South Dakota holds to national standards in requiring all incoming teachers to meet the federal government’s “highly qualified” teacher mandate. Because of this, you will need to fulfill several specific requirements in order to apply for licensure in the state. You will have to earn your degree, complete the mandatory fieldwork and evaluations, and pass a state and federal background check.

Step 1 Enroll in a Teacher Education Program. Obtaining a bachelor’s degree is the first thing you need to do if you hope to become certified as an elementary teacher in South Dakota.

Make sure that you do your research when looking at schools. In order for your degree to be honored by the state department of education, the school must be fully accredited and your undergraduate program must include a teacher preparation module. As part of this preparatory phases, you will engage in both preclinical and full practicum work in an elementary classroom environment.

Some additional requirements specific to the state are that your teacher education program must include 3 credit hours of approved human relations curriculum, as well as another 3 credit hours of South Dakota Indian Studies coursework. These requirements are to help teachers learn to serve a more diverse body of students and to understand, identify, and help overcome some of the challenges that can come with South Dakota’s student demographics.

Step 2 Get a criminal history background check. When it comes time for you to apply for your student teaching internship, you will be asked to submit fingerprints to be used in a state and federal background check. This will be facilitated by officials from the school district where you’ll be doing your student teaching. You must also agree to have your name run through other registries, such as child sex offender registries and tribal agencies in the state.

You will be given instructions by district authorities at that time regarding where you should get your prints taken and what the current district protocol is for secure print-taking. You will be asked to cover any fees involved with fingerprinting and background checks.

If one year lapses between the time you complete your student teaching and the time you begin working as a teacher, you may be asked to submit to a second background check by the hiring school.

Step 3 Take the Praxis examination. Your school may require you to take a basic skills exam in order to be accepted into your degree program. In South Dakota, this will most likely be the Praxis I.

Praxis I Pre-Professional Skills Test

This three-part evaluation looks at your proficiency in the most basic academic areas. Each of the three main sections is divided into related sub-areas.

  1. Reading
    • Literal Comprehension
    • Critical and Inferential Comprehension
  2. Writing
    • Grammatical Relationships
    • Structural Relationships
    • Word Choice and Mechanics
    • Essay
  3. Mathematics
    • Number and Operations
    • Algebra
    • Geometry and Measurement
    • Data Analysis and Probability

Each section will cost $85 to take separately, or you can opt for the combined exam and pay $135 to sit for all three sections at once. Each will still be timed and scored independently.

Principles of Learning and Teaching (PLT): Grades K-6

The PLT is designed to look into your knowledge and comprehension of academic and developmental theories. This test seeks to measure your ability to create a positive, safe, and effective learning environment for a diverse array of students. You will need to demonstrate your understanding of instructional methods, how to administer fair and helpful assessments, how to teach for different learning styles, and more. The exam is divided into five parts.

  1. Students as learners
  2. Instructional Process
  3. Assessment
  4. Professional Development, Leadership, and Community
  5. Analysis of Instructional Scenarios

These sections will not be timed separately. You will be given a total of two hours for the entire test, and will have to manage your time accordingly so that you finish all sections. Praxis keeps an excellent study resource page on this test.

Elementary Education: Content Knowledge

This is a content area test to analyze your knowledge of the main subject areas all elementary teachers are expected to master.

The exam consists of four distinct parts.

  1. Reading and Language Arts
  2. Mathematics
  3. Social Studies
  4. Science

Sections are timed independently, but the test is to be taken at one sitting. Once the time is up for any one section, you must stop working on it immediately.

Find plenty of study materials for the elementary content area test on the Praxis website.

If you take the Praxis tests in South Dakota, your scores will be sent directly to the state department of education. If you test out of state, be sure to use state code 8112 so that your results will be forwarded to South Dakota. Find a testing center near you on this page.

Step 4 Get the required Experience. South Dakota will only recognize teacher preparation programs that include a full practicum component. This means that you must complete an internship in the form of a student teaching position at a local elementary school. This vital part of your training will give you the experience and confidence you need to begin your own career as a teacher. No matter how much you study, read, and test – the hands-on experience gained during the practicum portion of training cannot be substituted. By facing the many challenges of daily classroom life head-on, you will be far better prepared to lead your own class.

When your time comes to be placed for an internship, be sure to keep an open dialogue with your advisors, instructors, and other trusted personnel within your program. Let them know that you want to do your best, and would appreciate any instructions or advice they may have. There will certainly be rules and specific protocol that you must follow in order to successfully complete your internship. There are also unspoken guidelines that you will be better off to follow than not. By talking to higher-ups in your department, you may be given some insight or piece of advice that will help you to make the most of your time as a student teacher.

The amount of time you spend in a student teaching capacity can vary depending on the training program you’re in, but count on spending at least a full semester in practicum.

Step 5 Complete required documentation and Apply for Certification. When you have satisfactorily completed all of these requirements, you may apply for licensure. You must start your application online by visiting the Initial Certificate page on the South Dakota DOE website. You’ll be asked to fill out information about your education and test scores, and to pay the initial certification fee of $18.00. The DOE will then verify your information with the appropriate institutions and agencies.

Next, you will need to print out a University Sign-Off Form and take it to representatives from the appropriate department at the school you graduated from. They must fill the form out in its entirety, and mail it directly to the department at the address below.

South Dakota Department of Education, Certification
800 Governors Dr.
Pierre, SD 57501