Preparing to Teach
Over the summer, TFA will help you get ready for the memorable day when you'll first meet your students. Our initial training program is designed to help you be an effective beginning teacher on day one and consists of three phases: onboarding, kick-off, and learning, teaching, and refinement.
Phase 1: Onboarding
Onboarding starts the day you accept your TFA offer and continues into your first few months of teaching. Over several months, you will receive teacher training, obtain your initial teaching certification, and learn ways to center equity in the classroom. Onboarding ensures that you can successfully transition into the classroom and provide a learning environment where all students have the opportunity to thrive.
Regional onboarding: During this time, you will connect with staff from your placement region. Your regional teams will provide you with everything you need to know to teach on the first day of school. This includes:
- A list of required exams
- Steps to complete your initial teaching certification
- Advice for getting hired by your district/school
- Other required actions to get qualified for teaching
National onboarding: Around the same time, you’ll participate in our national Pre-Service training. Here, you and other incoming corps members across America will learn how to incorporate and elevate racial equity in education, starting in your classroom. This includes:
- Best practices for providing students with a high-quality education
- Tools to pursue a lifetime commitment to advancing educational equity and excellence
To help you stay on top of important milestones, your regional Teach For America staff will help you smoothly transition into your classroom. Support from your region includes:
- Guidance for identifying and registering for exams
- Certification exam prep resources (practice tests, study guides, practice problems, tutoring, etc. note: exam prep differs by region.)
- Resume workshops
- Interview prep sessions
- Mock interviews
- Scheduled interviews
- Building regional context and network
- Consistent communication from your region
While we support you in various ways as you take steps to become a qualified teacher, your responsibilities during the onboarding process include:
- Prepare for TFA summer training
- Study and pass teacher certification tests and subject-area exams
- Meet and maintain certification requirements within timelines
- Obtain your initial teaching certificate
- Submit paperwork in the weeks and months after joining the corps
- Prepare and engage in interviews scheduled by Teach For America
- Go through a hiring process to secure a teaching position
- Hiring timelines vary from region to region. Some corps members are hired before Pre-Service training, others during or after
- Secure employment as a full-time teacher by your school, district, or charter organization in your assigned community
- Take part in your school or district's orientation sessions
- Attend, fully engage in, and successfully meet the expectations of Pre-Service training and practicum
- Get to know your new community and fellow corps members
Phase 2: Kick-off
Join the entire Teach For America corps from across the country for a week of live, virtual and in-person kick-off experiences. You’ll be welcomed into our thriving, diverse, and inclusive community of leaders and begin to build friendships and camaraderie with fellow corps members and alumni that will support and sustain you as you embark on your first year of teaching.
Phase 3: Learning, Teaching, Refining (Pre-Service Training)
Our Pre-Service training will prepare you to provide your students with a high-quality education and to pursue a lifetime commitment to advancing educational equity and excellence. Throughout the summer and into the fall, you will build relationships with a network of systems-change leaders. Your learning will be focused on concepts that sit at the heart of our work, including culturally relevant pedagogy, anti-racist teacher leadership, universal design for learning, and social-emotional learning. You will engage in continuous and critical self-reflection and immediately put the lessons you learn into action in the classroom and beyond.
Pre-Service training is rigorous—but it pays off. You will establish a strong foundation that you will continue to hone throughout your time as a corps member. You will also build context and confidence that will help you quickly acclimate to your teaching environment when the school year begins.
You will begin your full-time summer training in partnership with other corps members, alumni, and staff from across our network. You will engage in experiences like planning and rehearsing lessons, participating in group discussions, watching videos and models of teaching, and learning new concepts and practices through collaborative adult learning experiences.
Summer Training start dates. Regions in the first start wave of training begin on Thursday, May 25th and regions in the second start wave begin on Thursday, June 8th. You can view a list of regions by start date using our Compare Regions tool.
In the spring, you will gain access to our central learning platform to begin your Pre-Service training. You will engage in asynchronous learning—on your own time and at your own pace—to build the foundations for the rest of your training. You will cover topics including:
- Foundational knowledge and context
- Diversity, equity, and inclusiveness
- Leadership development
- Culturally relevant pedagogy
Regions offer varying levels of support during this phase. On a national level, we ensure all corps members have access to our central learning platform and support with technical issues
You will continue your self-directed learning throughout your Pre-Service training experience, deepening your content knowledge and expertise.
