If you wish to work with students with above-average abilities, then you may be the perfect fit for becoming a gifted and talented teacher. According to the National Association of Gifted Children (NAGC), approximately three to five million gifted students are identified in America for their high achievement capability in intellectual, creative, artistic, leadership, and academic fields. Around 8,000 gifted teachers are currently employed nationwide to plan challenging lessons with innovative teaching methods so that these bright students can work to their ability level. Though there are no national standards that dictate specific requirements in gifted education, the following is a guide to the common steps taken to become a gifted and talented teacher.
1. Earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Education
Before specializing in gifted education, you must first complete the post-secondary education requirements for becoming a licensed teacher in your state. You’ll need to choose a teacher preparation school that offers a bachelor’s degree program at the grade level you wish to teach, such as elementary education, early childhood education, or secondary education. Make certain the education program is accredited by the NCATE or TEAC for the highest quality preparation. Along with the degree’s curriculum, you’ll participate in a hands-on, student teaching semester with a veteran teacher.
2. Apply for Teacher Licensure
Each of the 50 states has a state agency responsible for conferring teaching licenses to new teachers, so mandated courses and experience may vary slightly. In most cases, teaching candidates will be required to pass additional state-mandated teaching examinations that test their content knowledge and instructional strategies in the classroom. The most popular national teaching exams are the Praxis I, Praxis II, and Praxis III. To learn what tests your state requires for licensure, contact your State Department of Education, talk with a departmental advisor at your university, or search for your state on the Praxis testing website.
3. Obtain a Master’s Degree for Gifted Education
While earning a master’s degree is not absolutely mandated in each state, more teachers are putting in the extra effort to return to graduate school and concentrate their teaching abilities. For aspiring gifted and talented teachers, this means choosing a two to three-year master’s degree program that offers a specialization or extension certificate in gifted education. It’s best to choose a degree that has been approved by the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) to gather the essential knowledge, skills, and attributes needed to enter gifted education.
4. Pursue Gifted Teacher Endorsements
Each state uses slightly different terminology, but there are typically endorsements for gifted teachers to add onto their teaching licensure to certify their abilities in working with gifted and talented students. Look for endorsements that will designate you as a Gifted Intervention Specialist (GIS), Highly Qualified Teacher (HQT), Gifted Coordinator, or Gifted Education Specialist. In addition to satisfying course requirements, your state may mandate that teachers have at least two years experience working with gifted students to receive these endorsements, so carefully weed through the specific requirements in your local area.
Overall, gifted education is a rewarding career path that will allow you to teach talented students in general education classrooms, special pull-out programs, independent schools, or advanced placement programs at community colleges. As a gifted and talented teacher, you’ll push students to stay motivated and tap into their intellectual capabilities through rigorous curriculum uniquely suited to their individual areas of excellence.