While the requirements to become an Illinois or Indiana teacher are rigorous, all Chicago-Northwest Indiana corps members end their two-year commitment as certified teachers.
Becoming Certified to Teach
Corps members must pass the appropriate content test(s) for the state in which they’re teaching. For most subjects that requires them to only take and pass one content exam. For those teaching both Elementary and High School Diverse learning they are required to pass two content exams.
Teaching in Illinois
State law requires that corps members enroll in an alternative certification master of teaching program in order to legally teach in Chicago. Our university partner for grades 1 through 12 (all subjects) is Relay Graduate School of Education. Our Partner for Early Childhood Education is National Louis University.
Chicago corps members receive the state’s Educator License with Stipulations (ELS) during their first year. They go on to complete their Professional Educator License (PEL) at the end of their second year, provided they have fulfilled all coursework, processing, and testing requirements. All Chicago corps member will receive their masters of teaching in their assigned subject area.
Teaching in Indiana
State law requires only one year of coursework (and no master’s degree) via our university partner: Calumet College of St. Joseph.
Northwest Indiana corps members receive the state’s Transition to Teach (T2T) license during their first year, which is valid for three years (and renewable), provided they have fulfilled coursework, processing, and testing requirements.
All Chicago corps members are required to complete a master’s degree in order to receive their license. This is a requirement of the state of Illinois, not of Teach For America, which took effect in 2015. If you teach in Northwest Indiana, a master’s degree is optional, given different state certification laws, and you can decide at the end of your first year if you would like to opt into that track.
Corps members are assigned to their university partner based on their certification area (for example, in 2019 all our Early Childhood Education corps members attended National Louis University while our Elementary-High School corps members attended Relay Graduate School of Education). All corps members hired in Northwest Indiana attend Calumet College of St. Joseph.
Certification and university partner coursework can cost up to $18,000 over two years so corps members should be prepared to invest that much in certification cost. However, tuition can be significantly lowered via the AmeriCorps award. From 2018-2019, corps members (eligible for the full AmeriCorps Award) paid between $5,000-6,000 in tuition and fees towards their certification. This is subject to change every year.
Corps Member Training
Before you lead your own classrooms, corps members join us for a rigorous, seven-week training. The first week of summer training is spent reviewing and discussing the Chicago-Northwest Indiana education landscape. During the second week at our National Institute in Tulsa you will discuss the tenets of culturally responsive teaching, and the fundamentals of leading a classroom. Then, you will begin to teach summer school alongside 2020 Corps Members from across the country. In addition to strengthening your teaching muscles, summer training is also essential for community building. You attend sessions with your fellow corps members and teach at school sites with a fixed cohort, forming bonds that will allow you to share knowledge and resources as you begin work at your placement school.
All first-year corps member are assigned to a Teacher Impact Coach. Coaches will support you in developing the foundations to be a high-quality teacher—instructional excellence, culturally responsive pedagogical practices, resilience and reflective practices, and more. First year corps members also engage in collective learning experiences, such as our Learning Communities, where you will work to improve your craft with other corps members teaching your same discipline. Along with second years, you will also attend three Leadership Summits throughout the year. Leadership Summits are day-long professional development events that give you the opportunity to think about both the role you need to play in your classroom, and the broader role you will play long-term as we work towards educational equity.
During your second year, you will be assigned a Leadership Coach. This coach supports you in continuing to improve as a teacher and in developing your personal theory of change—identifying the role you want to play in the quest for educational equity over your lifetime. In addition to this one-on-one guidance, you will attend quarterly professional development events, as well as the Leadership Summits mentioned above. Your time in the corps will culminate in a capstone project, a four-month long professional development sequence where you will examine how your understanding of systemic inequity has been shifted as a result of your teaching experience.