Initial Publication Date: March 5, 2015

Teach in the K-12 classroom

Think back to your experiences before college - did you have particular experiences or teachers that got you interested in science or technology? Exposing students to the STEM disciplines and sharing your excitement and passion for your discipline can have a huge impact on students' lives. Even if students don't pursue a STEM-related profession, you can provide them with a basic knowledge of science, build their critical thinking and quantitative skills, and better prepare them to be responsible citizens. Sharing your passion can also pique their curiosity in the natural world and technology, which may in tern, instill a sense of environmental stewardship.

Wondering if K-12 Is Right for You?

If you think you might be interested in becoming a K-12 educator, there are many ways to test the waters. You can volunteer at a local school, tutor students in particular subject areas, help with after-school or club activities, or volunteer at informal education events like science fairs. Participating in these opportunities can help you determine which age group you work best with and what kind of school you would like to teach in. Questions to consider include:

  • Do I want to teach at the elementary, middle, or secondary level?
  • Do I want to teach at a small school, where I might be the only science teacher and teaching multiple subjects, or a large school where there is a department with many science teachers?
  • Do I want to teach at a public or private school?

The answers to these questions will help you determine which steps to take to get into the classroom.

Pathways to the Classroom

There are many possible pathways into teaching, from an undergraduate degree in education to a post-baccalaureate certification program to one of many alternative pathways to certification. The requirements and opportunities vary from state to state (and sometimes even from district to district, based on need), so you will want to explore your specific options. Common requirements include a Bachelors degree, teaching certification in a particular subject area or age group, a student teaching experience (often part of the certification program), passing a background check, and passing standardized, basic skills and content knowledge tests. You can learn more about requirements by state from

Your institution may have a teacher preparation program that combines all of the requirements into an undergraduate or graduate degree (learn more about different kinds of teacher preparation programs). If so, you can talk to the advisors in these programs to help you get started.

But if not, you are not out of luck. Many institutions that do not have teaching degree programs still graduate students who go on to become teachers, receiving their certification through post-baccalaureate certification programs or alternative pathways. Some alternative pathways are national, such as Teach for America or TEACH-NOW, while others are specific to a state.

What Gets Taught in the K-12 Classroom

In the public school system, the content and skills that are taught at each grade level are driven by state or national education standards. As with teacher certification, the standards vary from state to state. However, many states have adopted the Common Core State Standards (which cover English/Language Arts and Mathematics) and the Next Generation Science Standards. Both of these sets of standards are broken down by grade level, content area, and skill.

Learn more about the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS):

Learn more about Common Core education standards:

Already in a Teacher Prep Program or Have Certification?

Check out the K-12 Portal! The K-12 Portal provides a plethora of resources for K-12 educators, including example teaching activities that can be used directly in class or modified to fit your class, information for incorporating active learning methods into your class, information about how students learn, suggestions for developing and assessing curriculum, and more.