Wednesday, October 9, 2013

My Next Step: Getting My Teaching Certification from Abroad

Back to school again?

Why I'm getting certified

While I started things by tutoring children during undergrad, I began teaching full-time in 2010. In the beginning, it was just something I was experimenting with. At the time, I had recently left my retail management job and was living with my father. I thought the appeal of earning money while living in a new region was great.

Teaching was something that I began to enjoy, and I continuously looked for ways to improve myself as an educator. At the same time, I am working at a 학원 (private after-school academy) in Korea. It's a good entry-level job, but it's not something that's meant for you to do forever. There's a glass ceiling in place. If you're foreign, don't speak Korean and you're not married to a Korean, then the chances of advancing within any Korean language academy are slim to none.

I figured that since I enjoy teaching, then why not make a career out of it? However, I'm not that interested in teaching stateside. I did some research, and learned about teaching at international schools. It seemed like a good career path with chances of upward advancement, along with appealing pay and benefits offered to teachers worldwide.

One of the basic requirements to work in these schools is for me to be certified in my home country, the United States, and for me to have at least two years of experience.

Getting certified is my step #1!

Searching for a Program

After making my decision to become a certified teacher, I did a TON of research. I started with my home state. I looked at my local colleges and universities. I looked at their websites and made phone calls. Turns out, the laws in my state would allow me to become certified, but with two restrictions. First, since I didn't initially study education, I would have to get hired at a state school first, before being allowed to go the alternative route to certification. And second, I would only be allowed to teach one subject, which was Spanish. I didn't want to teach Spanish, I wanted to teach Elementary school. My only option at that point would be to fly all the way back to my state, live there, and do an entire master's degree or bachelor's in education. I'd have no job, no money, and more student loans. Umm, no thanks! I also had less than zero interest in teaching in my home state. It's a nice place, but I'm not a fan.

I then began to look in other states. In a couple of states, I would have to teach in that state for years before formally getting my license. Those were a no-go. I started looking at schools individually for teaching. A few, such as the heavily advertised USC program, were extremely expensive. George Mason's FAST TRAIN program appeared to be ideal for awhile, but that required me to study on campus (and without a job, with the economy in shambles) and even that was quite expensive. Whatever I chose, I wanted to pay for it out of pocket. No more student loans!

The Teaching Certification Program I Chose

It can be done online, anytime
One day, a mystery person sent me a message on the famous Dave's ESL Cafe about a program I should look into. This program was the University of West Florida's TeacherReady program. After taking a good look into it, it seemed like a really good idea. In this program, I could study and work overseas at the same time. It was also MUCH cheaper than other programs I was looking at.  I didn't have to quit my job, be in the states or take out any loans. Through this program, I would become a certified teacher in the state of Florida.

It has three parts. There is the online learning component, where I take courses and submit assignments online for nine months. Then, there is the student teaching component. I would need to find a mentor teacher at an international school, in whose classroom I make observations, assist during class time, and help with lesson planning. At the end, the program requires me to replace that teacher in their classroom for a week. Finally, there are the three Florida state tests, which are offered in cities all over the US and I can take them while on a visit home.

It was a convenient choice, and that's why I'm doing it now. It has been a rough start, but I'm getting the hang of it now.

Getting Started with the Program

I had to delay my start twice. First, I wanted to start the program from Colombia. Then, I noticed a problem with that plan. In order to do observations under a mentor teacher, I would need to be available during the day time, while school is in session. However, I were to get a job at a high school there, then I would have to work those hours. Instead, I found myself working for an institute and giving private classes. The problem with institutes and privates is the unreliable income. So, doing it from Colombia wasn't going to work.

The second time, I decided to do it from Korea instead, since Korea offers plenty of jobs with an afternoon-evening work schedule. The income would be reliable, and I'd have time to spend with a mentor teacher in the day time. I was scheduled to start the TeacherReady program around the same time as my arrival. That proved to be too much for me, and I ended up stressing myself out and getting sick. That was a pain, because I was in the USA without medical insurance. So each doctor's visit was at least $100! I delayed my TeacherReady start date again!

How is it so far?

Anyway, I have since started and it's going well so far. The program is flexible, so even if I'm busy, I can wait until a lighter day to finish my workload. The teachers on there are very helpful and the staff are responsive, supportive and professional. I'm able to pay for it out of pocket and work full-time as well. The material is also useful and I'm learning a ton about teaching. I am starting to incorporate what I have learned so far into my own classes now. Teaching can be a challenge, but I'm up for it! I'm glad I went with this program.

We even post to Facebook
The only trouble so far has been finding a mentor teacher near me in Korea. Korea has some true international schools, but a few only hire new teachers. In addition, since Korea is a popular place for people to teach, there are quite a few other people here improving their credentials too. They are also looking for mentor teachers. I've found that some schools are full and aren't taking any more student teachers.

But there was hope. There's a school near me that asked me to come in after the Korean Chuseok holiday. I began my weekly observations in October, and they have been a good experience for me so far. The elementary teachers are friendly, and the students are lovely. In addition to that, I've submitted an application to do a teaching internship in a US Department of Defense school. They seem to have a comprehensive three month student teaching program, but one has to apply well ahead of time.

So, for the time being, I have to make sure I get all of my online assignments done, and, while I've begun my observations, I'm still in the process of securing a mentor teacher. Hopefully one of them will take me on! In the end, I'll schedule to trip to go back home to visit my family, and take Florida's teaching exams at the same time. Then, I'll be good to go, and on to the next step!

Wish me luck!

P.S. - If anyone else is wondering about the program, or has any questions, you're welcome to comment and I'll get back to you.


  1. Hello! I live in South Korea and I will start the TeacherReady Course in July. I have already applied and have been accepted. How has the program been so far?

    1. That sounds great! The program has been good to me so far, though since I have been going through a lot lately I've actually been behind on my assignments. I'll say the program is very doable, but imagine a lot of busy work. However, I think that is to be expected from an online program.

  2. Hi....
    been thinking about teaching but in Germany I think the laws of teaching are different and I'm required to attend an actual school. At least street words say so. Will be heading to the amt soon to get proper advice. And I will def check out this teacher ready thing.

    1. Hello, thank you for the comment! I'm not sure where you're from, but in this post I'm referring specifically to Americans who wish to teach in international schools overseas. The requirements are typically home country certification and about 2 years of post-certification full-time experience. I'm not sure what the laws would be for local hires within Germany. In any case, good luck!

  3. Hi! Very happy to have come across your blog. I applaud your BRILLIANCE for finding the Univ of West Florida to get your online license in.

    I was wondering, do you have any specific sites you suggest for finding international schools? Thank you!

    1. Hi! Thanks for visiting!

      For international school positions, it's a good idea to check out a few websites. Most of the "best" schools do their recruiting via fairs. You can check out Search Associates, International School Services, and the University of Iowa for their job fairs around the world. There are also recruiters you can contact such as Teachaway and Teaching Nomad. Footprints also recruits licensed teachers to go to the middle east. You can google these names for websites and more information. Good luck!