In order to become a Spanish teacher, it’s essential to be truly bilingual.
However, that isn’t the only requirement. In the US, you’ll generally also need a bachelors, a masters, and a teacher certification exam in order to teach in public schools.
It’ll take a bit of planning and extra degrees and certification in order to pass all the hoops to become a Spanish teacher.
So what academic route do you need to follow in order to achieve your goal of becoming a Spanish teacher?
Here are the key steps to achieving your career goals - Step 1: start learning Spanish!
When should you start studying Spanish? Does your school system offer language classes in middle school or elementary, or just high school? Should you take Latin or another language first before moving on to Spanish?
Some parents really push Latin because they think it will help with SAT scores and learning other languages later. But with the US’ growing Hispanic population, learning Spanish right away can also be a practical choice!
Find out how much Spanish you really have to speak in order to teach it.
Learning Spanish in elementary school
More and more school districts are offering foreign languages from an early age as they fight to prepare their students for a globalized world. The theory goes that the earlier a student starts studying languages, the better and faster it will be for them to learn.
Over 50% of all US students who study a foreign language choose Spanish. French, German, and Italian are all less popular, but still common choices.
However many schools have recently begun offering Chinese, and even Arabic classes too!
Studying Spanish in high school
If Spanish isn’t an option in middle school, most schools will definitely offer it in high school. Most school systems require students to study a foreign language for at least a few years, and Spanish, French, or Latin are all common choices.
Students who began Spanish earlier may have the option of immersion courses or could look into spending a year doing a high school exchange programme through an organization like AFS.
At the end of high school, dedicated Spanish students will probably choose to take Advanced Placement Spanish, which will aid with their transition to college-level study.
High school is often make or break time for language study. Some students discover a new passion for the Spanish language and grammar, while others fall completely out of love with conjugations and rolled ‘r’s. For many, this is a time when students first become interested in becoming a Spanish teacher when they grow up.
Do you remember your first trip to Mexico or Spain? Did you go with your high school Spanish class? It’s often a transformative experience for children to discover the true style and culture of Spanish life. The nights out, busy roads late in the evening, sharing tables of tapas…it’s enough to keep anyone motivated to keep studying!
Choosing to study the language of Don Quixote in high school is a great step to one day becoming a Spanish teacher. And studying Spanish can often be helped along by plenty of online learning resources!
Join the discussion: what qualities should a Spanish teacher have?
Taking Advanced Placement Spanish - prove your language skills
In high school, students enthusiastic about learning languages generally also gravitate towards world culture and history classes if given a chance.
If you want to become a Spanish teacher and start working on your future career right now, you have a few different options to improve your Spanish fluency.
Signing up for AP Spanish
If you want to carry on with Spanish at college, AP Spanish is a must!
Beginning junior year of high school, many school systems offer students the option to begin taking advanced placement classes. The idea is that these are college-level classes, taught for the most advanced students, for a wide variety of subjects.
If your school doesn’t offer AP Spanish, it’s also always possible to find a course at a local community college, through Virtual High School, or simply study on your own. With any of these options, you’ll need to search the AP exam website to find a test center to take the AP Spanish exam at the end of the year.
The goal of AP Spanish is to reach advanced intermediate status in the language.
AP classes often move faster than normal language classes, and will be taught entirely in the target language.
And that’s not the only advantage. In AP Spanish you’ll often graduate to reading Spanish literature, and will begin to explore the language a bit more, beyond verb tenses and vocabulary. It’s an essential step if you want to completely master the language.
Also discover online tools for teaching Spanish!
Spanish immersion in high school
A few, but not all high schools will offer immersion options, which can be truly invaluable for future Spanish teachers, or anyone looking to study Spanish at the tertiary level.
Immersion is a great way to practice your Spanish, even while you’re also learning History, Science, or Math.
There are also some great options for student exchanges or study trips. Studying at an actual Spanish high school is a great way to push your language skills to the max, and learn and bit more about Spanish life and culture too!
In order to opt for an immersion or exchange program though, you’ll need a good level of Spanish to start with, and plenty of motivation.
A good Spanish tutor or school teacher should always have spent some time in a full immersion program! If you're looking for jobs after teaching, definitely consider becoming a private tutor with Superprof.
