Melody J., a recent college graduate, leveraged her newly received psychology degree to earn her teacher certification and accept a full-time position as a paraprofessional.
At College, Picking a Career
Melody was earning her college degree in psychology when, as a junior, she started to put real thought into her career aspirations. Although she really enjoyed studying psychology because she found it interesting, she wasn’t sure what to do after graduation. Melody notes, “when I started thinking about what to do with my degree, I realized the standard options just didn’t interest me.” This prompted Melody to think back on times when she had really enjoyed working.
She said, “I had worked various jobs with children in the past and always enjoyed them. For example, I’ve babysat a lot and volunteered at a preschool in the past.” Considering that education could be the right career path for her, she had a decision to make.
Melody explains, “I was already late in my junior year and I wanted to finish out my psychology degree. I had to figure out how I could teach. I defintitely didn’t want to add two more years to college to earn an education degree. That would have been really expensive, and if I went for a masters in education, none of my scholarships would have applied to continued schooling. I wasn’t completely certain that I wanted to teach forever, so I wasn’t willing to spend another $15,000 on schooling for that career.”
The Path to Paraprofessional
Melody knew there had to be a more practical route to teaching. She was looking online for different options when she found American Board’s online teacher certification program. She knew it was the right program for her. “American Board is really affordable; something I could pay for myself and know it wasn’t going to take several more years,” she says.
Melody enrolled in American Board’s program and started immediately after college graduation. At the same time, she began working as a substitute teacher. In Missouri, teacher candidates are required to have time spent working in a classroom prior to earning certification. She knew her substitute hours would count toward that requirement. Melody explains, “I planned to substitute 3 days a week so I could use my off days to study for American Board. But my district was so short staffed I ended up working 5 days a week. Then, I accepted a full-time longterm substitute paraprofessional position. I’d come home and study in the evenings.”
Even though she was working more hours than expected, Melody was determined to finish American Board’s program quickly. She says, “I enrolled and immediately scheduled my exams for 6 months out. Having that self-imposed deadline really kept me on track.”
Life After Certification
After earning her certification, Melody was working in a rural district. She says, “they needed teachers to badly, I never felt judged for having an alternative certification. In fact, I think two other teachers at my school had taken the same route. Schools are so in need of teachers right now. I feel like, if you’re going to complain about the teacher shortage, you shouldn’t be adding arbitrary restrictions on who can teach.”
When Melody and her husband moved to downtown Kansas City, she began looking for a position in urban schools and received many interview opportunities. The teacher shortage, which was once confined to rural districts, now affects nearly all schools.
Melody notes that, especially because of the teacher shortage, teaching is not without its challenges. In her district, they combined first and second grades to one classroom. While this was certainly stressful for new and veteran teachers, Melody’s focus was on the children. She wanted to ensure that they had the best learning opportunities possible.
Now, Melody has accepted a full-time paraprofessional position in Kansas City. She’s working in a Head Start program with kids aged 3-5. Her new position is closer to home, and she adores working with the younger kids. She explains, “they’re so fun at this age. You can watch them develop so many new skills in such a short amount of time. And I feel like this uses the child development portion of my college degree.”
When Melody was asked what it is about her new role that she’s most grateful for, she didn’t skip a beat. “Everyone at this program is so kind, and they all work so hard to give these kids everything they can.”
If you’re ready to join American Board’s 15,000+ alumni and begin teaching in your local school, visit www.americanboard.org to learn more about online teacher certification.