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How to become a Spanish teacher in the USA

By Jon, published on 05/03/2018 We Love Prof - IN > Tutoring > Advice for Tutors > A Guide for Future Spanish Teachers

What’s your dream career? Have you ever considered teaching? What about teaching Spanish?

Are you passionate about the works of Cervantès and Spanish & latino culture?

Perhaps you’re a college student, or someone looking for a whole new career.

Learn about all the ways to become a Spanish teacher!

From traditional teacher training to other options like becoming a private Spanish teacher, this is a career that offers plenty of opportunities!

So how should you achieve your objective of teaching students Spanish?

Teaching Spanish – what qualifications do you need to become a teacher?

Teacher training requirements vary by state and school, but generally, in order to become a professional teacher, you’ll need to complete your Master’s degree and pass a teacher certification exam. Often you can begin to find work right after college as long as you can show you’re on your way to completing a Masters and finishing the various exams, and if you’re teaching at a private school, some will waive the extra qualifications altogether.

Generally after high school, future foreign language teachers would follow the path below:

  1. Major in the language: at college, you probably major in Spanish, and might even spend a semester or year abroad in Spain to become really fluent. The goal is to completely master the language, and also learn more about hispanic history and culture.
  2. Masters in Education: If you don’t do some kind of teacher training in college, then you’ll probably need to study teaching as a separate degree as a Masters. States also increasingly require a Masters degree to teach, whether or not you’ve already studied education. This will typically include substantial time in the classroom, and preparation for professional certification exams.

One thing is for sure, getting a degree (or degrees) is not enough to become a Spanish teacher. Whatever you study, you will also need to take a teacher certification exam. Some states use the National Teachers Examination, with the foreign language education component, while other states, like Massachusetts, have their own unique exams (MTEL).

Keep in mind that teacher certification tests might not be mutually recognized across states, so it’s important to consider carefully where you want to teach Spanish in the future before you decide which exam to prepare for.

Becoming a teacher is hard work, and preparing for the exams and degrees (not to mention becoming fluent in Spanish!) will take hard work and discipline.

If you want to become a Spanish teacher and share your passion for Cervantès, declare a Spanish major with an education minor right away!

What’s the best major in college to become a Spanish teacher?

You’re planning to sign up for a Masters in Education program as soon as you graduate college. But first, you need to decide what your major should be!

What undergraduate degree is the best way to solidify your future as a Spanish teacher?

Essentially, you’ve got two things to learn about – Spanish and teaching. However, these aren’t really the same topic, and courses are generally run by entirely different departments.

Essentially:

  • A Spanish major: will emphasize Spanish language mastery, including the fine points of grammar, before moving on to Hispanic history, literature, and culture courses, often taught entirely in Spanish. Study abroad will probably be encouraged, and you may have the chance to immerse yourself in Spanish language and culture in Madrid or Peru.
  • A major in education – will focus on teaching methods – classroom control, child development, designing lesson plans, etc – and is set to help you pass teacher certification exams without first completing a Masters in Education.

Really, before you can teach anything, you need to have mastered your subject, so focussing on Spanish first is probably the best idea. Some colleges will also allow you to double major or take a minor in education, and begin to get some experience in the classroom. If you can’t do both though, best to focus on Spanish in undergrad!

Can you become a Spanish teacher without passing a teacher certification test?

What should you do if you’ve gotten a Masters in Education but can’t quite manage to pass your state’s teacher certification tests?

Try not to stress too much, your teaching career isn’t over before it’s even started.

Are you set on becoming a Spanish teacher without passing your teacher certification? There are a few options available.

Rules will differ depending on state and school district, but schools will often waive some of the qualification requirements for priority areas if you promise to work towards them at a later date (for instance, hiring graduates with Bachelors degrees on the understanding they’ll complete a Masters in the next 5 years.)

You also have the option of becoming a substitute teacher. Most school districts require only a few semesters of undergrad to qualify, and it’s a good way to get some more classroom experience and earn a bit of money at the same time!

Finally, another option is to go private. Private schools are not constrained by the same qualification prerequisites to hiring that public schools have, and so counter-intuitively can often hire ‘subject experts’ (college graduates with a major in the subject they’re due to teach) without any further qualifications.

No matter which route you go, it’s a good idea to keep working towards your teacher qualification while you get some more teaching experience. In the long run, it will only give you more employment options, and create better opportunities for you as a Spanish teacher.

Work one on one with your students to help them master the Castillian language even faster!

How can you become a Spanish teacher without a degree?