It’s important to use the language in everyday life, not just for linguistic assignments.
Going to college to become a Spanish teacher - what should your major be?
Once you graduate from high school and move on to college, you’ll have another choice to make. Should you study:
- or Spanish language and literature?
What college degree should you complete in order to become a Spanish teacher?
The differences between the degrees are tied to their primary goal
A Spanish major is for people who want to become really fluent in Spanish language and culture, often with a study abroad immersion component as well. Hispanic history, literature, and culture will be taught entirely in their native language.
A major in education is focused on preparing students for the classroom and your state's teacher certification exams. Classes will focus on lesson plan design, classroom management, child development, and teaching methods. As part of your training, your school may offer a student teacher program where you can get classroom experience in local schools, often teaching alongside a certified teacher, and then independently.
Majoring in a language is often an excellent basis for becoming a foreign language teacher - after all, you need to master the language before you can teach it to others.
Majoring in Spanish is a great way to really deepen your knowledge of the language, and of Hispanic culture and history too. These are key things to study if you want to become a Spanish teacher one day.
You could skip the degree programmes and become a self-taught Spanish teacher!
Study abroad in Spain or South America - a key step for any future Spanish teacher?
Of course, taking Spanish classes to perfect your grammar and vocabulary is an obligatory step to becoming a Spanish teacher…
And what better way to immerse yourself in the language than living in a country where you’ll have to speak it on a daily basis and really push your knowledge?
If you’ve ever seen The Spanish Apartment, you know that the study abroad experience is more than just an opportunity to study a language. Studying abroad can be a great opportunity to really learn about another country and culture…and about yourself at the same time.
Every year, nearly 290,000 American students study abroad in some form. It’s a number that has more than doubled in the past 15 years.
Heading to Spain for one or two semesters can be particularly beneficial to your ability to use Spanish in any context, so long as:
- You leave yourself open and try and integrate - and not just with other Americans and study abroad students who are mostly speaking English or rough Spanish
- You make a good attempt to meet ‘natives’ and use Spanish every day. Your vocabulary will be enriched, and it’s a key way to improve your oral comprehension and learn to express yourself fluently. It’s also a good opportunity to work on your Spanish accent.
- Visit and discover the country around you. Your new Spanish friends will enjoy showing you their country and way of life, and trains and buses are an easy way to get around!
However, make sure you aren’t confusing study abroad with vacation…you’ll have plenty of work too, and you’ll probably need a bit of time to adjust to the demands of the Spanish university system.
Discover also this guide for becoming a Spanish teacher...
Masters in Education in order to become a full-fledged teacher
The final step to becoming a full-fledged Spanish teacher is completing a Masters in Education and passing your state’s teacher certification exams.
Most school systems will let you begin teaching without the Masters, so long as you complete it during your first few years of teaching.
If you didn’t study education in undergrad, completing the masters will be especially important for you to understand basic teaching principles and methods.
A Masters in Education will normally cover:
- Teaching theory covering pedagogy and learning methods
- Classroom control methods and disciplinary theory
- Preparation for the teacher certification exam for your state and subject
- Substantial time in the classroom, both through observation, as well as completing at least a semester of student teaching.
The first year of the Masters is crucial as it will cover much of the basic teaching knowledge you’ll need to put into practice in your second year in the classroom. The teacher certification exams are also not to be taken lightly. For some, it will take several tries to pass them all!
But once you’re done, that will be everything you need to teach Spanish!
The classroom experience from student teaching is really key for your teacher training, and an important time for you personally to consider whether you really want to become a teacher, and what age group, teaching styles are right for you. This is your chance to try it all out and ask for help and advice from experienced teachers.
Once you have your masters and teacher certification in hand, your next step is looking for a job! Schools normally recruit over the summer, so don’t dilly dally after graduation!
According to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics, there will be almost 1.9 million job openings for teachers in the next decade. It’s time to find yours!
Of course, if you want to become a Spanish professor at a college or university, you might need to continue with your education first…
And if you’re thinking of working in a private school system or providing Spanish tutoring services, it’s also possible to teach Spanish without a degree or certification…