Corps members should focus on building their understanding of the broad concepts they will dive more deeply into throughout the rest of training. They are laying the foundational framework for the entirety of their training and learning
Live Online Training
Corps members will spend time learning in virtual live training with other corps members who share a similar context. They will learn alongside other corps members from their region and those from other regions teaching the same grade level and subject.
You will be supported by other corps members, alumni, and staff from across our network. You will build strong partnerships with your coach, DEI facilitator, content facilitator, and your regional team, who will all help guide and support you in your development.
You will engage in sessions led by alumni and staff members and participate in experiences like planning and rehearsing lessons, participating in group discussions, watching videos and models of teaching, and learning new concepts and practices through collaborative adult learning experiences.
You will be focused on the following areas:
Content-specific development: You will learn what excellent, equitable, and relevant instruction looks like in your grade and content area, and prepare to lead instruction for your students.
Diversity, equity, & inclusiveness: You will learn through dialogue with other corps members in your region as you build the foundational skills and mindset of an aspiring anti-racist educator, and examine your own identity and the impact of race and class on educational inequity within a space that is both challenging and supportive.
You will engage in conversations about anti-racist teacher leadership and what it can look like inside and outside of your classroom. You will explore topics such as socialization and bias at the self, group, and systems levels and practice recognizing the impact of your decisions on students, colleagues, and community. During these sessions, you will lay the groundwork for your ongoing development as a leader working toward systems change.
Learning environment: You will work to co-create equitable learning environments that foster your students’ social, emotional, and academic development. Creating an equitable learning environment that is emotionally, intellectually, and physically safe for students is the bedrock of all that teachers do.
Your learning will be grounded in the science of learning and development and centered on building relationships with your students, as you explore topics related to child development, trauma-informed practices, and social-emotional learning. You will continue to build your judgment and skill as an aspiring culturally relevant practitioner as you plan, practice, implement, and reflect on your summer classroom learning environment. You will explore how your decisions around actions, systems, and routines within the learning environment foster student belonging and increase equity of access to learning for all students.
Curricular literacy: You will develop your ability to read and implement a curriculum, including all its lesson plans and materials, with educational equity and your individual students in mind.
You will learn how to understand a curriculum and what goals your students are trying to reach. Then, as you develop your content expertise and increased self-awareness, you will learn how to analyze and make changes to your curriculum so you teach in a way that is rigorous, responsive, and relevant to your students’ identities, cultures, learning strengths and needs, and social-emotional needs.
Leadership development: You will explore our “Theory of Leadership” and learn how your role as an educator will help you build foundational skills and experiences for changing the systems that contribute to educational inequity.
You will spend a large part of your full-time training teaching students during your Practicum. Your Practicum experience is led by your regional team and is your first opportunity to work directly with students and families. You will put into practice the knowledge and skills you have developed through teaching students in a supportive environment. You will strengthen your relationships with your fellow corps members and staff members in your region. Practicum is also a time for you to learn more about your local context and prepare for teaching in your region!
Observations and Coaching: Teach For America instructional staff will regularly observe your teaching throughout Practicum and engage you in feedback conversations. Together you’ll discuss areas for development and concrete plans to increase student learning as you develop your teaching skills. You will also continue to virtually meet with your DEI and content facilitators.
You will put into practice the knowledge and skills you have developed through teaching students in a supportive environment. You will focus on the learning and growth of your students, and your role as a teacher and leader in the classroom.
Getting Qualified to Teach
Getting Qualified to Teach
Get your initial license
This is what you need to teach on day one. To receive your initial license, you’ll be required to pass your grade level and subject exam. This may vary by region.
Get your full certification
While you can start teaching with your initial license, most states require you to be working toward your full certification. During your first year of teaching, you will enroll in a certification program at a university, partner organization, or with TFA. Most certification programs are completed within 2 years.
Many of our corps members are considered “non-traditional” teachers since they haven't completed a traditional course of study in education before starting in the classroom.
This means you will have to earn an initial teaching license to get hired as a teacher in your region.
