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Choosing an Educator Prep Program
With the right preparation and mentorship, you can become a great teacher.
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Choosing an Educator Prep Program
With the right preparation and mentorship, you can become a great teacher.
Browse Programs

To become a fully licensed teacher in a Colorado public school, you need to complete an approved educator preparation program (EPP). EPPs arm you with the skills, experience and knowledge to teach in your chosen grade and subject. Not all EPPs are the same, though.

How to Pick an EPP

Here's what current teachers, educator prep program officials, and school district HR chiefs (you know, the experts) say you should look for when selecting an educator prep program (EPP).

Everyone seems to agree: The more hands-on, pre-service experience in the classroom—where you observe and practice with an effective teacher who gives you helpful feedback—the better.

Why is this important?

Practice makes perfect. In fact, teachers with classroom experience as a part of their prep program are more likely to feel prepared for their first year in the classroom. Having the opportunity to observe other teachers and practice teaching is important for success as a first-year teacher.

What can this look like?

Pre-service, hands-on experience can come in a variety of forms.

  • In traditional undergraduate or master's programs, your pre-service program typically includes one or two semesters of working in an experienced teacher’s classroom. This is usually called "student teaching" and often occurs during your final year. 
  • Alternative licensure programs may offer several weeks of pre-service practice with an experienced teacher during summer school. Once you are in the classroom, your learning continues as you teach your own class, supported by a mentor, and engage in additional professional learning with your program cohort throughout the school year. These programs work directly with school districts to train teachers concurrently while they are teaching in the classroom. Find more information about them here.

Heads Up: Several alternative licensure programs have "internship” or “on the job" components. This can sound like pre-service experience, but it is just the term for your first year as the primary adult in the classroom before the program recommends you to receive your license. Some programs will have pre-service experience before this internship year and some will not—just make sure you understand the details of the program components before you sign up. 

As a rule, more pre-service experience is better, but quality definitely matters. Make sure to ask any prospective programs about what the pre-service experience entails, including how long it lasts, how they select mentor teachers and how you will receive feedback on your practice.

  • Hands on, pre-service experience

    Everyone seems to agree: The more hands-on, pre-service experience in the classroom—where you observe and practice with an effective teacher who gives you helpful feedback—the better.

    Why is this important?

    Practice makes perfect. In fact, teachers with classroom experience as a part of their prep program are more likely to feel prepared for their first year in the classroom. Having the opportunity to observe other teachers and practice teaching is important for success as a first-year teacher.

    What can this look like?

    Pre-service, hands-on experience can come in a variety of forms.

    • In traditional undergraduate or master's programs, your pre-service program typically includes one or two semesters of working in an experienced teacher’s classroom. This is usually called "student teaching" and often occurs during your final year. 
    • Alternative licensure programs may offer several weeks of pre-service practice with an experienced teacher during summer school. Once you are in the classroom, your learning continues as you teach your own class, supported by a mentor, and engage in additional professional learning with your program cohort throughout the school year. These programs work directly with school districts to train teachers concurrently while they are teaching in the classroom. Find more information about them here.

    Heads Up: Several alternative licensure programs have "internship” or “on the job" components. This can sound like pre-service experience, but it is just the term for your first year as the primary adult in the classroom before the program recommends you to receive your license. Some programs will have pre-service experience before this internship year and some will not—just make sure you understand the details of the program components before you sign up. 

    As a rule, more pre-service experience is better, but quality definitely matters. Make sure to ask any prospective programs about what the pre-service experience entails, including how long it lasts, how they select mentor teachers and how you will receive feedback on your practice.

  • Preparation for teaching diverse populations

    Your program should help you understand many different student needs, backgrounds and learning styles. You’ll want to be prepared to meet the unique academic, social and emotional needs of individual students.

    Why is this important?

    Colorado schools serve culturally and linguistically diverse students. With a growing immigrant population and a high percentage of rural students, diversity is a key strength and core value of the community.

    Teachers who are licensed in special education, bilingual and culturally and linguistically diverse are in high demand, so are science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) teachers. These teachers sometimes receive signing or yearly bonuses from their districts.

    What can this look like?

