Alternative Teaching Certification for Future Teachers
Education, as you surely know, is an ongoing journey. New technology and new discoveries — and even the latest changes within the US economy – all inspire (and sometimes force) people to learn new things.
Teachers are an integral part of the ongoing learning process, for children and for adults. Some teachers seem to be born devoted to education, while others find their calling years after they followed a career path they long thought was for them. Many things in life can make a person consider a career in education — the enjoyment that comes with seeing a child realize he or she has learned something new, working informally with English-as-a-second language (ESOL) adults, managing a boisterous room of students, or wanting to feel like a part of a greater community.
The first step to obtaining your teaching certification is finding out your state’s requirements. Each state has a defined process for someone to get his or her certification, as long as the individual already has a bachelor’s degree. In many states, you can become certified to teach without having to attend an education-based, education-specific program, though the level at which you are certified to teach may be limited to elementary grades.
As of 2010, Alaska and Oregon were the only two U.S. states to report that they did not allow alternative certification. According to the National Center for Education Information (NCEI), the number of teachers obtaining certification through alternative routes has increased substantially in the past decade; more than 33 percent of new teachers hired have obtained their certification through alternative means.
Each state certifies educators for that state-specific purpose. You cannot get certified in California to teach in New Mexico, for example. Since 2004, the National Center for Alternative Certification (NCAC) has posted (at www.teach-now.org), each state’s requirements. Requirements generally include field work, coursework, high scores in testing, and mentoring.
An alternative teaching certification (ATC) lets teachers in training take courses in their free time, often via online access. For people with a busy schedule, this is often the best route to an education career. Some want to teach on the collegiate level, but an ATC won’t be enough – they’ll need to pursue a master’s degree. For your ACT, you’ll need to choose your field, and pass content tests and a final which covers the general aspects of education. Alternative certification programs can explore how to handle many different classroom situations, and how to adequately teach the subject, but most states also require a few hours in a classroom setting: being a teacher on paper is quite different than standing in front of a room full of students.
A large part of teaching is choosing your focus. Are you weak in math? You probably shouldn’t be teaching algebra. Are you more comfortable educating a class of 40 students, or focusing on a smaller class of 10? Teaching can mean working with children with special needs, or working with a “gifted and talented” class. These are all things you’ll want to decide, or be seriously considering, as you look into ATC.
As the education field (approaches, theory, technology, etc) continues to change and grow, so do the way many students learn. Students learn in different ways; some are audible learners, while others are hands-on. A gifted teacher needs to be flexible, willing to learn how each individual student learns, and willing to mold their own teaching to each student’s way of learning. Use all of the tools available to you during your ATC process to learn what you can about approaches to learning, and finding out what sort of educator you are.
After a bachelor’s and an ATC, many teachers and others in the educational field choose to further their knowledge by earning a master of education degree. An M.Ed can open many doors, and a master’s is a great way to further your own education so students get a higher quality of education, as well. Getting a master’s provides in-depth learning of certain subjects, and can help educators learn to better work with students with learning disabilities, and managing a classroom. In many states a master’s will lead to a higher salary, as well.
It does not matter when you find your way to a career in education, whether it’s after thirty years working in a cubicle, or as soon as you are handed your undergraduate degree. With a little time and effort, you can be certified to teach.