The state of Tennessee has stringent standards to which its educators must adhere. This ensures the state’s citizens – especially parents – that schools are staffed with well-qualified, competent individuals. Study after study has shown that teachers are the most important factor in determining the academic achievements of young students.These mandates are intended to help give kids their best shot at future success.

Step 1 Enroll in a Teacher Education Program. Tennessee mandates that teacher certification candidates hold at least a bachelor’s degree in an education-related subject earned from a fully accredited school. In order to be considered valid for purposes of licensure, your undergraduate program must include a full-fledged teacher certification track.

This should begin around your junior year, and you will participate in preclinical work such as in-class observations. The program will culminate with you completing a full internship at a local elementary school. The internship, or student teaching, will be discussed in further detail below.

You must maintain at least a 2.5 GPA in order to qualify for licensure. This is a cumulative requirement, so if your grades are slipping get the help you need to pull your overall GPA back up to acceptable levels.

Step 2 Get a criminal history background check. Tennessee requires that you have a background check done prior to enrolling in a teacher training program. Officials at your school can help you accomplish this. They will provide you with a fingerprint form (or tell you where you can get an official one). You will then need to have your prints taken at a law enforcement agency (usually a police station) under the supervision of a sworn officer. Your school will most likely have the card sent directly to them from the print-taking agency. The school will submit these materials to the department of education on your behalf.

Make sure you follow all instructions exactly as they are given. Failure to use proper protocol could result in your having to submit your prints (and pay the applicable fees) all over again.

Step 3 Take the Praxis examination. Tennessee uses Educational Testing Services (ETS) to administer its teacher certification exams. All candidates must take the appropriate ETS Praxis series exams in order to qualify for licensure.You will first have to take a core skills competency exam in order to be accepted into a teacher training program.

Core Academic Skills for Educators

This test is engineered to test your proficiency in the fundamental content areas of math, reading, and writing. This is not in relation to how well you will teach these subjects, but a checkpoint to make sure you have mastered them before proceeding on with your teacher training.

  1. Reading
    • Key Ideas and Details
    • Craft, Structure, and Language Skills
    • Integration of Knowledge and Ideas
  2. Mathematics
    • Number and Quantity
    • Algebra and Functions
    • Geometry
    • Statistics and Probability
  3. Writing
    • Text Types, Purposes, and Production
    • Language and Research Skills for Writing

The Praxis website has a variety of preparation materials for each of the math, reading, and writing portions of the exam.

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

The PLT is a pedagogy test, meaning that it focuses on the conceptual and theoretical aspects of educator training. You’ll be asked to demonstrate your knowledge of how to create effective lesson plans, how to assess and cater to diverse learning styles, and how to adjust your methods to best suit your students. There are five subsections on the test.

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

Make sure to give yourself ample study time before your testing date. Find official study materials on the ETS Praxis.

Elementary Education: Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment

Passing this exam will show that you have the ability to create quality curriculum that sufficiently covers each of the various subject areas you’ll be expected to teach as an elementary level educator. The test has six parts.

  1. Reading and Language Arts
  2. Mathematics
  3. Science
  4. Social Studies
  5. Arts and Physical Education
  6. General Information

Study diligently so that you can pass this exam the first time. It’s highly recommended that you take advantage of the preparation materials provided by the testing agency. The non-refundable fee to take this exam is $139.

Elementary Education: Content Knowledge

The content knowledge exam is focused more on your own proficiency in four main content areas.

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

Look here for study guides, practice tests, and more study materials from Praxis. The cost to take this evaluation is $115.

Teaching Reading: Elementary Education

Elementary school teachers are tasked with teaching children to read. Kids need to have reached a certain reading level by the time they move up to middle school or their future academic success is at great risk. This test is intended to show tangible evidence that you are up to the task of effectively teaching reading skills to young students.

  1. Assessment and Diagnostic Teaching of Reading
  2. Reading Development
    • Phonemic Awareness and Oral Language Development
    • Phonics and Alphabetic Principle
    • Word-Analysis Skills and Vocabulary Development
    • Development of Reading Fluency and Reading Comprehension Strategies Across Text Types
  3. Writing in Support of Reading
    • Interdependence of Reading and Writing Development
    • Reading and Writing as Tools for Inquiry and Research

You will have 2.5 hours to complete the entire exam. This test is only available on a computer-delivered format, meaning there are no paper tests available for this exam. The fees associated with this exam are $139.

Step 4 Get the required Experience. To graduate from your teacher training program, you will have to complete at least one semester of hands-on classroom experience. Officials within your degree program will help to connect you with a local school that has a student-teacher opening. Once accepted for placement, you’ll be assigned a classroom in which you will serve your student teaching internship.

The regular teacher of your host class will serve as a mentor and advisor as you work through your internship. This person may ask you to observe as he or she administers lesson plans, evaluations, and other classroom activities. There will also be times when you are asked to perform these duties yourself while being evaluated by your mentoring teacher.

The biggest key to success in student teaching is to fully immerse yourself in the experience. Go in each day ready to engage completely with the students and with your supervising teacher. Ask questions, take it seriously, and always conduct yourself as a professional.

Step 5 Complete required documentation and Apply for Certification. You may not apply for licensure directly in the state of Tennessee. Instead, the application form must be filled out and submitted on your behalf by the institution where you completed your teacher training. You will be asked to provide any verifying documents not already provided to the department by testing agencies or learning institutions.