What do college students, athletes, military service members, musicians and successful business people all have in common? Like millions of others around the country, they can—and often do—become teachers.
With more than 3.5 million teachers in the United States, it’s safe to say that teachers come from an enormous range of backgrounds. And their unique experiences benefit students who catch their first glimpses of the world within the walls of their schools.
Here, three Kansas City teachers talk about their unique journeys to getting certified and how having a coach to guide them could have made the process simpler and less daunting.
Another thing these future teachers have in common—they can benefit from the one-on-one advice of a knowledgeable coach.
Mentors, advisors and coaches act as guides, providing information about the profession and the moves you can make to get there.
With so many paths to teaching, a coach who knows the field can make all the difference for you, given your own unique background and experience. In fact, 85 percent of people who spoke with a TEACH.org coach said the call was helpful! Sign up today.
A soldier, a helper and a scientist walk into a classroom
Some teachers head straight from highschool to college knowing they want to teach. Some find teaching later, after careers in other fields. Still others have no intention of teaching until they volunteer at a school and fall in love with the experience.
- Paul Turner
Paul spent nine years in the US Army, before getting certified to teach at South Dakota State University. He now teaches geography and AP world geography for Liberty Public Schools.
- Amirah Pughsley
Amirah always knew she wanted to enter a helping profession. She began college wanting to become a physical therapist, but eventually switched to special education. She now teaches middle grades special education for Frontier School of Innovation.
- Zulma Perez-Estrella
Zulma found teaching during her training to become a scientist. Wanting more girls to fall in love with science, she developed curriculum for the nonprofit, Girls, Inc. That’s when she knew she wanted to inspire others as a teacher. She now teaches biology and technology for Kansas City Public Schools.
A coach can help guide the way
With options for undergraduate certification, master’s level programs, post-baccalaureate certificate programs and alternative certification, it can be hard to know which program is the right fit. Paul, Amirah and Zulma travelled different paths to get certified and met with different obstacles.
Let them tell you how a knowledgeable coach and advisor can help.
Get help understanding certification requirements
For Paul, the GI Bill allowed him to seek his true passion of becoming a teacher. Yet, even after a decade of leadership and hard work, he still found navigating the teacher certification process intimidating.
When Paul recalls what would have been helpful, he says, “it would have helped to know the certification procedures before going back to college. Many options are available along with organizations that will help with scholarships and mentorship.”
Amirah travelled a more traditional route to certification through her undergraduate program. Even still, she felt similarly to Paul when it came to getting certified. She sometimes found herself overloaded with what she needed to complete in order to apply for a teaching certificate and a job.
“As I think back to my experience of becoming a teacher I truly believe that if I had access to more resources around certification, it would have alleviated stress and confusion, and provided an easier transition into the education field.”
Once she got through the initial process of getting certified, Amirah thrived. She was named the 2017-18 Teacher of the Year for her school and for her district!
Zulma took a nontraditional route to teaching. In college, her approach was more exploratory, going in the directions that felt right at the time. She had supporters who always encouraged her to do what she wanted—but no one to discuss specific career goals and guide her toward teaching science and technology as a career.
“Now it seems so obvious that teaching is what I was searching for all along. I was lucky to live in Kansas, which has a STEM license for educators who did not go through the traditional certification route. I would not have known this path if it was not for the HR department at KCKPS.”
Because of educators like Paul, Amirah and Zulma, TEACH Kansas City developed it’s 1-on-1 coaching program. If you have questions about getting certified, you can ask a TEACH Kansas City coach. It’s free!
Know what it’s like to lead a classroom
Prospective teachers need to know their options when it comes to getting certified, but they also have questions about the day-to-day life of a teacher.
During her teacher training, Amriah sought out knowledgeable professionals who could “provide insight into the art of teaching,” including “advice on new teaching strategies, professional development opportunities for new teachers, assistance with analyzing student data, the establishment of classroom action plans and support with student literacy.”
Zulma agrees, wishing she would have taken advantage of seasoned teachers sooner, especially in her field of teaching science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
“It would have been great to have a STEM educator talk to me about what they do. I think it would have allowed me to plan my future better. I still could have done the educational exploration that I did, but I would have been smarter in the route that I took and had more options early on.”
Most of TEACH Kansas City coaches are current educators who can offer these insights. If you’re interested in talking to a teacher in your chosen subject, you can also sign up for Talk to a Teacher and request a teacher match.
Get advice and resources for testing
Coming from a non-traditional route to certification, Zulma didn’t get the heads up about the tests she would need to take to get certified. In hindsight, she says that, “I should have been smart and taken the Praxis when it was offered for FREE. I did not know at the time how it could help me in the future.”
TEACH Kansas City has a guide for that! You can sign up for guides that walk you through application and testing requirements for your teaching program. Your TEACH Kansas City coach can send you these guides as well!
Get encouragement when you need it
After nine years in the military, Paul needed more than just a teaching certificate. From time to time, he needed encouragement to see himself in the classroom—not just as a teacher, but as a student himself.
“The difficult challenge that I faced was getting out of my own head. I had anxiety about going back to school. Once I went back, it was not as hard as I thought it would be and I had a better understanding of time management and motivation to get through school.”
No matter your background, a TEACH Kansas City coach can help you see your future self more clearly and give you the push you need to move forward.