Deciding to Teach

Thinking about getting your alternative teaching certificate? I earned mine and became a classroom teacher. Here is how the process worked for me.

When I graduated from Texas A&M in December 2007, I had a BA in Psychology with a perfect grade point average and absolutely no idea what I was going to do with my life.

The economy was tanking, and I was burned out from so many years of performing at an extremely high level at school. I couldn’t decide if I wanted a masters degree or a doctorate in psychology. Nor could I decide if I wanted to pursue behavior analysis. I couldn’t even decide if I wanted to be a practitioner or a researcher. All the ideas seemed appealing.Alternative Teaching Certification

Thankfully, I listened to the advice a professor who said if you don’t know exactly what you want out of grad school, then you shouldn’t go. Instead, I moved back in with my parents to regroup. I knew I wanted to help people and children in particular. My interest in helping students with disabilities like autism lead me to choose special education. I quickly decided to join the TMATE program in Fort Worth to earn my alternative teaching certificate to become a special education teacher.

What is TMATE

TMATE is short for the Tarleton Model for Accelerated Teacher Education. To apply, you must already have a bachelor’s degree. The admission process went quickly. TMATE is part of Tarleton University which is based in Stevenville, Texas, but they have a satellite in Fort Worth.

At the time, there was a stipend for future teachers who planned to teach in certain fields like special education. It was perfect for me since it was already a match for my goals. I’m not sure if these stipends/grants are still available, but it is worth looking into.

What Was Getting Your Alternative Teaching Certification Like?

I applied in January 2008 and by February 2008, I was starting classes. The campus happened to be close to home. (Less than 10 minutes!) I took courses in the Spring and Summer semesters before teaching.

The TMATE classes prepare you to take your teaching exams. No lie, the tests are challenging. And yes, tests plural. You’ll need to take a test to qualify in your content area. Then you’ll also have the professional ethics tests. In Texas, it is recommended that all teachers also get their ESL certification. I passed all my tests on the first try, but it does take a lot of study. You’ll need to be prepared to buckle down. For me, I had the ability to make it my sole responsibility. However, many others in my course were parents and had other responsibilities. They were also successful.

Getting Your First Teaching Job

I found a job very quickly with the program which had a partnership with Fort Worth ISD. Even though you have a job, and you receive a full pay check, you will be considered an intern teacher. We did have to pay a fee to cover costs for the internship which was about $1,000. It was taken out over time from my paycheck. Because it came out automatically, I didn’t really miss it. Fort Worth ISD was and remains one of the better paying districts in the state, which helps.

Alternative Teacher Certification

Your Teaching Internship

The TMATE program will have someone come observe you in your classroom on a regular basis. Honestly, it’s a good thing. It makes a lot of people nervous, but really, they are there to help you grow.

Your first year of teaching, you’ll have a preliminary, probationary teaching certificate. During your first year, you’ll also have graduate classes to take through TMATE. It’s a lot and the first year of teaching is a challenge.

Going through the classes with your cohort, also means you have a built-in support system of other new teachers going through exactly what you are going through. When you have district wide meetings, you’ll already know people and have friends to sit with. I did not find it difficult to balance teaching with the course work. I think my cohort group helped me have a better first year than many teachers do.

Teaching Cert Only Or Get A Masters?

The TMATE program allows you to earn just a teaching certificate or you could continue to an earn a master’s degree. I choose to just do the teaching certificate. I’ve heard in some places having a master’s degree can work against you being hired because you’ll be on a higher pay scale. However, your goals in the education field may require you to have a master’s degree. Before deciding to stop with your teaching certificate, you should think carefully about your goals.

Final Reflections

I enjoyed the TMATE program. I’m a particularly strong student, so I did not find it particularly challenging. Don’t let it scare you that it is grad school. The professors were all very kind and truly cared about teaching and education. If you are in the Fort Worth area and considering getting a teaching certificate, I recommend the TMATE program.


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