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Choosing a Program in Houston
With the right training and mentorship, you can become a great teacher.
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Choosing a Program in Houston
With the right training and mentorship, you can become a great teacher.
Browse Programs

To become a fully certified teacher in a public school, you need to graduate from an approved educator preparation program (EPP). EPPs arm you with the skills and knowledge to teach in your chosen grade and subject. Not all EPPs are the same, though.

Let’s break it down and find the right next step for you, whether it's working with students in a volunteer or paid role, or choosing a prep program.
 

How to Pick an EPP

Here's what current teachers, educator prep program officials, and school district HR chiefs (you know, the experts) say you should look for when selecting a prep program.

Everyone seems to agree: The more hands-on, pre-service experience in the classroom—where you observe and practice with an effective teacher who gives you helpful feedback—the better.

Why is this important?

Practice makes perfect. In fact, teachers with pre-service, or classroom, experience as a part of their preparation program are more likely to feel prepared for their first year in the classroom. And having the opportunity to observe other teachers and practice teaching is important for success as a first-year teacher.

What can this look like?

Pre-service, hands-on experience can come in a variety of forms.

In traditional undergraduate or masters programs, it looks like one or two semesters of working full-time in an experienced teacher’s classroom (this is usually called student teaching) during your final year. Before that, you may observe classrooms in person and deliver instruction through virtual reality.

Some alternative certification programs offer several weeks of pre-service practice with an experienced teacher during summer school, and some will allow you to do a semester of student teaching while enrolled.

Residency programs usually offer a full year of pre-service teaching experience, where you may have some practice in the summer and then a "clinical year" embedded in a school. 

Heads Up: Several alternative certification programs have "internship" components. This can sound like pre-service experience, but it is just the term for your first year as the primary adult in the classroom before the program has recommended you to receive your certification. Some programs will have pre-service experience before this internship year—just make sure you understand the program components. 

As a general rule of thumb, more pre-service experience is better, but quality definitely matters. Make sure to ask any prospective programs about what the pre-service experience includes, how they select any mentor teachers and how you will receive feedback on your practice.
 

  • Hands on, pre-service experience

    Everyone seems to agree: The more hands-on, pre-service experience in the classroom—where you observe and practice with an effective teacher who gives you helpful feedback—the better.

    Why is this important?

    Practice makes perfect. In fact, teachers with pre-service, or classroom, experience as a part of their preparation program are more likely to feel prepared for their first year in the classroom. And having the opportunity to observe other teachers and practice teaching is important for success as a first-year teacher.

    What can this look like?

    Pre-service, hands-on experience can come in a variety of forms.

    In traditional undergraduate or masters programs, it looks like one or two semesters of working full-time in an experienced teacher’s classroom (this is usually called student teaching) during your final year. Before that, you may observe classrooms in person and deliver instruction through virtual reality.

    Some alternative certification programs offer several weeks of pre-service practice with an experienced teacher during summer school, and some will allow you to do a semester of student teaching while enrolled.

    Residency programs usually offer a full year of pre-service teaching experience, where you may have some practice in the summer and then a "clinical year" embedded in a school. 

    Heads Up: Several alternative certification programs have "internship" components. This can sound like pre-service experience, but it is just the term for your first year as the primary adult in the classroom before the program has recommended you to receive your certification. Some programs will have pre-service experience before this internship year—just make sure you understand the program components. 

    As a general rule of thumb, more pre-service experience is better, but quality definitely matters. Make sure to ask any prospective programs about what the pre-service experience includes, how they select any mentor teachers and how you will receive feedback on your practice.
     

  • Preparation for diverse populations

    Your program should help you understand diverse student populations and be well prepared to meet the unique academic, social and emotional needs of individual students.

    Why is this important?

    Houston is home to some of the most diverse students in the nation. With a growing immigrant population and over 145 languages spoken, diversity is a key strength and core value of the community.

    Teachers who are Special Education and Bilingual Certified are in high demand (so are STEM teachers). These teachers often receive signing or yearly bonuses from their districts.

    A lot of students come to school impacted by trauma, especially those experiencing poverty. Trauma can cause students to enter "fight or flight" mode more often, making it harder for them to absorb lessons. Luckily, there’s a growing body of research helping educators understand how to effectively support these students, so that they are able to thrive in school.

    What can this look like?

    A lot of things:

    • Coursework specifically addressing the diverse needs of student populations.
    • Getting coaching and feedback on culturally relevant pedagogy. 
    • Learning about how unconscious biases among educators can lead to disproportionately disciplining some students (usually students of color).
    • How to check for biases when teaching.

    Some programs will specifically address trauma and how to help your students.