    A lot of things:

    • Coursework specifically addressing the needs of culturally and linguistically diverse student populations.
    • Understanding Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) or trauma.
    • Getting coaching and feedback on culturally relevant pedagogy. 
    • Learning about how unconscious biases among educators can lead to disproportionately disciplining some students, especially students of color.
    • How to check for biases when teaching.
  • Mentoring and Coaching

    Your program should provide an experienced and highly effective mentor, teacher and coach to provide meaningful feedback during your preparation process. Ideally, your school or district should also provide support in your first few years and as you develop in your profession.

    Why is this important?

    Teachers told us that observing other teachers was important for them during their preparation and first years of teaching. They also said that having a mentor teacher, especially a mentor who is in a similar subject area and grade level, is critical for success.

    Colorado prep programs and districts have underscored the importance of having a successful, highly effective teacher mentor for both aspiring and new teachers alike. You want to learn from someone whose work you want to emulate. 

    What can this look like?

    Most educator prep programs will put you in a classroom under the supervision of a mentor, master or host teacher (different names for essentially the same thing) during your pre-service experience.

    You might start off only observing and then start teaching more and more. Mentor teachers give you constructive feedback to help you grow in ability and confidence.

    Programs also send coaches to visit and observe you in your classroom at regular intervals. This resource gives you feedback and helps you think through challenges you're experiencing. Sometimes, coaches will visit you—even after your pre-service experience is over—when you are the primary teacher in a classroom. 

    Ask your potential programs how they select mentor teachers, what they expect from them and how they ensure that mentor teachers model effective practices and give helpful feedback. Be sure to ask these same questions about coaches who visit your classroom. Be picky! You will be a better prepared teacher if you are mentored by an engaged, highly-effective teacher in your chosen field. 
     

  • Commitment to Improvement

    Look for a prep program that shows commitment to continuous improvement and collecting, sharing and using data and research to improve their preparation practices. This benefits you and your future students!

    Why is this important?

    Our world is changing rapidly, and so are the skills you’ll need to teach students. To be prepared for the classrooms of today and tomorrow, you will want to know that your prep program is on top of the research about childhood development, the brain and how humans learn and grow, equity, etc.

    What can this look like?

    A commitment to improvement might be the hardest criteria to spot as you shop for programs. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about how the program uses data and research to reflect and improve practice!

Your Background—Your Path

You can become a teacher starting right where you are now. Whether you’re in school, out of school or considering a career change, there’s a pathway to becoming a teacher.

Where are you starting?

  • A high school degree: Consider a bachelor’s degree + licensure program for undergraduates.
  • Some college: You can finish your degree and then get licensed, or enroll in a bachelor’s degree + licensure program.
  • A bachelor’s degree: Consider a postgraduate program or alternative licensure (great for career changers).

Click through the tabs below for more information about each path. And don't forget, we have coaches on hand ready to answer any questions you have about the different pathways to teaching.

  • Complete your educator preparation program as part of earning your bachelor’s degree, reducing total cost and time.
  • Great for individuals who decide in high school or early in college that they want to become a teacher.
  • Bachelor’s degree + licensure
    • Complete your educator preparation program as part of earning your bachelor’s degree, reducing total cost and time.
    • Great for individuals who decide in high school or early in college that they want to become a teacher.
  • Post-graduate licensure
    • At many colleges and universities, you can choose between a shorter “licensure-only” route vs. a more in-depth master’s degree route.  You’ll have full-time and part-time options, depending on the program.
    • With this route, you can gain a greater knowledge of the subject you want to teach and get classroom management practice before leading your own.
  • Alternative licensure
    • If you already have a bachelor’s degree, this route allows you to start teaching (and earning a salary) while you satisfy licensure requirements.
    • Design of programs can vary significantly by provider, as well as how much support is provided in getting hired as a teacher.
    • Some programs work directly with school districts to train teachers concurrently while they are teaching in the classroom. Find more about these here.
    • These programs are often designed to prepare candidates to teach in high-needs schools or in subject matter shortage areas.

Not All Programs Offer Everything

Double-check that your program:

  • Is approved for licensure in Colorado. See our list of partner programs to get your search started.
  • Offers a credential in the grade and subject you want to teach.

Ready to explore some EPPs? Find the state-approved educator preparation programs in Colorado that fit your background and preferences.

Need help thinking through your options? Chat with an expert to learn more about your choices for educator prep.

Browse Programs
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