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Alternative Teaching Certification – Q&A with Garrett Wages

With the job market growing more and more competitive, it is becoming very common to graduate with a degree in one subject and working in a field entirely unrelated to your specified major.

Garrett Wages, a Spring 2019 Oklahoma Christian University graduate, recently completed his alternative teaching certification after earning a degree in business months ago. 

Oklahoma Christian is working to address the shortage of teachers by establishing an affordable alternative placement program. The course provides an opportunity for individuals with non-teaching degrees to teach in local accredited schools.

In an interview with the Talon, Wages discussed the misconceptions, challenges and perks surrounding the pursuit of an alternative teaching certification.

What are the requirements needed to receive your alternative teaching certification?

To qualify or to be able to get an alternative teaching certification, you have to already have a bachelor’s degree. Most requirements vary from state to state, but that is the basic standard. Oklahoma is one of the states that recognizes the American Board for the Certification of Teacher Excellence so if you meet their requirements, you can get your certification. I, personally, took the state-specific tests—the general education test (OGEST), subject area test (OSAT) and the professional teaching examination (OPTE). 

What encouraged you to seek an alternative teaching certification?

I’ll be honest, after college, there weren’t a whole lot of companies busting down my door asking me to come work for them. A friend of mine, a guy who works in the Midwest City school district, encouraged me to think about pursuing teaching. I thought about it and was not on board initially but had a lot of things pushing me back into the conversation. After praying about it for a while, I couldn’t help but be reminded of all the teachers who impacted my life, and that was what cemented the deal. I’m not sure if this is what I want to do forever, but for now, it has given me an avenue to be, or really to make, a difference.

Does your degree from Oklahoma Christian ever come into play despite it not being a true teaching degree?

Absolutely. I don’t think there is a day where it hasn’t. Across the board really. From curriculum to public speaking, conferences, the whole process. It’s kind of a blessing it worked out the way it did. I learned how to be a professional first, then the certification taught me how to be a teacher.

What are a few misconceptions and challenges accompanying alternative certification?

Well, I think the most common misconception is that teachers with alternative certification don’t care about actually teaching. That’s just not true. It’s the opposite. I got the alternative certification because I do care. 

As far as challenges, it’s just like every job. There are nuances that you aren’t necessarily aware of until you’re put into the position. You get better each day, you learn how to be better, and understanding that you don’t know everything can help you overcome these challenges. 

What are the most notable perks of becoming a teacher through a program like this?

You can do it quickly and affordably—a big perk. But it goes deeper than that. I know it’s not answering your question but, in my opinion, the biggest perk of teaching, in general at least, is the relationships. I love these kids, getting to know them, finding out how they learn and building a plan to help them get to where they want to be. It’s amazing, and it is something that continues to inspire me.

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