Everyone knows the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears; if you’re comparing PA’s teacher certification process in terms of difficulty, it falls somewhere in between NY and NJ in terms of how much effort you’ll need to put in.
You can find full details on the certification process on the PA Department of Education’s website, but below are key tips to help smooth the process.
Steps to becoming a certified teacher in Pennsylvania
Make a Teacher Information Management System (TIMS). You’ll need to make a TIMS account to submit an application to become a teacher anywhere in PA. This system will allow you to track your application and make any necessary payments for your certification. It will also notify you if you’re accepted into PA’s teacher pool.
Check for reciprocity. PA is generous in terms of State reciprocity, and often allows teachers from other States to transfer their certification. To see if your credentials meet PA standards, check here
If you’re a Special Education teacher, then you’ll have to apply for certification in PA all over again. Find more information on that here.
- Make sure you schedule all the required standardized tests. The State of PA requires teachers to take quite a few tests to qualify for certification (see which ones you’ll need here.)
Make sure you schedule time for all of them and leave yourself enough time to study. Managing multiple tests is draining, and you want to give yourself the best advantage possible.
Reach out to a few potential references. Unlike New York and New Jersey, Pennsylvania Department of Education specifically asks for references to back up your experience as an educator. Make sure you reach out to these references well in advance to let them know you’ll be applying for a position in the Philadelphia school system so they’re not blindsided.
Find a (preferably experienced) partner to check your work. When you submit your application to become a teacher in PA, you’ll also need to hand in the following:
- Cover Letter
- Lesson Plan
- Data Exercise
If your application is accepted, you’ll also need to go through a phone interview before you’re added to the candidate pool to be interviewed by schools.
If you have a friend who is already teacher who works in PA, you should reach out to them for help. Having them check your work and give you a few tips on what the phone interview is like will prepare you better for the application process.
Even if you don’t have a friend who works in PA, find a friend who’s an experienced teacher that can look over your work and help you practice for your interview. Most experienced teachers have a great sense of what strong work samples look like, and will know what questions will come up in an interview. Need a few tips on brushing up for a phone interview? Here are a few tips here.
Once you’re hired in PA, don’t forget to:
- Budget enough time to get paperwork done before the school year starts. PA Department of Education requires you to submit a large amount of paperwork. Some of this paperwork might take a while to complete, so give yourself a 1-2 month head start to make sure you can submit on time.
You’ll also need to pay a small fee for some of these services :( Unfortunately, there’s no way out of it, and they’re a cost you’ll need to absorb to be employed by the State.
Getting certified in the School District of Philadelphia specifically requires a few extra steps. Paperwork you will need to complete and submit independently from all other parts of the certification process include:
- Act 126 Certification of Completion
- PA Criminal History Check
- Child Abuse Clearance
- FBI Fingerprint Clearance
- Medical Forms and a TB Test
For more information on forms you’ll need, check here.
The PA Department of Education website is a bit confusing to navigate, but it has a lot of resources for you to check out if you need them! Check out this long (but thorough) guide here that provides checklists, forms, and instructions to help you in the teacher certification process.
Have more questions? Email or call the PA Department of Education or the School District of Philadelphia directly. There are people who will help you -- you’ll just need to be patient and wait until they can process your request.
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