Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Getting Certified

If you are going to be a teacher, you will need to get certified – at least, in order to work in most schools. Some schools do not require certification, only that you complete core Education courses at a local college or university. If you want to commit to a career in teaching, you might as well go ahead and get certified. Some schools will even help you with professional development funds to pursue your certification.

My Certification Route

I started out by getting my Provisional Certification – meaning, I had a Bachelors degree and passed the Praxis exam in my field, so I downloaded the application from the Georgia Professional Standards Commission (GAPSC) at and submitted it with all my paperwork. A couple weeks later, I received my non-renewable provisional certificate, which gave me a couple of years to complete the requirements for a clear, renewable certificate. I highly recommend this as a way just to get you started if you’re about to jump into your first job and haven’t been certified yet.

At the time I began my actual certification program, I didn’t know about alternative routes that might and would apply to me since I had already been teaching for a couple of years. I joined the teacher prep program at Georgia State University – but GSU wouldn’t let me do just the program. I actually had to apply as a transfer student and be accepted to the university and be “degree seeking” in order to get into the program. That was just the beginning.

Let me just tell you that, although my certification courses at GSU were great and the professors were fantastic, it was the haggling with the administration that was frustrating. For example, even though I had straight As in my five upper level Latin courses at Emory University, GSU wanted me to take an additional four courses so that I would have enough for their B.A. and to make sure that I was “up to their standards.” I fought with the department chair, declaring I wasn’t going to get a second Bachelors degree in the same field that I already had the first degree in. He finally gave in, allowing me to take only two courses. I got As in both those courses and passed the proficiency exam in 45 minutes (they gave me three hours).

Once I submitted the paperwork to receive my official certification from the GAPSC, I officially dropped out of GSU. That still cracks me up – I’m a college drop out!

Other Certification Options

If you are already teaching or if you already hold a Bachelors degree, I highly recommend avoiding an official teacher prep program that requires you to be degree seeking – please avoid the frustrating two years I spent fighting with bureaucratic red tape.

To see all alternative routes, visit GAPSC here: . To receive your clear, renewable certificate, you will need to select the TAPP program: . This is the Georgia Teacher Alternative Preparation Program. There is also a Troops-to-Teachers program if you have been in the military: .

I don’t know much about either program, except that they avoid the “degree seeking” frustration I experienced.

Avoiding Certification

If you are hoping to avoid certification, I see three options available to you. First, find a private school that does not require you to be certified. This is especially true if your teaching field does not have certification available (e.g. Religion). They may require you to take some education courses, so be prepared for that. My first school did not require me to be certified, but did require that I complete 12 semester hours of core education courses so that the school could meet its accreditation requirements.

Second, go ahead and take the core education courses – I believe these are still Educational Foundations, Human Growth and Development, Educational Psychology, and Exceptional Children. These are actually good courses for a teacher to take and will help your case in getting hired as a teacher.

Third, don’t teach at the elementary or secondary level – get your Masters degree and teach junior college. This way you can still teach, but avoid teen drama and parent-teacher conferences.

Whatever route you choose, it can only help to get some kind of training. Check out professional development opportunities through public schools or through the state – visit the Georgia Educational Training Agency through - .

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