How Do I Become A Teacher

How Do I Become A Teacher

Becoming a public school teacher requires the completion of a bachelor’s degree that encompasses a major field of study, such as early childhood education, special education, teaching of English as a second language, English and mathematics, among others.

In Wisconsin, all teacher preparation programs must be based on Wisconsin’s Ten Teacher Standards. These standards, which describe what good teachers must know and be able to do, are as follows:

  1. Teachers know the subjects they are teaching. 
    The teacher understands the central concepts, tools of inquiry, and structures of the disciplines she or he teaches and can create learning experiences that make these aspects of subject matter meaningful for pupils.
  2. Teachers know how children grow. 
    The teacher understands how children with broad ranges of ability learn and provides instruction that supports their intellectual, social, and personal development.
  3. Teachers understand that children learn differently.
    The teacher understands how pupils differ in their approaches to learning and the barriers that impede learning and can adapt instruction to meet the diverse needs of pupils, including those with disabilities and exceptionalities.
  4. Teachers know how to teach.
    The teacher understands and uses a variety of instructional strategies, including the use of technology, to encourage children’s development of critical thinking, problem solving, and performance skills.
  5. Teachers know how to manage a classroom. 
    The teacher uses an understanding of individual and group motivation and behavior to create a learning environment that encourages positive social interaction, active engagement in learning, and self-motivation.
  6. Teachers communicate well.
    The teacher uses effective verbal and nonverbal communication techniques as well as instructional media and technology to foster active inquiry, collaboration, and supportive interaction in the classroom.
  7. Teachers are able to plan different kinds of lessons. 
    The teacher organizes and plans systematic instruction based upon knowledge of subject matter, pupils, the community, and curriculum goals.
  8. Teachers know how to test for student progress. 
    The teacher understands and uses formal and informal assessment strategies to evaluate and ensure the continuous intellectual, social, and physical development of the pupil.
  9. Teachers are able to evaluate themselves. 
    The teacher is a reflective practitioner who continually evaluates the effects of his or her choices and actions on pupils, parents, professionals in the learning community and others and who actively seeks out opportunities to grow professionally.
  10. Teachers are connected with other teachers and the community. 
    The teacher fosters relationships with school colleagues, parents, and agencies in the larger community to support pupil learning and well-being and acts with integrity, fairness and in an ethical manner.

What courses are taken in a teacher education program?
Required courses generally include professional education courses, such as the history of education and psychology of learning, methods of teaching, teaching a specific subject area, and student teaching in an elementary or secondary school classroom.

How do I choose a teacher education program?
There are several considerations for choosing an education program:

  • If you want to teach in a specific setting (urban, rural, or suburban school), think about choosing a college/university in that area. It is likely that student teaching experiences will be in the local schools, providing an opportunity to assess and evaluate them in terms of your preferences and goals.
  • Think about what size college or teacher education program would be most comfortable for you.
  • Ask about opportunities to observe different classrooms and schools in order to see a variety of teaching and school situations to identify factors that determine successful teaching and learning.
  • Ask if cooperating teachers (full-time elementary or secondary teachers) are assigned to work with student teachers or if they volunteer. Usually a cooperating teacher is assigned to work with student teachers.
  • The length of the teacher program varies. Ask to see a sample course work plan. Know what to expect during your four or five years at the campus.

How do I find out more about teacher education programs?
The best approach is to access the website of the college in which you are interested. You should then go to the School of Education, where you will find valuable information about that college’s specific program.

Where can I find information on various state requirements?
Each state’s education department or licensing office is the most reliable source for information about teacher licensure. To find Wisconsin’s requirements visit the The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s resource page on teacher licensure.

Do I need a license to teach?
Teachers in Wisconsin’s public schools must be licensed by the State of Wisconsin. Should you decide to become a teacher, you will have to meet the requirements of Wisconsin’s teacher licensure law that went into effect in 2004.

