Amazing Teachers come to us from all disciplines and walks of life, and each has unique qualities that will provide a lasting impact on our children. Today, teachers take many different pathways to get into the field. Though there are some general requirements for those looking to get into the profession, depending on a variety of factors, there are generally three different options for prospective teachers to reach their goal.
For those interested in teaching elementary to high school education, the first requirement across the board is to obtain a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university, which, fortunately, can be earned right here in the RGV with a plethora of majors to study at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, as well as a few other options at South Texas College and now at Texas A&M University in McAllen. In addition to holding a bachelor’s degree in any subject, the usual job seeker’s requirements are a successful interview and reference check, as well as the standard background check and fingerprinting required for working with children. For those who wish to work in the public school system, state certification is also necessary.
A well-known route for those interested in teaching is to pursue a degree in education and complete the associated Educator Preparation Program (EPP). This tends to be the path taken most by those who entered college knowing in advance that they wanted to become teachers. Generally, accredited universities provide a solid foundation for teachers with courses in child development, curriculum and lessons, language, literacy, and more, as well as time spent observing in a classroom as student teachers. Upon completion of their degree, graduates have passed the certification exam in their respective fields and are prepared to enter the workforce.
Albert Aleman, an 8th year teacher at Donna ISD, obtained his degree in education at the University of Texas Pan American. He did learn a great deal during his studies, but noted that this still cannot fully prepare teachers for what they can expect in the classroom. Upon entering college, Aleman knew that he wanted to become a teacher and definitely recommends that path to those who want to do the same. He also recognized that depending on the person, another path to teaching might also be a good fit. Even more that learning from books, observation time and learning to emulate experienced teachers has been an important aspect to his success in teaching. He said, “Education is not a cookie cutter thing – it is not one size fits all. Every year is different.”
For those who obtained their degree in a different field, nontraditional routes to teaching are available and furthermore, have been on the rise across the country. To work in the public school system, the State of Texas requires that public school teachers obtain state certification, so Alternative Certification Programs (ACPs) are another great option. Anayancy Martinez, special education teacher with Edinburg Consolidated ISD, took the alternative certification route while working as a paraprofessional in the school system. ACPs generally take one year to complete and like, Martinez, participants are often allowed to teach or intern while completing the requirements, which provides extremely valuable experience as they jump into the field. ACPs can be found through universities and colleges, education service centers, and private entities, and though the requirements remain the same, not all programs are created equal. Cost, support, and even job placement rates vary, so it is important to do research before selecting the right fit for you.
Though certification does help with preparation and furthermore, is a highly marketable asset in the job search, it is not always required to teach. According to the TEA, for public charter and private schools, only a baccalaureate degree is required. In the RGV, IDEA Public Schools are one example of schools that do not require certification, however, they do employ many state-certified teachers and have their own stringent expectations for hiring and helping teachers grow. According to Shelby Quevedo, she had a wonderful experience as a first-year teacher with IDEA. Quevedo noted that while certification is likely beneficial, IDEA provides a wonderful environment with extensive support for new teachers. Of her experience, she said, “IDEA is big on two different things for teacher growth – content and coachability. They focus on teams to help with content and classroom management. It is a lot of checks and balances.” With 100% graduation rates and 100% of students attending college, IDEA’s methods have proven to be very effective.
Talk to any teacher and you will find that, as Aleman said, “It is not one size fits all.” Each educator has taken their own unique path, and though they may come to the profession in different ways, their passion and experience tend to be their most valuable assets in working with our children. We all know a teacher, so for those interested in the field, be sure to talk to (and thank) a teacher today! Our local higher education facilities as well as http://tea.texas.gov also provide great resources.