6 Questions to Ask as You Consider Alternative Pathways to Teaching
If you’re thinking about teaching, and did not go through a traditional educator prep program, an alternative pathway could be for you! Here are a few common questions answered as you start to explore:
1. What are the certification or licensure requirements to teach?
There are tiers of policy that govern this: national, state, and local. Here’s an abbreviated response to a question that can be pretty nuanced --
At the highest level, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is the national education law. In the state of Colorado, the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) is the agency that grants state teaching licenses, and defines and enforces these requirements. The local or district level offers another layer of policy, and public charter networks can offer even more flexibility in pathways to teaching.
For example, DSST Public Schools is a public charter network authorized to operate by Denver Public Schools (DPS). DSST has the autonomy to demonstrate teachers are “highly qualified” through a means other than state licensure.
So the answer is it depends! But at DSST, licensure is not the only pathway and there are options to get you started in your new profession, probably faster than you think!
2. What does “highly qualified” mean?
This is a term that can have different meanings in different contexts. At DSST this means that to teach a core academic subject, the teacher must have a bachelor’s degree and demonstrate content knowledge. This can be demonstrated through having a degree in the subject area you wish to teach (or a minimum of 36 credit hours in the subject).
So, if you have a bachelor’s degree in math, you’re highly qualified to teach math!
If you wish to teach a subject outside of your degree, you can demonstrate content knowledge through passing the required PRAXIS exam in the subject you are teaching.
Note: All Special Education teachers in Colorado must hold a license in Special Education granted by the Colorado Department of Education.
3. What are starting salaries for teachers and what is the salary growth potential?
Again this depends, but at DSST Public Schools starting salaries for lead teachers are currently $46,000. Annual raises for teachers at DSST are aligned to performance, based on an evaluation system that considers performance of their students. In the last few years, the average annual raise for our teachers was between 8 and 12%.
4. What if I need or would like more preparation before teaching?
Even if you’re “highly qualified” you may need or want more development before you’re ready to teach. If you’re interested in teaching hard-to-fill roles at DSST, there are additional pathways to support you in gaining experience in the classroom and the professional development you need to excel in the role.
At DSST, there are two pathways (outlined below). In both, you are hired as an Apprentice Teacher and paired with a master teacher to mentor you for a year. This way you get to experience the full school year with students and gradually take on more responsibility as you ramp up to owning the instruction in a classroom the following year. DSST’s mentor teachers are our strongest teachers, trained to support your development and teach new teachers. Currently these pathways are available as pathways to hard-to-fill roles, math and science teaching positions.
5. What are the Apprentice Teacher pathways?
At DSST, there are two pathways:
- We partner with Relay Graduate School of Education and hire Apprentice Teachers to complete the Relay Teaching Residency. Candidates hired as Apprentice Teachers in this role enroll in Relay to earn a teaching license and master’s degree over two years.
- We also host a cohort of Apprentice Teachers that are not seeking a master’s degree. In the Learn2Teach program, Apprentice Teachers receive professional development over the course of the year from their mentor teachers and through sessions offered at the campus where they’re placed.
6. What are salaries for Apprentice Teachers and what are the program costs?
Apprentice Teachers at DSST are currently salaried at $34,000 and receive full benefits. The maximum out-of-pocket cost for the Relay Teaching Residency is currently $8,500. Significant aid is offered through Relay. There are no additional costs for the Learn2Teach program, but if Apprentice Teachers in this program are interested in earning a teaching license, there are options available with partner programs at an additional cost (approximately $6,000 out-of-pocket for a one-year program).