Give me the basics: How do I get certified?
Here's what you have to do:
- Complete an approved teacher preparation program at an accredited college in Pennsylvania. At Gettysburg we offer approved programs leading to secondary certification (grades 7-12) in English, Science (including General Science, Biology, Chemistry, and Physics), Mathematics, and Social Studies. We also offer K-12 certification in Environmental Education and various foreign languages (French, German, and Spanish).
- Earn passing scores on all required examinations. Currently prospective teachers must pass a general skills exam known as the Preservice Academic Performance Assessment (PAPA) and the Praxis II exams appropriate to their certificate area.
- Complete an approved major in a subject related to the certification area. Students at Gettysburg College cannot major in Education, except for those students enrolled in the Music Education program housed in the Sunderman Conservatory.
- Successfully complete a college-level writing course, a course in British or American literature, and two college-level math courses--or their equivalent of each--regardless of certificate area.
- Maintain a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 and a GPA of 3.0 in certification coursework.
- Successfully complete a student teaching internship with a grade of S (satisfactory).
Will I be able to use my Pennsylvania certificate to get a job in another state?
With the exception of National Board certification, which is recognized as a substitute for state-level licensure in many states and can only be earned by veteran teachers, there is no such thing as a "national" teaching certificate. Each state makes its own rules for teacher licensure and issues its own teaching certificates. This means, of course, that a Pennsylvania teaching certificate is only valid within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The good news is that Pennsylvania certification is remarkably portable; because the requirements for certification are so stringent in Pennsylvania, many teachers certified here find that the process of adding a certificate in another state is as simple as writing a check. If you plan to leave Pennsylvania after earning a certificate at the College, we encourage you to speak to your Education Advisor about your options. We can help smooth the process of applying for certification in another state and can help you explore other ways of earning a teaching license.
Which certificate is right for me?
Although we sometimes think that all teachers were born to teach a certain subject, and although many people enter teaching because they are passionate about a particular subject, many prospective teachers have no idea what they want to teach--they just know that they want to. Choosing the right certificate depends on a number of factors, including: whether you plan to teach in Pennsylvania or somewhere else; whether you plan to teach in public schools or in independent schools; whether you have distinct academic interests or would rather develop and cultivate a broad range of academic skills to improve your marketability as a job candidate; and, frankly, the current state of the job market for teachers. In short, students have a number of options to explore when searching for the "right" certification program. Talk with your Education Advisor to make sure you find the certification program that's right for you.
How soon do I have to declare my intention to enter the Teacher Education program?
Generally speaking, you'll want to begin having conversations with an advisor in the Education Department about your intentions to pursue certification as early as possible, probably in your first year at Gettysburg, though some students are able to begin their coursework as late as their third year and still earn certification. Formal admission to the Teacher Education program does not occur until one calendar year before the intended student teaching semester, which for most students is the Fall Semester of the junior year. Students choosing a Ninth Semester student teaching option may apply for the Education Semester as late as the fall of their senior year.
What is the Ninth Semester option?
Students who are finding difficulty fitting all of their coursework into their schedules may choose to return to Gettysburg during the fall semester immediately following graduation to complete the student teaching internship. Discuss this option with our Education Advisor if you think Ninth Semester may be right for you.
Why doesn't Gettysburg College offer certification to teach in elementary schools?
A few years ago the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) amended its guidelines for teacher preparation and changed the way certificate areas are organized. These changes added several new requirements to the new certificate programs in grades PK-4 and 4-8 that simply cannot be met at an undergraduate liberal arts college like Gettysburg in a four-year time frame. While we cannot certify teachers at the elementary level, we do find that many prospective elementary teachers enjoy working with middle school students, making the secondary certificate (which includes grades 7 and 8) an attractive option. We also encourage students interested in elementary certification to consider the Minor in Educational Studies as a springboard to certification in graduate school.
I've heard about alternative teacher certification programs like Teach for America; how do those work? Should I just do that instead?
Teach for America (TFA) is certainly the most well known of the alternative routes to certification available to college graduates today. TFA, in particular, is an organization that has the prestige and resources to circumvent initial state certification requirements and place recent college graduates directly into high-needs public school classroom. While several Gettysburg students in recent years have been accepted into TFA's program (including come of our own graduates from the Teacher Education program), we encourage students interested in TFA or in other alternative programs to tread carefully. In the first place, we believe there is no substitute for rigorous, sustained preparation for teaching that includes both clinical components and immersion in the philosophical and, yes, theoretical foundations of teaching. We also believe that future teachers should become acquainted with the developing knowledge base on teaching and learning being elaborated by educational psychologists and other researchers and we believe that having a major in a subject area is not a proxy for the content knowledge needed to teach effectively. We also, quite frankly, question the responsibility of placing freshly-minted graduates into extraordinarily challenging teaching situations without sustained, mentored preparation experiences.
With all of that said, we do not want to discourage anyone from getting involved in education in any way they can. In short, our position on alternative certification is that we offer extensive clinical field experiences, challenging coursework, and personalized attention that is simply not available in alternative programs (or, for that matter, in larger schools of education). If you are interested in alternative certification, we encourage you to complete our program as you look ahead to entering your alternative program; in this way, a program like TFA can serve as a useful job-placement tool to be used after you have been formally prepared for teaching. You've got nothing to lose by adding to your preparation experience.
For more information on TFA, you may want to read the "Room for Debate" feature from the New York Times, "Is Teach for America Working?" Here's a link: http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2012/08/30/is-teach-for-america-working.