What you can expect from us
Regional Teach For America staff members in your assigned region will help guide you through the process, including fulfilling requirements and meeting local deadlines. They will also help by:
- Hosting test prep webinars
- Providing study materials
- Connecting you with fellow corps members who have already completed requirements
What we need from you
In order to earn an initial teaching license, you will need to pass state exams and will likely be required to complete education coursework while you’re teaching. During this time, you will be responsible for:
- Preparing for your subject test and/or general knowledge exam(s)
- Passing your exam(s)
- Paying for the cost of exams and any additional costs of licensing
- Completing other required paperwork such as fingerprints and background checks
If you do not pass your exams, you will need to retake them. In some cases, you may need to defer your start date until you pass all required exams.
While your initial teaching license will allow you to teach in the fall, most regions require you to work toward a full teaching certification to remain in compliance with state requirements. The process for becoming certified typically takes one to two years and begins as soon as you accept your offer to join the corps.
What you can expect from us
Regional Teach For America staff members will provide the information and help needed to streamline the certification acquisition process for you. To obtain your teaching certification, you can complete coursework through a local college or university, or through another provider such as a local school district. Each state has different requirements and rules regarding earning credentials.
Certification programs vary from region to region, and generally fall into three categories: University, TFA Program, or a Hybrid Program (this will vary by region).
Corps members complete certification through their region's certification partner, usually a local university.
Corps members complete their certification directly through Teach For America.
Corps members take some courses through a university partner, but still complete their certification through Teach For America.
What we need from you
You will likely be required to attend courses during evenings and weekends throughout all or part of your two years in the corps. During this time, you will be responsible for:
- Enrolling in a certification program
- Paying for the costs of certification
- Completing all coursework for the certification program
Consider what type of program matters to you most when indicating your regional preferences on your application.
If you already have a teaching license in another state, your region can also provide more information on transferring your license. The certification reciprocity process and requirements vary from state to state. Frequently, reciprocity will require a copy of the out-of-state teaching certificate, a copy of their transcripts, and a possible record of professional experience.
Our regional staff will support corps members through the reciprocity process. You will be responsible for gathering the necessary documents to submit your application.
You may also have the option of extending your certification into a Master’s degree while serving in the corps. Select a region to learn more about options for becoming certified and earning a master’s degree.
Getting Hired and Paid
Getting Hired and Paid
As a corps member, you will be hired as a full-time employee by your school, district, or charter organization—not Teach For America. Your salary and benefits will be the same as other beginning teachers working for your employer and will come from the school, district, or charter organization.
Each region has partnerships with local school districts that hire Teach For America corps members. In order to gain employment as a teacher, you will need to go through a hiring process which may include applying for open teaching positions and interviewing with principals and other staff within these partner schools.
The timeline for when you'll be hired varies widely from region to region. Hiring usually takes place between the time you join the corps and before the school year starts in the fall.
Regional Teach For America staff will support you during the hiring process by:
- Sharing information about hiring timelines
- Matching you with open teaching positions
- Supporting you with resume review
- Conducting interview practice
During this time, you will be responsible for:
- Preparing your resume and cover letter
- Applying for open teaching positions
- Interviewing with school principals
- Completing hiring paperwork
You’ll be paid the same as other beginning teachers working for the same employer. Salaries typically range from $33,000 to $68,000, depending on where you teach. You can use this tool to compare average salaries across regions.
While urban areas tend to offer higher salaries, the cost of living is also higher. Salaries in rural areas tend to be lower, but you’ll likely spend less on rent and other expenses.
Also as a full-time teacher, you are entitled to medical benefits through your employer. Plans and costs vary, depending on where you teach.
Most employers offer:
- Medical, dental, and vision care
- Referral-free access to doctors
- Routine preventative care
- Flexible spending accounts
- Employee assistance and wellness programs
- Family-planning services
- Vaccinations (e.g., flu shots)
- Life insurance
- Retirement benefits, typically employer-supported pension plans or 403(b)
Depending on where you teach and when the school year begins there, you can expect your first paycheck between late August and late September. This means it can take from 3-6 weeks after the start of the school year to receive your first paycheck.
Getting Set Up
Getting Set Up
As with any new job, you should prepare for expenses that might arise before your first paycheck. You should anticipate expenses specific to becoming a teacher, as well as those related to moving to your region and initial living expenses.
