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How Prepared Are Sacramento's Teachers For The Classroom?

Sara O'Grady is an elementary teacher in Sacramento. She has been teaching in the San Juan School District for 11 years. During that time, she has taught first grade, a first and second combination, fourth grade and summer school. Currently, she is a literacy specialist and works at two elementary schools.

O'Grady said that she started out as a business major at California State University, Sacramento, but after the first year decided it wasn't a good fit. She turned to teaching.

Sara O'Grady (credit: Charles Ferris)
Sara O'Grady (credit: Charles Ferris)

She earned her BA in child development, and after an additional three semesters, earned her preliminary credential. Those three extra semesters included student-teaching and a great deal of further study and practice. O'Grady said that, like all student teachers, it was a bit intimidating at first, but she found her way pretty quickly. The support from teachers in her family was very important to her.

When asked if she felt she was prepared to take on a classroom after earning her BA and preliminary credential at Sac State, she had this to say: "While I had great training through the credential program at CSUS, I did feel prepared and qualified, but there were certainly experiences that I was not fully ready for. The combo class and starting a class after the school year had begun were challenges."

The program and process of training university students to become teachers is far from perfect. In the teaching profession there is always room for improvement, and there is a consistent effort in that regard.

The sometimes daunting requirements for earning a degree don't guarantee admission to a credential program. O'Grady said that getting selected into the program was very competitive, and not everyone who applied was selected.

The course work, according to O'Grady, gave her the tools she needed to understand the basic workings of the classroom.

O'Grady feels that, in general, those making it through the educational process, earning the opportunity to teach, are as prepared to take on the classroom as they can be. She feels that her colleagues are a dedicated and very capable group of professionals.

The new teachers coming on board have the skills, education and training to continue to offer a meaningful educational experience to those children entrusted to their care. Of that, O'Grady is certain.

Requirements for becoming a teacher

The path to a teaching credential in California is rigorous. It involves more than one step. All teachers have to have a bachelor's degree from an accredited university. On top of that, they have to pursue the extra requirement of earning the credential. Once the credential is earned, it is still just the preliminary. There are quite a few requirements past the BA or BS and preliminary credential that result in a what is called a clear credential, and the clear credential must be earned within a five-year span.

In addition to that, there are different types of credentials. Multiple-subject credentials are what most elementary school teachers have, which allows them to teach all subjects in one classroom. Single-subject credentials are typical in the secondary schools. Teachers with this credential specialize in math, science, history, language and so on. Specialization, perhaps in special education, also has a separate credential. School psychologists and principals earn credentials specific to those jobs.

The entire experience is designed to make sure that those entering the profession have a very solid grounding in educational theory and practice. It is a complex endeavour, but getting ready to take on a classroom full of children isn't for the faint of heart.

Once all of the requirements are met, the extra course work is completed, the various tests are passed and a successful student-teaching experience is behind you, it's time to enter the ranks of teachers.

Charles Ferris is a freelance writer who has lived in the Sierra, halfway between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe, for the last 37 years. He retired from teaching after 36 years in 2010. He and his wife hike, kayak, cross country ski, snow shoe, ride mountain bikes and road bikes, year round. His work can be found at

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