While there are a lot of good online teaching credential programs out there that do the job and get you certified, when it comes to embarking on a new career where dozens of kids’ futures are in your hands, do you want to be good? Or great?
If you want to be the best at your job, it’s important that you learn from the best in the field of education. That includes the teacher credential program that you choose.
Just like Tina Turner’s hit song, “The Best,” says, if your program is simply the best, it’s better than all the rest. But with dozens of educator preparation program choices out there, how do you know which is simply the best online school for teaching credential preparation?
The answer to that question boils down to 5 musts that a teacher credential program should offer:
Texas Education Agency-approved
A full-circle approach
A combination of online and in-person training
An individualized timeline with attention to detail
Texas Education Agency-Approved
It’s easy to overlook this requirement, which is why we have put it at the top of the list. No matter how great an educator preparation program may seem, if it isn’t approved by the Texas Education Agency, you’re not going to get very far.
The Texas Education Agency (TEA) is a state agency that oversees public education. When searching for an online program that will prepare you for certification, make sure that you choose one that is on the TEA’s list of state-approved educator preparation programs.
Only programs on this list may recommend a person for a Texas educator certificate. Keep in mind, however, that not all programs on this list are created equal. Now it’s time to dive into some of the other qualities of a teaching credential program that put it above the rest.
A Full-Circle Approach
The path toward certification includes three components: Training, testing and teaching. The best teaching credential program will have interns work on these three components simultaneously using a full-circle approach.
While some training must be completed prior to testing and student teaching, other parts of an intern’s training must be completed while in the classroom as a teacher of record. This full circle approach is comprehensive and efficient in that it allows interns to complete a program more quickly.
Think of it as three teaching rings, with training, testing and teaching each having its own ring. In one school year, a teaching intern will need to complete 300 hours of training, a pedagogy exam and teaching experience.
As the intern moves closer to completing each area, which can be done simultaneously, the ring begins to close. As part of the pedagogy exam ring, the proper exam preparation helps an intern move toward accomplishing this goal, and therefore closing this ring.
An experienced advisor will watch your back and guide you through your first year as a teacher. Considering this part of your professional journey can be anxiety-filled and at times overwhelming as you absorb everything you need to know to be a quality teacher, it’s important to have a trusted advisor in your corner.
You may already know that being assigned an in-field advisor is mandated by the state of Texas. However, not every advisor is going to provide you with the same level of expertise or dedication toward helping you be successful in your journey.
Consider this … you’ve likely had several supervisors or mentors over your career so far. Each has offered a different experience for you along the way, some positive and some not so much. Working with an assigned advisor is no different.
So how do you put yourself in a position where you can rest assured you will partner with an advisor who cares about your future as an educator? The best teaching credential programs will:
Have in-field advisors who are accessible to you throughout the school year
Ensure advisors make periodic classroom visits to observe your teaching and provide feedback
Actively promote advisers and their credentials on the program’s website
Provide you with advisors that have been teachers, principles, vice principles, etc. in the past … not just students who have recently graduated from a certification program
One other important note to consider is that of the 300 hours of training you must take to receive a standard teaching certificate in Texas, 30 must be dedicated to observation by a teacher advisor. These 30 hours are a very important part of your certification process. Certified teachers will send a recommendation to your program that you are ready or not ready to teach in the classroom.
ECAP has former principals, vice principals and teachers who have extensive experience to help you through this process. Not all programs do this. Some simply send past teachers who are ex-students of their program to evaluate you, so it is important to contact the program you are considering to ensure that you are going to get the best advisor to help you.
Combination Of Online And In-Person Training
Online teaching credential programs have clear advantages. They are often flexible, allowing you to take courses around your schedule. This is especially helpful if you are employed, are a parent or have other time-consuming obligations.
Online teaching certificationprograms typically have a high level of course availability as well since you can sign up for any class offered anywhere throughout the state.
While many aspiring teachers gravitate toward an online program with these benefits, there are some drawbacks as well. One of the biggest drawbacks is the lack of opportunity to develop professional relationships.
The good news is that it’s possible to find a program that offers both the flexibility of an online program with the opportunity to establish connections. In fact, the best teaching credential program will offer a combination of online and in-person training, providing you with the best of both worlds.
Other benefits of enrolling in a program that offers both online and in-person training include:
Hands on learning that you can’t get solely through online training
Enhanced availability of instructors to answer your questions promptly
Networking moments, either planned or spontaneous
Personalized help from staff who get to know you and think of you as a person rather than a number
Opportunities to collaborate through teamwork
The ability to build your skills through computer and online work
The flexibility of choosing where you study and perform coursework
Individualized Timeline With Attention To Detail
The best teaching credential programs include a customized plan just for you. This plan will help you stay on target to achieve your goals.
After all, you have unique needs and goals you wish to accomplish, and your schedule isn’t like anyone else’s. It’s important to get that personalized assistance so you can stay on track.
A key clue that you’re inquiring with a program that applies an individualized approach is if the admissions professionals help you consider all your options. They should never pressure you into making a commitment and should want to ensure the program is a great fit for you … and you’re a great fit for the program.
Your timeline to achieve certification will be unique as well. Some important details on your timeline may include:
Whether you need to take the TxPACT to enroll in an educator preparation program
When you should take your content exams and in what subject areas
When you should begin and complete student teaching
When you should begin applying for a teaching position
What coursework you need to complete and when
When you should take the PPR
When you should apply to become a licensed teacher
These are all challenging pieces that will fill your timeline. Having an alternative teacher certification program with experienced advisers by your side each step of the way is essential to ensuring your timeline stays on track.
Micah is the Director of Curriculum & Technology. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in British Literature, from the University of North Texas and a Master of Arts in Teaching, from Louisiana College. In his previous career, Micah served for 14 years as a banker and bank manager. For the majority of this period, Micah managed the Downtown Fort Worth location of Frost Bank.
In 2005, Micah finally surrendered to his true calling to be an educator. After a brief, but fulfilling term teaching high school English at Flower Mound High School in Lewisville ISD, Micah went to work for the family business, training teachers.
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