Teaching English in Alaska will be a new and exciting career in a state that is on the forefront of educational out-of-the-box thinking. For the first time, Alaskan legislators are considering allowing high school students to “test-out” of English and other core subjects. The requirement will be specific to students who have mastered these courses and can prove it by taking a rigorous test.
As the details are worked out, what this means for English teachers is the opportunity to have motivated and highly educated students who know that if they work hard, they can graduate early. If students are allowed to test out of English it will allow them to potentially move up to advanced English courses sooner. To prepare you as an educator for these students, you will first need to become a certified teacher. Here are the basics:
|Complete an Educational Degree and Teacher Program|
|Pass the State Test|
|Complete the State Certification Process|
|Keep Your Certification Current|
Step 1. Complete an Educational Degree and Teacher Program
All teachers in Alaska will need to begin their careers with a college degree and teacher training. These educational programs vary in how they are conducted, but they all have very basic commonalities. Most of the time it will be structured as an undergraduate degree/teaching prep combination. These types of programs are typical to teacher training and often are the most popular. One reason they are popular is that students who are entering college for the first time are often anxious to complete their education and move into the workforce.
In Alaska, you will find that teacher-training opportunities are available for first-time students as well as returning students. The latter will typically be in the form of some type of alternative teacher program that will take into account any degree that you may have already earned. It will also usually take into account your industry experience.
First-time college student teacher preparation program
There can be several program scenarios depending on the level of school you plan to teach and where you attend college, but here is what a typical undergraduate degree will look like for the student wishing to teach elementary school:
- Minimum Requirements: 121–128 credits
- Complete the standard university course requirements with a grade of C or better.
- Take core teacher prep courses in the following subjects:
- Becoming a Teacher in the twenty-first century
- Introducing teaching and education
- Children and literature
- Adaptive and accommodating skills
- How to assess learning
- Student teaching and fieldwork- one full calendar year.
For students who want to teach junior high and high school, you will need to add approximately 37 units of core subjects to your degree program. Many schools will award you with a double major once you graduate if you choose this route.
For returning students and alternative programs
There are programs available at some colleges in Alaska that require approximately 30-36 units to prepare a post-baccalaureate student to enter the teaching field as an English teacher. Many of these programs will have a multicultural focus due to Alaska’s diverse population. Often these programs will incorporate a practicum for students in schools that are in greater need of teachers. These schools are often found in more rural settings in Alaska.
All approved teacher preparation programs for English teachers include:
- Early Childhood Education Pre-K-3
- Elementary Education K-6
- Secondary Education 7-12 with an endorsement in English
Step 2. Pass the State Test
When you have completed your education you are able to go to the next step in your certification process. Testing is mandatory, but not all teachers have to take the same exams. Alaska has a list of tests that it will accept in lieu of their required test, Praxis Academic Skills for Educators (ASE). For the most part, however, as a student graduating from a college in Alaska, here are the general requirements needed to satisfy testing:
Graduates from Alaska will take:
- Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators- this is the basic skills exam that everyone has to take unless they qualify for one of the groups of exams on the approved list.
You will also have to take a grade level/core subject exam:
- Elementary Developmental (grades K–8)
- Middle School English Language Arts (grades 6–8)
- English Language Arts: Content Knowledge (grades 9-12)
The registration process is straightforward. You can register online, pay all your fees, download study material, and order your score report all from the Praxis site.
Step 3: Complete the State Certification Process
Alaska has five different kinds of Initial teacher certification:
If you are a recent college graduate with a bachelor’s degree you will apply for the Initial Certificate. Most of the things you will need in order to get through the application process you may already have in your possession. Here are a few of these items:
- Fingerprint card
- Proof of student teaching
If you don’t have the above items, you may want to keep a list of things you need and check them off as you go. Each item can take weeks to obtain and there isn’t any reason for you to have to delay your career. The application lists everything you will need. Once you have everything on the list, you are ready to complete the process.
Step 4: Keep Your Certification Current
To maintain your teaching certificate you are going to have to take some courses over the first five years. You will have to complete six semester units of work — three of which have to be upper-division college course level work — in order to maintain your teaching certificate.
If you decide to upgrade your certificate to a Professional or Master status, you have to complete the following:
- Three units of Alaskan Studies courses
- Three units of Alaskan Studies in Multicultural and Cross-cultural Communication courses
- Six units of college level classes
- Two years of full-time teaching
For the Master Teacher status you will have to complete all the requirements for the Professional level plus you will also need to have National Board certification issued by the NBPTS.
Alaska English Teacher Salaries
Alaska is the largest state in the U.S. yet it is one of the least populated—outdone by only four other smaller states. This expansive land mass offers a particularly interesting lifestyle for teachers. Depending on where you live, commuting may mean hopping a commuter plane or boat to reach remote schools or fighting the typical freeway traffic of larger cities, or some combination of all three. Teachers will also experience a range of temperatures in this beautiful wilderness country that reach as low as 40 below zero in the winter, that will soar as high as 98 in the summer.
Alaska serves a student population of fewer than 200,000. Schools are clustered together in larger cities such as Fairbanks and Anchorage, but small towns may only have one elementary school. Students in secondary schools might need to travel to other locales. The schools typically recognize that the cost of living in Alaska will vary depending on the area you choose to teach. Each district in Alaska will set their own salary schedule. The average across the state tends to be reported in the mid $40k range at the entry level. Many factors play a part including where you teach as shown by these two examples here:
- Average: $ 54,752
- Entry: $ 47,449
- Experienced: $ 61,840
- Average: $ 45,371
- Entry: $ 41,110
- Experienced: $ 51,491