    A few will even dive into how stress might be impacting your well-being, and how to develop tools to keep you healthy and thriving while in the classroom for as long as you intend to be there. After all, teaching—like all impactful professions—is challenging, and having strategies and tools for self-care will help you avoid burnout.
     

  • Mentoring and Coaching

    Your program should provide an experienced and highly effective mentor, teacher and coach to provide meaningful feedback during your training process. 

    Why is this important?

    Teachers told us that observing other teachers was important for them during their preparation and first year. They also said that having a mentor teacher, especially a mentor who is in a similar subject area and grade level, is critical for success.

    Our prep programs and districts have underscored the importance of having a successful, highly effective teacher mentor for both aspiring and new teachers alike. You want to learn from someone whose work you want to emulate. (Practice doesn’t make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect, after all.) 

    What can this look like?

    Most programs will put you in a classroom under the supervision of a mentor, master or host teacher (different names for essentially the same thing) during your pre-service experience.

    You might start off only observing, and eventually, through "gradual release," you will start teaching more and more. Mentor teachers then give you constructive feedback to help you grow in ability and confidence.

    Programs also send coaches to visit and observe you in your classroom at regular intervals. This resource gives you feedback and helps you think through challenges you're experiencing. Sometimes, coaches will visit you (even after your pre-service experience is over) when you’re the primary teacher in a classroom. 

    Ask your potential program(s) how they select mentor teachers, what they expect from them, and how they are ensuring that mentor teachers model effective practices and give helpful feedback. Be sure to ask these same questions about coaches who visit your classroom.
     

  • Commitment to Improvement

    You should look for a program that shows commitment to continuous improvement and collecting, sharing, and using data and research to improve their preparation practices (for the ultimate benefit of your future students)!

    Why is this important?

    You can be a part of the burgeoning research about childhood development, the brain and how humans learn and grow. Our world is changing rapidly, so the skills we need to be preparing our students for is changing too. 

    You want to go to a teacher prep program that is attuned to these changes and is committed to providing the most effective and relevant preparation possible.

    What can this look like?

    A commitment to improvement might be the hardest criteria to spot as you shop for programs. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about how the program uses data and research to reflect and improve practice!
     

4 Ways to Complete Your Teacher Training

Everyone approaches the teaching profession differently. Select the tab that is most similar to your situation.
  • Complete your educator preparation program as part of earning your bachelor’s degree, reducing total cost and time.
  • Great for individuals who decide in high school or early in college that they want to become a teacher.
     
  • Undergraduate certification + bachelor’s
    • Complete your educator preparation program as part of earning your bachelor’s degree, reducing total cost and time.
    • Great for individuals who decide in high school or early in college that they want to become a teacher.
       
  • Post-graduate, traditional certification
    • Most higher education institutions with an undergraduate teaching program also have a postgraduate program.
    • Gain even greater knowledge of your content and/or practice teaching before entering the classroom as the “teacher of record” (aka primary adult in the classroom).
    • Flexibility to choose (1) between a shorter “certification-only” route vs. a more in-depth master’s degree route, (2) if you want to be a full-time vs. part-time student, and (3) when you enroll.
    • Start teaching with a higher salary (if you earn a master’s degree), since most districts pay higher salaries to those teachers with a master’s.
       
  • Post-graduate, alternative certification
    • Often allows you to start teaching (and earning a salary) as an “intern” on a probationary certification while you finish your postgraduate coursework.
    • Design of programs (e.g. cert-only vs. master’s degree; online vs. in-person) can vary significantly by provider, as well as how much support is provided in getting hired as a teacher.
    • Be careful, some of these types of programs do not offer pre-service student teaching experience which can leave new teachers overwhelmed when they first enter the classroom as a teacher of record.
    • May be harder to get hired, especially in certification areas or schools that are not high-needs.
  • Post-graduate, residency model
    • Based on the medical residency model where hands-on practice and theory are more deeply integrated.
    • Typically pairs a full-year classroom apprenticeship (where you work alongside a mentor teacher) with master’s degree coursework.
    • Typically on a more structured, once-a-year start, with a close cohort of others in the program. 
    • Residencies are often designed and committed to preparing candidates for success in high-needs schools.
    • Many residency programs provide stipends during the first year and ask for multi-year commitments to teach.

Not All Programs Offer Everything

Double-check that your program:

Find Programs

Ready to explore some EPPs? Check out the partner educator preparation programs in Houston to find a program that fits your preferences.

Need help thinking through your options? Chat with an expert to talk more about your choices for teacher prep.

And remember, when you are ready to apply, keep track of your applications and take advantage of free advice and best practices.

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