This law created three levels of licensure: Initial, Professional and Master. When you first teach, you will be licensed as an Initial Educator. Within five years, you will move to the Professional License. The Professional License must be renewed every five years. You also have the option of moving to the Master level.

There are two ways to obtain the Master Educator license.

  1. One way is to obtain a master’s degree and demonstrate outstanding knowledge and skill in a “professional development plan.”
  2. A second way to reach the Master Educator level is to become certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. For information about National Board certification, visit the NBPTS Web site.

In addition to advanced levels of teacher licensure, some educators may use professional growth experiences to obtain a license to become a guidance counselor, school principal, district administrator, or other educational specialist.

The new system of licensing teachers is based on 10 standards that define what good teachers know and should be able to do. As noted earlier, Wisconsin colleges and universities are required to base their teacher preparation programs on these standards. These standards are used to grant teachers their licenses.

More information about Wisconsin’s teacher licensure system

What organization can I join in college that will help me as I prepare to become a teacher?
One organization, the Student Wisconsin Education Association (Student WEA), is a statewide, national award-winning, pre-professional organization affiliated with WEAC. The Student WEA is a governance organization that elects leaders at both the state and local levels. Wisconsin colleges and universities host active chapters of Student WEA.

Student WEA focuses on quality public education in these areas: professional development, networking, community outreach, and citizen action. At the heart of these four areas is the issue of quality public education.

In addition to the various conferences and community outreach opportunities, there are numerous benefits that members can receive—from publications to credit cards. In fact, the organization has received numerous awards from the National Education Association. There are other organizations at various universities and campuses that can help prepare you for teaching. These include student groups for specific majors.

For more information, go to the Student WEA web site.


What opportunities do I have for professional growth and/or advancement? Professional growth and licensure go hand in hand. As a teacher in Wisconsin (and most other states as well), you will be required throughout your career to maintain or acquire new knowledge and skills. In education, as in all other career areas, professionals must continually learn the latest information, technology and ways of doing things. This not only leads to advanced levels of licensure, but also ensures that you will become a better teacher.

You will have many opportunities for professional growth. For instance, most districts provide “inservice” or professional development programs. These are usually held at a school within the district, and teachers spend part of the day—or perhaps longer—learning ways to work more effectively with kids.

Other avenues for professional growth include attending workshops outside of school, completing college courses during the school year or summer, or participating in work experiences such as internships in business and industry.

Some professional growth activities are required by the state and will assist teachers in obtaining more advanced levels of licensure. As mentioned in the section, “Do I need a license to teach?” there will be three levels of licensure for Wisconsin teachers starting in 2004 – Initial, Professional and Master Educator. In 2004, all beginning teachers will need to achieve a Professional Educator license within five years of starting their career, and some will seek the Master Educator license as well.

What is my next step?
If you are interested in teaching, how can you get started? You can join future education clubs, volunteer or work as a camp counselor. Outlined below are steps you can take to gather more information as you prepare for an exciting career working with learners of any age.

Talk with your guidance counselor
Your counselor can assist you in planning a class schedule that will help prepare you for college. In addition, he or she may be able to arrange for practical experiences such as job shadowing or working in part-time jobs.
High school guidance counselors can also help in the selection of classes required for college admission; high school graduates can then either enroll in a four-year college/university or in a two-year junior/community college, followed by a transfer to a four-year institution.

Visit your school or local career center
Your career center will have resources available so you can continue to research the field of teaching. It may also sponsor informational programs such as a panel discussion among educators who teach different subject areas and grade levels.

Talk with teachers
One of the best ways to gather firsthand information about a career in education is to talk with teachers you know and admire. Ask them about their jobs – what they like and dislike about their work , how they became interested in teaching, what activities or experiences they suggest you participate in while a high school student , and where they went to college.

Go to the Web
To research all aspects of a teaching career at a time and location convenient to you, go to the Internet. Start with the Web sites mentioned in this booklet, and discover many others suited to your particular interests and questions. It would be a good idea to take information you find to your parents, guidance counselor, career center specialist and/or teacher so they can continue to work with you.