Teachers Required To Learn Before Earning
By JOSELYN KING
and DYLAN McKENZIE
WHEELING — Teachers have to learn and make the grade themselves before achieving certification, entering a classroom, and earning a paycheck.
Once they achieve a four-year college degree, there are additional requirements thrust upon them to continue their education — and typically they pay for these out of their pockets, according to those who train teachers.
Teachers in West Virginia have a starting salary of $32,400, which is 15th lowest in the nation, according to the most recent data compiled by the National Education Association. Montana has the lowest at $27,274; and New Jersey, the highest at $48,381.
The average salary of veteran teachers is the fifth lowest in the nation at $45,000, according to the same data. South Dakota is the lowest at $39,018; and New York the highest at $75,279.
There are a reported 727 unfilled teaching positions in West Virginia, and educators assert the state can’t fill these positions because of higher pay offered in bordering states.
Across the border in Pennsylvania, the starting salary is $41,901 a year, and the average salary is $62,994. In nearby Ohio, teachers start at $33,096, and have an annual average salary of $56,307.
Virginia offers first-year teachers $37,848, while veteran teachers earn an average of $48,670. Kentucky pays new teachers $35,166, with the average teacher salary being $50,233 each year.
Cathy Monteroso, interim dean for the West Liberty College of Education, and Sarah Schimnel, interim teacher education program director, said aspiring teachers start their career path by obtaining a four-year college degree.
In addition to the classwork, West Virginia requires an education student to spend at least 125 hours in the classroom before they can go before students on their own.
WLU requires they spend 180 hours. Usually the students assist an experienced teacher in the classroom to complete this requirement, or assist in after-school programs.
All aspiring teachers must take the Praxis Core test, which measures the basic academic skills need to teach reading, math and writing.
Those wanting to be elementary educators then take a test measuring their math, science, social studies and language arts knowledge, as these are all used in elementary classrooms.
Aspiring educators seeking a secondary certification, meanwhile, must pass a test based on their specific content area.
There are also specific certification tests for those wanting additional certification in special education, early childhood and early intervention.
Also required is a teacher performance assessment. During this, an experienced educator observes the student teacher while he or she is before a class. The observer watches to see what affect the teacher is having on student learning, and if they are gaining knowledge from the material presented.
“The teacher performance certification is rigorous,” Monteroso said. “It’s such a distinguished accomplishment for a teacher to be board certified. We are proud of our students for making it through while here with us.”
After this, teachers are required take continuing education classes to maintain their certification. Most often, school districts don’t reimburse the teachers for this expense, according to Monteroso.
She said it used to be math, special education and science teachers who were needed in the state. But the need for teachers of all disciplines has expanded, and school districts are now looking for social studies, English and elementary school teachers.
“I don’t know if there is any area that isn’t needed anymore,” Monteroso said. “We need music teaches. The jobs in the past we would have considered hard to place, we are hearing about now.”
Ana Klemm, a sixth-grade science teacher at Triadelphia Middle School, is certified in elementary education, but minored in middle school science education, qualifying her for her current position.
“It was definitely challenging getting certified,” Klemm said, “especially trying to do it while you are in school during your student teaching. The tests are quite expensive, and if you do not meet the required points (of) the state you are trying to get certified in, then you have to try again and pay for your test again. Because of that most teacher candidates really try to study hard to pass the first time. It was pretty stressful, but felt really good when I received my passing results.”
“It was definitely worth all the work,” Klemm said. “It really helped me prepare for the career ahead of me. I just want people to know that being a teacher is really a calling, not a job. This is definitely not just a 40-hour a week job, but the work is so worth it to see how you can have such a positive impact on these students’ lives.”
In Ohio, teachers must hold a bachelor’s degree, complete a state-approved teacher education program and pass the Praxis II subject area exams for endorsements, according to Teaching Degree.org. All Buckeye State teachers also must pass a background check and obtain fingerprint clearance; this helps to ensure students will be safe at school.
Suzanne Smarrella is an information technology career tech teacher at Buckeye Local High School. Smarrella started her career in education at 51 years old, getting her licensure and teaching certificate at the same time. She said getting her teaching license after spending 30 years working another job was challenging, but she enjoys her work in education.
“It’s unique, to say the least, to walk into a classroom to teach after 30 years in the work world,” she said.
She noted that being a teacher means always having to adapt to changes and work hard to help prepare students for the outside world, adding that it is a “huge task on your shoulders to help get them ready.” Still, Smarrella said she wouldn’t change her career for the world.
“I’m 61and having the best time of my life,” she said.