Can Foreigners Teach in American Schools?

A question came to my inbox asking if Englishmen could teach English in American schools.  The fact is, if you have the right credentials, Americans are not picky about the citizenship of their teachers.  I have seen all kinds of teachers in America, and they have received the right credentials and got themselves hired.



I understand that English is a bit different from England to America, but it is basically the same except for a few spellings, a few vocabulary words, and the accent.  Americans respect the British school system enormously.  When I was in graduate school, there were English teachers trying to figure out how they could study in England. England is our mother country, and Americans think they are the ultimate in the English language. Americans are impressed by an English accent.  We know that the universities in England are some of the best in the world.  We share a common history with the English people.  If you are studying Literature in English, American Literature only goes back so far, and after that, we study Literature from England as part of our Literature.  We acknowledge where it came from, but it is part of English.  England is America’s history.  Many Americans are under the impression that there is something very sophisticated about England.  However, after an Englishman has a degree, there is more he must do to teach in America, the same thing all Americans have to do, get a state teaching certificate.

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If you want to teach in America, first you have to have a valid degree.  Englishmen have valid degrees in America.  However, not all countries have valid degrees in America.  I knew a woman who was a Science teacher in Vietnam. She came to America during the Vietnam war.  They wouldn’t let her teach Science in America.  Probably no one understood her degree.  She went back to school and got a two year degree in Science and went to work in a lab.

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When I was in Romania, many of the Romanian professors were working on their doctorate, and I wanted to also. My husband discouraged it because he was afraid it wouldn’t be accepted in America.  However, when I went back to America, I learned that if I had done it, it would have been accepted in America.  When I was in Romania, they were sending American government education officials to check out the Romanian education system to see if it was equivalent to American degrees.  They are considered equivalent.  However, a Romanian English teacher can’t really compete with an American one because of the pronunciation and lack of understanding of nuisances in the language that Americans know.  From one thing I have learned though, is that Romanians are especially good with grammar. Some of them have been taught how to write an essay in English, and some haven’t, and the whole American and British systems evolve around writing essays.  Writing in a second language is very hard, and I have known really smart people who couldn’t even master it in their first language..

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When I was in America, I met a woman from China who was teaching English as a Second language to Mexicans in American schools.  They probably hired her because she spoke English as a Second language, so they thought she could help their students in a special way.  Anyone who is good at English as a Second Language could be considered to teach it as a second language in America with the proper credentials. The proper credentials is the key.

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When I was in Texas, they needed people to teach Spanish, and they were recruiting teachers from Mexico to teach Spanish to American students.  I was amazed because anyone else would have had to go through all the education classes and pass all the tests in a particular state to get a teaching certificate, but they were hiring people who had done all their schooling and passed all their teacher’s tests in Mexico to teach Spanish in Texas.

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In America, to be a teacher, you must have a degree that is considered valid in America.  After that, you have to have a teaching certificate from the state where you want to teach. Otherwise, you can’t teach.  You need to go through an education program at a university and pass the tests to get that certificate either that or go through a special state program that some states have, and it is only valid in the state where you got it.  If you move to another state, but you have a certificate from another state, you must send it into the state government for them to change it for a certificate in the new state, and you may also have to take a teaching test. Some states have alternative certification programs, but you still have to have a valid degree in the subject you want to teach and pass all the tests. An option if you have a valid degree, but no teaching certificate is to teach for the program “Teach For America” (I think that is the name).  It lets Americans who have degrees but no teaching certificates earn a teaching certificate through teaching in underprivileged areas. They have to leave home and teach in places where there is poverty, drugs, gangs, etc., and are rewarded for their efforts and sacrifice with a teaching certificate.  If you are English, you might be able to join this program if you are brave enough, but don’t quote me. You would have to ask them. My won tried to join them and specified where he wanted to go, and his specification of where he wanted to go didn’t fly.  He wanted to teach American Indians, and they wanted him to go to the inner city of New York City to the highest crime areas.

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When I taught in Romania, I had to have permission form the Education Ministry in Bucharest to teach for every year I taught. The rector from my university obtained it for me.  I considered the permission to be like a teaching certificate because not every foreigner could get the permission I got.  When I went to America, they asked me if I had a teaching certificate from another country and told me they could change it for one in America. I showed them my certificate from the Romanian Education Ministry, but they didn’t consider it valid. Perhaps because they couldn’t speak Romanian.

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When I was in Japan, I also had to have a special certificate from the Japanese government. It called me and “International Language Specialist.” It was issued after they went through all my documents.  It gave me permission to teach in Japan, but it also couldn’t be used a teaching certificate in America. It was all in Japanese. Maybe America would have been more likely to accept these certificates had they been written in English.

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I have a Romanian friend here in Korea who teaches at a Korean university.  She had to get a valid translation of her Romanian credentials to teach in Korea. They didn’t ask for Korean. They asked for English.  I translated all her documents into English and then had a Korean notarize it. The university accepted it. She now teaches English and French at a Korean university.  Romanians learn lots of languages, and they have something to offer the rest of the world: foreign language.  However, in Korea, just like in America, she had to fulfill the expectations and laws of the country in order to be allowed to teach.

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When I was teaching in an American university, there was a Japanese boy who wanted to transfer all his credits from his Japanese university to the American university. However, the registrar didn’t understand the records that were sent.  I sat down with her and explained the records to her, and he received credit for the Japanese courses in the American university toward his graduation from the American university.20190621_150342.jpg

When I was teaching at the university here in Korea, a Korean girl went as an exchange student to America.  She wanted to finish her degree in America and become an American nurse. However, the university in America had no provisions for what she wanted to do.  The university in America ended up making an agreement with the Korean university called a 2+2 program that allowed the Korean girl to graduate from the American university with the degree she wanted.  The American university agreed that if a student came from the Korean university, they could transfer two years of credits, and then the American university would let them graduate if they did two years at the American university too.

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America respects Korean degrees, and Koreans respect American degrees.  However, America does not respect every degree from every country.  In Korea, you can teach English without a teaching certificate as long as you have a degree from an English speaking country, about what they were doing with the Mexicans from Mexico in Texas they were hiring to teach Spanish.  However, the qualifications are getting stricter and stricter in Korea, and more of them are asking for an ESL teaching certificate.  The Japanese and Koreans both don’t ask for a teaching certificate to teach English if you have a graduate degree in English, but the Japanese want an ESL teaching certificate if you don’t have a graduate degree in English.

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It is much easier to teach in other countries than in America. However, I have heard that for a Korean to teach in a Korean public school here in Korea, they must go to a teacher’s college.  They don’t require Korean citizens to have a major in the thing being taught, just in Education.  In America, you must have a degree in the subject being taught from a valid university, and you must have a teaching certificate from the state where you want to teach, and if they have even more special teacher’s tests in that state, you must have passed all the special teacher’s tests too.  If you want to qualify to do it, it doesn’t matter which country you are from, but it takes dedication, work, knowledge, time, and money to do it.





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