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How to Become a Teacher in Alabama
Teaching can be an incredibly rewarding career path. Teaching in Alabama, like most states in the USA, requires meeting certain basic criteria in terms of educational credentials and related qualifications. While the process may seem somewhat complicated at first glance, with some time and dedication you should be able to achieve your dream of becoming a teacher. You will need at least a bachelor's degree, and will also have to pass certain exams for certification.
Gaining the Proper Education
Learn about the career.Before you begin on the path to becoming a teacher, there are several practical considerations you should take. While teaching is a rewarding job, it can be stressful.
- Teaching can be highly valuable. As a teacher, you can make a difference in young lives. You can pass on wisdom to future generations, and provide support to students. If you become a teacher, you can have a long and extremely rewarding career.
- Teaching can be stressful. Keep in mind you'll have to deal with problem students, and bring much of your work home. As a teacher, you'll have to deal with things like grading papers.
- If you're interested in learning more, you can volunteer at a school or shadow a teacher. Not only will this help you get to know the career more, it can help on a college application. If you decide you want to pursue teaching further, experience working in a school can make your application stand out.
Get a bachelor's degree in education.At the minimum, a bachelor's in education is required to become a teacher in Alabama. You will need a four year college education from an organization approved by the Alabama State Department Education. You can find a list of approved schools on the department website.
- You will need to focus in on the area you want to teach. For example, you will need an elementary education degree to teach elementary students. Look for a program that offers a teacher preparation program as well as a bachelor's degree. You need to complete a teacher preparation program in order to become certified to teach.
Take advantage of your time in college.Your professors and career counselors will help you figure out the paperwork necessary to become certified, and offer advice on how to pass the state exam. Becoming a teacher can be a long and confusing journey, and the resources at your disposal in college are invaluable. You can also make connections that can help land you a job after graduation.
- Study hard and do excellent in all your classes. High grades can help you cultivate a positive relationship with your professors.
- See a career counselor regularly to talk about career planning. A counselor can help you seek out the experience you need to increase your chances of finding a teaching job prior to graduation.
Examine the benefits of a master's degree.You do not need a master's degree to become certified to teach in Alabama, and obtaining the degree will take an extra few years. However, having a master's in education does come with a few advantages.
- While Alabama does not require a master's to teach, 33 states do require you obtain a master's degree at some point. If you plan on moving in the future, having your master's can help you find work in other states.
- When choosing a master's degree, select a highly ranked, accredited program. A master's degree can provide you with further experience and expertise in the field of teaching, and may improve your overall performance as a teacher.
- You also may get paid more if you have a master's degree. Some schools are required to pay teachers with a master's degree more than teachers with a bachelor's degree. Some schools actually reimburse teachers for the cost of a master's degree to encourage people to pursue higher education.
Consider alternative educational paths.You may already have a degree from an out of state school. You may also have extenuating circumstances preventing you from obtaining a degree in a traditional fashion. There are a variety of alternative educational routes you can take to get a teaching certificate in Alabama.
- If you've been hired by a non-public school, or by a board of education, you may not need traditional certification. You can gain a Special Alternative Certification by working with the Alabama Department of Education that will be good for one year. If you need a certificate that lasts longer, you can obtain an Alternative Baccalaureate Level Certificate (ABC). This is good for one year as well, but it can be renewed.
- If you served in the military, look into a program called Troops for Teachers. This can help you obtain a teaching degree without following the traditional path.
Complete a teacher preparation program while receiving your degree.You need to complete a teacher preparation program if you want to obtain your certification. You should complete the program while enrolled in your bachelor's or master's program. It should be part of your regular curriculum. If you're going on an alternative route, ask at your program whether you need to complete the preparation program and, if so, how.
- There are two components to a teacher preparation program: college coursework and field work. Coursework occurs in the classroom, where you will learn things like pedagogy, classroom management, technology integration, and other academic aspects of teaching.
- Fieldwork includes student teaching and interning. During your fieldwork, you will work in an actual school gaining hands on experience. You will get assigned to a classroom and have to student teach for a period.
Obtaining Proper Certification
Study for the required exams.In order to gain your certification, you need to pass two exams issued by the Alabama Prospective Teacher Testing Program (APTTP). One exam is the basic knowledge exam, which makes sure you have all foundational skills of a teacher. The other exam is the subject knowledge exam. This exam seeks to make sure you have expertise in the specific subject or age group you want to teach.
- There is a study guide online that you can find through the APTTP website. Read the guide thoroughly before taking the exam, and test yourself on the material as you read.