Maybe you meant to pursue a teaching degree and then life got in the way, or maybe you never went to college. But if you’re bilingual in Spanish and want to teach, there are still options available for you.

There are multiple ways to teach Spanish without a degree:

  • become a private tutor
  • teach Spanish at a private learning center
  • Create your own teaching company

Private tutoring is essentially unregulated, and there’s absolutely no legal or institutional requirement to be able to offer your services. Of course, having expertise in your subject and being a good teacher will help you keep your tutoring clients. But there are no degree or certification requirements to become a private Spanish teacher.

Is Spanish your mother tongue? Are you bilingual in Spanish? Maybe you’re a college student and want to earn a bit of extra spending money?

There’s nothing to stop you from becoming a private Spanish tutor. Of course, you’ll need to consider your strengths, and think about what you might be able to offer potential students:

  • conversational Spanish and Spanish language practice
  • after school help with Spanish homework
  • Spanish for the workplace
  • introduction to Spanish for adults

And of course if you’re multilingual, you can also consider offering the same for German, French, English as a Second Language (ESL), Portuguese, Italian, Chinese, Russian, Arabic…

The importance of immersion study before teaching Spanish

So while there are several possibilities if you want to become a Spanish teacher, there’s one thing that is absolutely essential – being bilingual.

In order to succeed with your teaching ambitions, even if you already speak Spanish to a high level, the best thing you can do is spend some time in a Spanish-speaking country.

Travel to become really bilingual in Spanish. Have you considered a trip to Bolivia?

Whether you take a few weeks off for an intensive course or you decide to spend a semester studying abroad in Spain, it is important to make the most of these experiences in order to:

  • Enrich your vocabulary and learn to speak Spanish more fluidly.
  • Learn more about the daily life and culture of your new country
  • Meet native speakers, develop relationships with them, learn about their likes and ideas
  • Step out of your comfort zone and test your language skills in real life.

One of the advantages of Spanish is that the language is spoken in so many countries – Spain, Mexico, Guatemala, Argentina, Cuba, Bolivia, Chili, Dominican Republic…You won’t lack for choice when you try to decide where to study abroad!

Thanks to your experience studying abroad, you’ll also have a chance to become truly bilingual, which will be a real advantage on your resume. And of course, it will be much easier to teach Spanish after studying abroad!

What are the best online resources to teach Spanish from home?

Before you become a private Spanish teacher, it’s important to understand the pedagogic dimensions to your new job. Speaking perfect Spanish isn’t enough to help a student at risk of failing Spanish class.

You’ll need to do a bit of work to prepare for each lesson. You’ll quickly learn that it is essential to adjust each lesson to the student’s:

  • age
  • level of Spanish (beginner, intermediate, advanced)
  • objectives (pronunciation, grammar, speaking, vocabulary…)
  • the type of Spanish classes offered (Spanish for business, after school help, introduction to Spanish, intermediate Spanish, intensive immersion…)

In order to help you with your lesson plans and become a top notch Spanish language tutor, there are a number of online resources to take advantage of:

  • MOOCs – these massive open online courses are a great opportunity to learn for free and at a distance, whether you’re looking to improve your teaching skills or Spanish knowledge.
  • Online Spanish – Specialist internet sites are often a great source of example lesson plans, exercises, activities, and educational games.
  • Cell phone apps can offer extra help to your students and give them an opportunity to practice between lessons.
  • Videos – YouTube is full of videos that can be useful for teaching Spanish.

As you’re first getting started it will take a bit of time to find and take advantage of the best resources, but once you’ve found what works for you, these online sites can be a great time saver!

When you’re learning from a Superprof, learning a language becomes a joy!

What personality characteristics are a must have for a Spanish teacher?

In order to be a good teacher, you also need to work on your skills at passing on your own knowledge and helping your students learn their new language.

There are some things that can be learned (student psychology, teaching methods, pedagogy) but others that will help you become a more skilled and popular teacher.

  • Be passionate about your subject to inspire your students.
  • Be patient, listen, and be empathetic
  • Know how to adapt lessons to the learner and make learning more personal.
  • Know how to motivate your students.
  • And finally, the most important thing to teach Spanish – use your creativity to take your students on a journey with you!

You need to not only have completely mastered the Spanish language (and achieved fluency in Spanish grammar, verbs, vocabulary, conjugations, tenses, phonetics), but also hispanic culture and history.

  • share your knowledge
  • explore authors
  • painters
  • film directors
  • cultural traditions…

Everything that makes Spanish culture and Spanish speaking countries so great!

If you use all that, your students will begin to look at their Spanish classes in a whole new way!

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