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How did I decide to be a teacher? It happened when I was working at a small not-for-profit agency. I was given an assignment to coordinate an elementary school fundraising campaign for local elementary schools. My mission was to educate a group of elementary school students on fundraising basics, not-for-profit agencies, and ways to help people in the community. It was this fleeting encounter with children that got me to rethink my career choice, and I’m grateful!

Since my BA in English wasn’t enough training for working with young children, I decided to go back to school to get an MS in Elementary Education. I was eager about returning to school and beginning a journey towards service in an honorable profession.

Making a Change

First, I researched local colleges and universities offering masters programs leading to teacher certification. When thinking about going back to school, compare the option of returning to school as a fulltime or part-time student. Ask yourself which works best for you? I chose an accelerated masters program that allowed me to study fulltime, do student teaching, register for the state teacher’s exam, and apply for state teacher licensing, all within a little over a year. By doing it this way, I was able to earn the required degree and become certified, so I could land a job as an elementary educator quickly. I learned patience the hard way!

Student Teaching

Part of teacher preparation programs is a month or two devoted to student teaching in a chosen certification area; for example,a new teacher pursuing training in secondary education would student teach in a high school grade level, working side-by-side with an experienced teacher. This hands-on training gives new teachers real-world teaching experience and is a very important part of any teacher preparation program. While working as a student teacher, consider doing the following to prepare for your first teaching job:

Create teaching files consisting of handouts, worksheets, project ideas, etc.
Keep a journal of classroom management tips and classroom organization ideas – advice from other professionals in your field
Keep a binder or folder for lesson plans
Become familiar with grade appropriate curriculums
Browse your school or school districts website
Familiarize yourself with popular children’s books used for teaching
Create a portfolio showcasing your original ideas, classroom set-up, special notes you received from parents or administrators, observations, and evaluations praising your performance
Show administrators that your eager, motivated, and enthusiastic about teaching
Talk to other teachers and school personnel about teaching openings

Patience is a virtue! Every teacher requires a certain amount of patience, and learning to be patient while your searching for your first teaching assignment is helpful. Depending on your certification area, you may or may not end up with an interview right away. Do not become discouraged! Refer to websites, school or school district job pages, newspapers, college career centers, and word of mouth to help you land your first job.

Teaching is a wonderful profession that offers many rewards. So if you’re considering a career in teaching, ask yourself what you require in a job in order to be satisfied. These considerations will help you determine your career path, and maybe your choice will be teaching!


Donna earned a BA in English and an MS in Elementary Education. She has over ten years of teaching experience that span the elementary grades, K-6 curriculum and has taught in New York, Massachusetts, and North Carolina. Prior to teaching, she worked in not-for-profit, healthcare, and technology