I think it would probably be good to describe the process I went through to get into my Secondary Science program, to give anyone who is interested a feel for what is involved with doing so.
The program itself is based out of University of Washington, Tacoma, which offers three tracks- a k-8 track, a dual track (Special Ed and k-8), and Secondary Science. I don't know much about the former two, but the Secondary Science one gets you a teaching certificate in about a year, and a Masters in Education shortly thereafter. It starts in the summer, then in Winter you begin the practicum, which consists of putting in 50+ hours in your assigned classroom, observing your cooperating teacher. Come spring quarter, you do student teaching for about three months, and are then awarded a teaching certificate, and a few classes more, and a passing portfolio review, and you get your Masters.
My background before getting into the program was primarily in mental health services. I have an interdisciplinary arts Bachelors with a focus on psychology, which, for all intents and purposes, is nearly identical to the course work required to get a psych degree. I also took a number of hard science courses, and have always had a strong passion for science, especially neurology and astrophysics. In college, I did mostly IT work, and after graduating I worked for a foster care/mental health agency working with foster kids and CPS referrals, and did about three years there. Near the end, I ended up heading a tutoring program that ended with most of the students passing their math classes, where before the program they were almost universally failing. Realizing I had a knack for math, I looked at possible teacher education programs, and found one at UWT.
The biggest admission requirements I remember off the top of my head were:
-Letters of rec.
I got two, one from a former professor and my boss at the mental health agency. I talked with them about what I felt was probably best to put in the letter, and they did as such, mostly highlighting my work in the tutoring program, my passion for science, and my skill working with difficult kids.
-Passing score on the WEST-B and WEST-E in a content area relevant to the program.
The WEST exams are teaching standards exams. There are three WEST-Bs, which are the basic knowledge exams. They were painfully easy, and consisted of a test on reading, writing, and basic math skills. I had three options for the WEST-E, which is the content area exam. I had the option to take the general science one, which allows me to teach any level science, from 6th grade basic general science, to 12th grade physics, the Earth and Space science one, which would allow me to teach high school Earth and Space science, and Biology, which would allow me to teach high school biology. I decided to take the general science one, as it encompassed the most content area. I studied hard for it, and ended up passing. I have since taken the mid level math one, which is the only other content area certification this program offers, so I am able to teach the full spectrum. Both WEST-Es I studied incredibly hard for, although I got top marks on both, so on some levels, I think they were not as intimidating as I perceived them to be.
I wrote one, wrote another draft, and another draft, and another draft, then had people tear drafts apart, and rewrote it, and rewrote it. Finally, I had something I was happy with, and sent it in.
-40+ Documented classroom hours
I teamed with an old high school teacher that I had recently reconnected with, and spent a few weeks shadowing him as well as a geometry teacher. After documenting 40 hours, he signed off on the paperwork.
-Various admission documents
There's always plenty of paperwork. There was also proof of vaccination, which was easy enough to obtain.
-A developmental Psych class
I already had one of these, so this wasn't a problem.
I got all my stuff in a bit earlier than the deadline, and then I waited. After a few months, I got a letter in the mail, and sure enough, I had been accepted. After me having what resembled a seizure from sheer joy, I sent in my acceptance of acceptance, and started preparing for classes, which would begin in Summer.
And that's what got me into the program. I completed a FAFSA and ended up getting a good amount of grant money, which has been a godsend, as due to the level of classwork, my ability to take on shifts at my job has been greatly diminished. My girlfriend moved in with me to help alleviate my rent woes a bit, and that has helped, although I am living from paycheck to paycheck, often times borrowing money from my parents, who have been very helpful in this regard.
My advice to anyone looking at getting into a program is to get as much experience working with kids as possible, as that seemed to be one of the big factors that helped me get in. Also, any background in science is a plus. Doing well on the state exams probably played a large part into it, as well.
In my next post, I will detail my experience in the program thus far.