K-12 Teaching

Becoming Qualified to Teach

Many students are so taken with the beauty, challenge, and intellectual stimulation offered by the study of the Classics that they choose to spend the rest of their lives involved in the field by teaching it to others. If you hope to teach at the pre-collegiate level, there are some things you should know.  While some Greek is taught at the pre-college level, the vast majority of K-12 jobs will involve teaching Latin for the majority of your time. When Greek and other subjects, such as mythology or ancient civilization, are taught by a Latin teacher, they are normally added to an existing Latin curriculum.

Thanks to a concerted and united effort by the profession and a renewed perception among the public of the value of Latin, Latin enrollments have climbed in recent years and are now fairly steady. Increasingly, Latin is being offered in a wide variety of venues at elementary and middle schools, at special magnet programs, for gifted students, for at-risk students, and for others. In fact, in some parts of the country, the problem is a scarcity, not of Latin programs, but of qualified Latin teachers.

If you are considering a career in teaching the Classics K-12, you should consider the following facts:

Certification

Certification (also called "licensure" or "getting credentialed") is the official "license to teach," and is granted by individual states.   It is among the first things prospective employers look for in a candidate. It has been said that private schools put less emphasis on certification and are more willing to hire uncertified teachers.  This is less true today than it has been in the past.  In recent times, in the face of state and federal accountability programs such as "No Child Left Behind," a credentialed teacher is very desirable to private schools.  Moreover, if certification is postponed, a teacher can find it hard to move from a private school to a public school.  Given the mobility of today's population, relocation is common; so, being credentialed is vital.  For all these reasons, it is very desirable to pursue state certification as early as possible in your career. There are sometimes scholarships available to help defray the cost of getting certified.

Every state has its own rules for awarding certification. As early as possible, contact your school's education department and/or the state board of education to obtain a copy of your state's guidelines. The Education Committee of the American Philological Association has created a page with links to each state's requirements.  Always check with the state's own web page on teacher certification to be sure you are reading the most up-to-date rules, since they tend to change frequently.

Each college or university has its own procedures as well. In some colleges you will have to major in education. In others you may major in Latin or Classics. Be sure to check as soon as possible and be aware that colleges and universities differ in that some only offer certification at the BA level, while others only at the MA level.

It is not uncommon for Latin positions to appear that require the ability to teach another subject either as a major or a minor part of your teaching load. As a prospective teacher you may want to acquire a second field of competence and the requisite certification to teach it. Some powerful second fields include another foreign language, mathematics, English, and history.  Note that often a teacher need not be certified in the field that comprises the minority of his/her teaching load.  However, again, make the proper inquiries.

Several states have alternative paths to certification. Such plans are often ideal for Classics majors who have decided to pursue a teaching career mid-way through their college careers. Each state differs and not all states have such programs.  Some states also have advanced certificate programs for MA and PhD holders.  Contact the placement officer of your institution's Education department for particulars and search the web page of any state's Department of Education for all the rules surrounding certification. 

In some cases it will be profitable to go on to advanced study before entering the teaching profession. There are several ways to do this. If you graduate from college already certified to teach, you may wish to pursue a regular Master’s Degree (MA) in Latin or the Classics. This will enhance your knowledge of the subject and is quite practical since most school systems, public and private alike, have a higher pay scale for teachers with a Master’s.  Some states require the MA for permanent certification, though in some this degree may be obtained in a field such as Education.

If, however, you are not certified, but have an undergraduate major in Latin or the Classics, there are two paths to consider. The first is a Master of Arts in Teaching Degree (MAT) or its equivalent. After completing such a degree, a candidate not only has a Master’s Degree but is also certified to teach Latin.  In such programs students take both Classics courses and pedagogical courses.  All involve at least one teaching experience in a K-12 setting under supervision.  This is generally called the "practicum" or "student teaching." An alternate route may also exist to certification.  Many schools of Education offer an intensive certification program that begins directly following graduation with the BA.  Check with your own institution to see if your Classics major can fit into such a program.

Finding a Teaching Position, K-12

First, consider where in the K-12 spectrum you may wish to teach.  Latin is not only taught at the high school level. An ever increasing number of elementary and middle schools have Latin programs and The American Classical League (ACL) houses a committee specifically designed to support these teachers as well as those who teach subjects such as mythology or ancient civilizations at these levels. Go to http://www.etclassics.org/ to find information on Excellence through Classics, a group that provides teaching packets, the Prima Newsletter, the National Mythology Exam and many other services.

As you start your search for a job, a must read is Dr. Brooks' third blog posting on Classics and the market place entitled "Careers in Education for Classics Majors. Latin and Classics Teaching Opportunities Nationwide." (www.psychologytoday.com/blog/career-transitions/201003/careers-in-education-classics-majors).  You should also visit www.promotelatin.org for the many useful links found there pertaining to the teaching of Latin.  The site is run by the National Committee for Latin and Greek, whose "National Latin Teacher Recruitment Week" prompted Dr. Brooks' blogs.

There are several avenues a job candidate should pursue to find a teaching position at the K-12 level. The first is to register with the placement service at your college or university and to attend the job fairs they hold. Find out if your college, university, or department keeps a standard dossier for job seekers. If so, utilize this service.

Lists of public schools are sometimes available from state boards and departments of education. The more cooperative ones may even share a list of schools teaching particular subjects such as Latin. You should also register with the individual school boards of the districts in which you are interested. Do not hesitate to send letters of inquiry to schools that have not yet announced a vacancy. Such letters are often put on file and are consulted when, as is common, positions become available with little warning.

Private schools will require a different approach but should not be ignored as they very often include Latin in their curriculum. Religiously affiliated schools often teach Latin and the nature of the school affects hiring practices.  Independent Christian and Jewish schools, for example, typically do their own hiring.  Catholic schools are often administered through the school board of the local diocese, while those run by individual religious orders should be contacted individually.  Similarly, private academies and schools that have no religious affiliation often have strong Latin programs and do their hiring independently.  Lists of such schools are available online.  Search using terms such as "private schools" and "directory."

Job placement services can help with your search as well.

  • The American Classical League operates a free, national job placement service that allows you to contact schools with openings directly.  It also allows you to see where Latin teaching jobs tend to appear each year.  (http://www.aclclassics.org/pages/teaching-jobs)
  • Also, a number of web-based services will also help in your search.  One such popular program is Schoolspring.com, but an Internet search using the key words "search teacher position," will return many other possibilities. 
  • Services exist that will help you find a job in a private school.  One such popular agency can be found at www.carneysandoe.com.  Others may be found by searching for "private school" and "job placement."  Note that such agencies may charge a fee.

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