- Do not put off studying until the last minute. You should be studying for the exam extensively before your scheduled test date. You take the exam at a testing center, and can sign up online. Make sure to make a study schedule and study for the exam most days of the week.
Take the basic skills assessment.First, you will take the basic skills assessment. This exam consists of three sections: reading, writing, and mathematics.
- The math section seeks to make sure you have basic skills in math, enough that you can solve work related problems. None of the questions will require a calculator. The minimum passing grade is Level 4.
- The reading section measures reading comprehension. It seeks to make sure prospective teachers are able to understand work related materials, like memos and school policy. You need a Level 5 to pass.
- In the writing section, you will need to write a response to a hypothetical work related situation. You need a Level 3 to pass.
Take the subject specific knowledge assessment.From here, you will be required to take the subject knowledge assessment. This will measure your expertise in your given field. If you're teaching math, for example, the exam will be math heavy.
- The precise assessment you take varies greatly based on your chosen path. You can find list of subject-specific assessments online.
Retake the test if necessary.There is no limit to how many times you can take the basic skills exam, or the subject assessment exam. If you do not receive a passing score, you will have to retake the exam. While you can re-take as many times as you need, some testing centers have limitations. If you took the exam on a computer, you will not be able to take the exam again until the next testing window.
Complete a background check.Once you've passed your exams, you are almost ready to become certified. All that you need to do is pass a criminal background check administered by Alabama Bureau of Investigation, as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
- The background check does not take a lot of effort on your part to complete. However, there is a fee associated with the test. For Alabama residents, it's .15. For out of state residents, it's .15.
- You will have to register online with a fingerprinting service. Then, you can go in and have your fingerprints taken. Your prints will be run and a background check will be conducted. If nothing comes up in your background check, you will be able to apply for certification.
Apply for certification.In order to apply for certification, you can get an application online from the Alabama Department of Education website. You will need to fill out the application and mail it in, along with other materials, to the Office of Teaching and Leading.
- You will need a recommendation for certification from the program where you completed your education and training.
- You will also need your background check clearance, your college transcripts, and an application fee.
Finding a Job
Write a resume.If you want to land a teaching job, you need an excellent resume. Put together a clear, concise, and impressive resume as you begin your job search.
- Use a legible font and consistent organization. If you have one job explained via bullet points, all jobs should summarized in the same way.
- Explain your experience using action words. Do not write, "Made PowerPoint presentations for the classroom." Instead, write something like, "Implemented technology to help students comprehend new material." Specifics would also help. For example, how many students did you teach?
- You should also list any special skills you have. If you're fluent in a foreign language, for example, list that. If you're savvy in any particular type of classroom technology, this is also worth mentioning.
Search for jobs.Once you've completed your resume, the job hunt begins. Send out your resume to a variety of schools. If you do not get a position at your first choice school, you will have plenty of backup schools to rely on.
- Alabama has plenty of both public and private schools, so feel free to apply to both.
- Network, as this is the best means to get a job. If you have any professors, colleagues, or teachers who supervised you during student teaching, go to them for help. Ask them if they have any leads, and to put a word in for you.
- Do not get discouraged. It can take a long time to find a job, but with some dedication you should land a position with time.
Practice solid interview skills.When you get an interview, go in prepared. You should develop great interview skills so you can impress a potential employee and secure a position.
- Make sure to dress up for the interview. You do not want to show up in jeans and a t-shirt. A nice button down shirt and dress pants, a suit, or a work appropriate dress is a good idea.
- Research the school ahead of time. Make sure you get a sense of the school's mission and ethics. You want to show you're invested in the position.
- Maintain confident body language throughout the interview. Sit up straight and smile and nod as the interviewer speaks to show you are listen.
- Ask an open-ended question at the end of the interview, as this shows you have a genuine interest in the position. Something like, "What is the school's culture like?" would work well.
Continue to develop professionally after landing a job.After you find a teaching job, you will want to continue your professional development. This will help you continue to be a quality teacher for years to come, and keep you up-to-date on new teaching methods and curriculum.
- PLUs (Professional Learning Units) and CEUs (Continuing Education Units) are organizations that help teachers continue to develop professionally and network with other educations. Check to see what PLUs and CEUs are operating in your area.
- You can also check out programs like eLearning Alabama, Alabama Learning Exchange (ALEX), Alabama Technology in Motion (ATIM). These are state approved programs designed to keep teachers learning after certification.
- Teacher certifications in Alabama are good for a period of 5 years. Then they are subject to review based on assessment of the teacher's performance in the classroom, efforts at continuing education, and other criteria as set by the local board of education or hiring committee of a private system. Should the certification lapse, the teacher may have to complete the APTTP a second time before being re-certified and re-licensed.
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