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[PLUGGED IN] Alt Cert Candidates

By Calvin Hennick | October November 2007

Five important things to look for...

Enthusiasm

“Some people say 'I was in marketing, and I really didn’t like that, so I thought I’d try teaching,'" says Xochitl Rodriguez- Davila, principal of Gallegos Elementary School in Houston, Texas. “That’s really not what I’m looking for.” Rodriguez-Davila says she likes alt-cert candidates with a “whatever-it-takes” attitude, rather than people who were simply bored in their last jobs.

Past Achievement

Success breeds success. Michael Boraz, an assistant principal at Kenwood Academy High School in Chicago, seeks alt-cert candidates who earned high GPAs and participated in extracurricular activities at selective colleges. He recently hired a Northwestern graduate who was both a cheerleader and an engineering major. “I figure those two things don’t usually go hand-in-hand,” Boraz says. “This is probably somebody who is pretty driven.”

Strong Content Knowledge

“You can work with teachers on developing good classroom management,” says Greg Kelly, a former recruiter and current middle school principal in the Jackson, Mississippi, school system. “But I don’t think you have the time to really teach them how to work a math problem.” Kelly reviews transcripts and test scores to make sure his alt-cert teachers don’t have to learn content on the job.

Experience With Kids

Applicants from programs with at least a short student-teaching component are also a big plus for Kelly. “They come in with experience standing before students, classroom management—all those things a first-year teacher needs to be successful,” he says. Failing that, Kelly looks for candidates who have worked in schools in another capacity.

Realism

Good candidates will have an idea of the challenges that await them in their new profession, says Layla Avila, vice president of teaching fellows programs of the New Teacher Project. “You need to have someone who is a problem solver and not let those setbacks keep them down forever,” Avila says.

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