you apply. The instructions are on the application.
Step 4: Maintain and Upgrade Your Certificate
When you have reached that first five-year mark in your teaching career, you will now have to renew your certificate. In order to process it, you want to make sure that you have followed the procedures for renewal during your first five years.
In Alabama, the State Board of Education wants their teachers to invest in their own education as well as that of their students. They believe that well-educated teachers will make better educators. As such, in order to maintain your license, you will need to invest time in courses beyond your initial college degree. You will need to complete five units (or fifty hours) or professional development courses during your renewal period.
There are several approaches to these units. You can take classes that are offered by your school district, weekend seminars, or college courses. Each unit has to be an approved course, however. Another possibility — if you only earned a bachelor’s degree –you may consider post-graduate work in order to step up your license to an A or AA.
Step 5: Pursue Graduate Work
Post-graduate degrees (whether a master’s or PhD) can offer additional benefits such as pay raises, professorships, and seniority in staff positions as you move forward in your career. If you decide you would like to continue your education, you will find that these benefits will likely pay you back for the time and money invested in that decision.
There are several post-graduate degrees for English teachers in Alabama to consider. Here are a few:
- Master of Arts in Education with Educational Specialist degree
- PhD in Childhood Education
- Master’s in Early Childhood and Elementary Education
- Master’s in Secondary Education- English Language Arts for grades 6-12
Alabama English Teacher Salaries
A few years ago Alabama’s population was just under the five million mark. This is an increase of more than 300,000 residents over the last decade. At this rate of growth, Alabama—long known as the Heart of Dixie—will soon reach a landmark in student population as well. Along with this expansion comes the need for more teachers and schools.
The most recent aggregated population data for Alabama public schools showed student enrollment at 750,000. Alabama currently has approximately 1,600 schools serving 170 school districts statewide. The state faces many challenges, as it is known to serve one of the most disadvantaged populations in the nation; almost one third of the children in Alabama live in poverty.
Even though many of the state’s residents live on less than $10,000 a year, the state has allocated more than $8,800 per student a year in spending. This is more than wealthier states such as California that spends under $8,400 (2014) a year on its students. This is good news for teachers who wish to join the ranks of educators in the state.
Alabama is making a concerted effort to invest in the future of its people. This also includes teacher salaries. For English teachers, the state wants to invest in you and your future as well. This means that you will have the potential for a solid career teaching English in Alabama schools.
Alabama offers varying levels of salaries depending on where you plan on teaching, as well as what level of education you have obtained:
- Average: $ 45,606
- Entry: $ 36, 780
- Experienced: $ 49,552
- Average: $ 44,360
- Entry: $ 36,144
- Experienced: $ 45,997
The Bureau of Labor Statistics offers more information on salaries for English teachers in metro areas of Alabama such as those below: