Do you have a passion for the life sciences and a strong desire to share your knowledge with the next generation of students? Becoming a biology teacher will allow you to empower students to develop an abiding appreciation for the natural world and everything in it. With the emphasis placed on STEM careers in recent years, schools are focused on giving students a high-quality science education. You could play an integral role in that process if you decide to teach biology.
If you determine that this is the right career for you, you’ll need to start by earning your biology degree. Here are a few steps to get you moving towards a successful teaching career in biology.
Earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology
There are many options to choose from when you’re looking for an undergraduate biology degree program. Many schools offer basic degrees in biology. However, it’s important to choose a degree program that is intended specifically for aspiring biology teachers. The program should lead to initial teacher licensure. It should also be aligned with the standards of the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), the Interstate Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (InTASC), and all applicable state licensure requirements.
During the course of your studies, you’ll gain an in-depth knowledge of the field. Expect to delve into biological concepts like cellular functions, biological lifecycles, ecological principles and human physiology, to name just a few. You will also explore the principles and methods of teaching biology.
Expect to study topics such as the following:
- Social justice and cultural competence in the education system
- Effective classroom management and student engagement
- The development of instructional lessons and student assessment methods
- Pedagogical techniques for the teaching of science
Complete a Student Teaching Experience
During the final year of your undergraduate in biology for secondary education, you will be required to complete a student teaching experience. This is similar to an internship, but is specifically designed for teaching candidates. During your semester as a student teacher, you will be placed in a real classroom, where you will teach students under the supervision of a licensed teacher.
Initially, you’ll be asked to observe. You may also work with students in small groups or provide one-on-one tutoring. Soon, you’ll be asked to assist with teaching a lesson or running small group instruction. Later, you will gradually take over portions of the class as you implement the lesson plan. Eventually, you’ll be ready to teach the entire class by yourself, although the supervising teacher will be a careful observer, ready to step in at any time.
Acquire Appropriate State Licensure
Whether you plan on teaching middle school biology, high school biology or any other level, you will need to obtain a license to teach. Once you complete your student teaching experience and earn your biology degree, you will be ready to pursue licensure. You’ll submit all required documentation to the Department of Education for the state in which you plan to teach biology. You will also need to pass a subject knowledge exam. Once you’ve obtained all necessary state certification or licensure, you’ll be ready to apply for your first teaching position.
Ace Your First Job Interview
Preparation is crucial for acing your first teaching job interview. Expect to be asked some tough questions during your interview to become a teacher, such as, “What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?”
You’ll also be asked some education-specific questions, which may include any of the following:
- Why do you want to work with kids?
- How would you describe your teaching style or philosophy?
- How would you handle a difficult student in your classroom?
- What’s your approach to building relationships with parents?
- What are you learning or reading right now?
In addition, aspiring teachers are often asked to give a demonstration lesson. You should have a lesson plan prepared, just in case. An ideal demonstration lesson should be engaging and, of course, accurate. Note, however, that school administrators use demonstration lessons to consider how teacher candidates plan lessons. Afterward, you may be debriefed on what you did well and which areas you should work on.
During any interview, it’s crucial to ask plenty of questions yourself. This shows your interviewer that you are engaged and eager to ensure the school is the right fit for you. Some questions you might consider asking during your interview to become a teacher include the following:
- What curricula does the school use?
- How is parent participation supported at the school?
- Will I be asked to take on any extra responsibilities (such as serving on committees)?
- Why do you enjoy working here?
- What are some problems the school is experiencing and how are they being addressed?
- What are the school’s long-term plans?
Consider Going Back to School
You can get started teaching biology with a bachelor’s degree and state licensure. However, earning your master’s degree will bolster your teaching credentials. You’ll gain in-depth knowledge and skills that you can immediately put to use in your classroom as a biology teacher in order to help your students achieve their full potential. In addition, your school may offer tuition reimbursement for teachers who wish to acquire advanced academic credentials.
Develop the skills needed to become an effective biology teacher by enrolling at Grand Canyon University. Begin your academic journey with the Bachelor of Science in Biology for Secondary Education, which leads to initial teacher licensure and includes a student teaching experience. Enhance your qualifications by earning your Master of Science in Biology with an Emphasis in Education degree, which is available via online courses for working professionals.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University.