Corps members will incur teaching-specific expenses, including testing, background checks, and more. Including the cost of certification, you should anticipate general living costs before, during, and after Pre-Service training. This can include rent, travel to and from your region, car expenses, moving expenses, and more.
You should plan to pay for these expenses out-of-pocket. View cost ranges on our explore regions map.
We want you to be able to focus on training and student impact, not worry about finances. In addition to earning a full salary and benefits from your district, TFA provides baseline transitional financial support to help you get settled in your new community as well as need-based transitional grants and no-interest loans to help corps members make it to their first paychecks. Need-based packages are based on an applicant's demonstrated need, the cost of living in the assigned region and their stipend amount. Your Transitional Financial Support may be used for such expenses like travel to your region, rent and other basic living expenses during summer training, and testing or application fees.
Our pursuit of equity involves helping our incoming corps members who have a greater financial need with their transition prior to receiving their first paycheck. TFA offers need-based funding packages for those who qualify in addition to the baseline transitional financial support. The need-based financial support packages are commonly used to supplement housing start-up costs and living expenses, onboarding costs, miscellaneous needs during the summer, and other costs as you settle into your region. You must submit an application to be considered for need-based financial support.
AmeriCorps (student loan assistance)
During one or both years of your corps service, you may be eligible to enroll as an AmeriCorps member. AmeriCorps members are eligible to receive federal funding to help pay off student loans and cover some of the costs incurred while earning your teaching certification. Learn more about AmeriCorps eligibility.
Black Educators Promise Initiative
This is a donor-funded, multi-year initiative specifically targeted to increase recruitment and retention of Black teachers in the classroom. It includes the Black Educators Promise Alumni Fellowship, which offers a $1,000 award to TFA alumni who identify as Black educators, as well as programs to offset certification costs for Black corps members in certain TFA regions. For more information about these opportunities, please reach out to José Gonzalez Camarena (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Even when you become a corps member and start receiving your first paycheck, we understand that unexpected things in life happen. TFA is committed to supporting you with the financial stress that is often associated with emergencies and natural disasters. If you’re experiencing significant financial challenges that could impact your ability to continue with your corps commitment, we ask you to be in touch with us. We can discuss how to best meet your needs.
During your first year of teaching, your primary focus will be on developing your teacher leadership skills and producing uncommon levels of growth in your students. That growth occurs across several dimensions and TFA coaches help corps members to learn to set goals and track their students progress against them:
- Knowledge: the development of broad and deep mastery of key subjects
- Skills: the development of tools to learn, lead, and thrive—including innovation, social and emotional learning, and life and career skills
- Orientations and agency: the development of equity-minded thoughts and actions, including personal and social awareness and social agency
To support you in this important work, Teach For America supplements the development you are provided at your school site and gives you access to a variety of resources designed to be customized to meet the unique assets and needs of our diverse communities.
Building on all of the resources from the first year, you’ll begin to explore post-corps leadership pathways that speak to your specific passions, skills, and interests. Because solving the systemic challenge of educational inequity requires leadership inside and outside of the educational system, the leadership pathways you might explore reflect a variety of sectors and careers. You’ll select one leadership pathway to explore throughout the year. This exploration may take the form of online coursework, readings, speaker series, and other experiences in cohorts of corps members both in your region and across the country.
These pathways may evolve according to corps member interest, but currently include:
• Reinventing education and pursuing education leadership: careers in teaching, school leadership, and school system leadership
• Civic leadership: careers in public policy, advocacy, elected office, and community organizing
• Climate and environmental justice: careers with local and international organizations, nonprofit leadership
• Medicine and health equity: careers in medicine as doctors, PAs, nurses, medical/health research
• Legal careers and racial equity: careers in law, politics, advocacy, non-profit leadership
In addition, your local TFA staff will host opportunities to learn about the specific leadership needs in your placement community and provide access to supports specific to that community, should you choose to live and work there beyond your initial two years of teaching. If you know you’ll be moving to another community where TFA has a presence, you’ll have access to TFA staff and alumni in your new community as well as virtual career support. And no matter where you live, you’ll have access to our network and a set of virtual career supports