Education Requirements for Becoming an English Teacher in Tennessee

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Starting in 2015 Tennessee schools will return to teaching children how to write in cursive. If you want to be an English teacher, you are aware that writing skills are one important aspect of communication. Concerns have been raised about the inability of students who aren’t able to read a teacher’s writing or who lack a simple signature that is uniquely theirs. This new problem, stemming from the Common Core (CCSS) program, came about because CCSS encourages keyboarding skills as opposed to cursive writing.

While Tennessee educators understand the need to ready students for jobs with keyboarding skills, they also recognize the art of handwriting goes beyond simply typing out words. Losing the ability to handwrite — relying solely on writing by electronic means — creates a division in society that forces students to only communicate if they have access to a computer. As a prospective English teacher in Tennessee, you will join the ranks of educators that will encourage students to learn this form of writing (among many other language arts skills). To ready you for this new career, the following information will take you through the general steps to become an English teacher in Tennessee:

Complete a Degree with a Teaching Program
Pass All Mandatory Exams
Seek State Licensure
Follow-up with Continued Education



Step 1. Complete a Degree with a Teaching Program

You have decided that you want to teach language arts in Tennessee schools. Now you may wonder what the best way is to go about obtaining a teaching license. Many students will opt for the most common route: seeking an undergraduate teaching program. These programs are designed to ready you for teaching in as short of time as possible. Of course not all students will choose this route and it may not be the very best choice for your situation.

One of the first steps is exploring the programs that have been approved by the Office of Teacher Education and Accreditation. The OTEA has a list of all the schools that offer accredited programs that prepare you for a teaching career.

The basic bachelor degree program will cover about 128 semester units total. It will be comprised of sections that afford you a well-rounded general education, as well as training in specific areas that focus on how to be a teacher. The latter part of your program will include an internship or student teaching section. As you move along through your education, you will acquire the necessary skills that are also age-appropriate. Teaching high school students is much different than teaching a second grade student. When you make the decision on the grade you desire to teach, you will select a degree program that is specific to those students’ ages.

Alternative Program 

You may be considering teaching and have already earned a degree. If this describes you, there are alternative programs to consider. One is enrolling in a master’s degree program that will focus on any courses you may need in language arts. This program will also take you through the teaching methods and skills that are part of the bachelor’s degree. By following this alternative program, you will not only be ready to teach, you will also earn a higher paying salary as most schools reward teachers who have invested in a higher education.

Another possibility, if you already have an undergraduate degree, is the TeachNow program. This forty-week teacher preparation program is cohort based and held online. It is also project-based in its methodology delivered in a collaborative virtual-teaching environment.

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Step 2. Pass All Mandatory Exams

When you graduate from your program, you will be ready for the next step. Tennessee requires that you take certain exams in order to show that you have the skills you need to teach. These exams are divided into several categories, each created to assess your level of skills in a particular area. You will be tested in the following:

The process for testing first requires that you read a twenty-one page PDF file found on the Praxis website. This booklet will give you all the information you need to make sure you know what is required to take the exams.

Along with this general information, there is also specific testing information that will help you prepare for each individual exam. This test preparation material is also available online under each individual test listed.

Once you understand the process and know that you meet all the requirements, you will be ready to register for your exams.



Step 3. Seek State Licensure

You just received your passing scores on your Praxis exams. Congratulations! You are now ready to complete the licensing process. There are several stages to licensing that will be available throughout your career. Your initial license will likely be the Apprentice License.

  • Apprentice License

    You will earn this license once you have completed your education and passed your exams. This first license will remain in affect for five years at the maximum.

Other Possible Initial Licenses

  • Interim B License

    This license is given to you if you are working with a principal at a local school who has offered you employment. They may submit a request for Interim B Licensure. This is an alternative path to teaching that requires you to have met one of the following to qualify:

    • Pass Core Skills Praxis exams
    • Pass Principles of Teaching and Learning exams
    • Pass Content and Analysis Exam

  • JROTC Teaching License

    Another alternative form of licensure is the JROTC program. This license also has specific requirements for education and proof of your qualifications.

  • Transitional License

    This temporary license is for a teacher who is offered a job while they are completing their coursework required in an approved teaching program. You will need to already have a degree in English or enroll in a program that offers a minimum of 24 units in your core subject to qualify for this license.

Stage Two- Professional License

Once you have taught full-time for a minimum of three years you can apply for the Professional License. You will need to have an evaluation of your work before you apply. The Professional License remains in effect for ten years.

If you earned a Master’s degree, you only have to pass your performance evaluation to seek this license. With a master’s degree, no further continuing education is necessary. If you don’t have a master’s degree, you will need to follow the requirements in the next step to earn Professional status.



Step 4. Follow-up with Continued Education (CE)

If you hold an Initial license, it will be valid for a maximum of five years. When the five years are up, you will have to have completed at least 45 units of CE points to qualify for license upgrade (this step is for undergraduate students only).

The courses required for this step must be approved in order to count towards your education points.



Tenessee English Teacher Salaries

Tennessee has just over 1800 public schools with a student population that has almost reached the one million mark. Teachers have a wide range of opportunities to teach in numerous settings from small rural towns with populations less than 1000, to large metro areas such as Memphis and Nashville.

Teacher’s salaries in Tennessee typically average $33,287 a year. In the Shelby County Schools they have far exceeded this average, however. For example, they pay entry-level high school English teachers who hold a B.A. $42,343. They pay the same English teacher $49,328 if they hold a master’s with an additional forty-five units of college.

Knox County Schools, on the other hand, are closer to the averages. They will start out teachers with a bachelor’s degree at $35,030 for the first year. In the second year they will increase it to $36,335, and by year seven, the English teacher will earn $39,245. Again, if she earned a master’s degree plus additional college units (in this case thirty) she could earn $39,485 starting salary and by year seven earn $43,885.

Most schools tend to follow the same track awarding teachers additional salary bumps when they complete more schooling and when they have longevity at the school. When this is the case, one of the best ways to increase your earnings is to start your career with the greatest amount of college units from the start. This way as you continue in the steps, your earnings are greater as well. Here are two other school salary examples in Tennessee:

Hamilton County

  • Entry-Level B.A. – $36,044
  • Master’s +30 – $40,125

Rutherford County

  • Entry-Level B.A. – $35,723
  • Master’s +30 – $41,518

To view more teachers’ salaries from other cities around Tennessee go to the table below:

Area Name
Annual Median Salary
Kingsport-Bristol-Bristol TN-VA
Estimate Not Released
Knoxville TN
Nashville-Davidson--Murfreesboro--Franklin TN
South Central Tennessee nonmetropolitan area

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