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Prepared Military Spouses Can Earn Good Grades When They Search For Teaching Positions

Editor’s note: This is a monthly column addressing the specific requirements many spouses will have to follow to move their professional licenses as they PCS.

Adrienne Fuscallero feels very fortunate to have her job. As a middle school social studies teacher, Fuscallero enjoys having her own classroom.

But each time the Army moves the couple, Fuscallero digs into her skills as a working military wife and reminds herself of the challenges that lie ahead.

“It’s a gamble. The school districts take a risk on us because we don’t know how long we will be there,” she said.

Fuscallero, a Philadelphia native, began teaching kindergarten in her hometown after graduating with an education degree. With a minor in Spanish, Fuscallero taught a bilingual class and earned her master’s degree, all while her husband was deployed and the family was re-assigned to a different state.

Fuscallero began her job search immediately upon joining her husband at Fort Bragg, N.C.

“I made a lot of friends at a picnic, and the next morning, I had 10 interviews,” she said.

These interviews reaffirmed Fuscallero’s penchant for preparedness and reminded her to arm herself for each move.

“The first thing the superintendents ask for is your teaching certificate, and if you don’t have one, they won’t even talk to you,” she said.

The middle school job ended up being what Fuscallero calls a leap of faith. She’d never taught fifth grade before, but the principal needed her, so she jumped in and loved it.

Now, Fuscallero has taught in three states and has had to obtain a new certification in each before she could begin teaching there. To make the process slightly easier, certain states have a waiver of reciprocity for teaching certificates; meaning, once you are certified in one state, other states may accept the same certificate.

Some states also prefer teachers to not only have a certificate, but to earn endorsements particular to their area of teaching. Fuscallero also said she noticed a particular difference in requirements for substitute teachers when she moved from the northern part of the country to the southern. For example, in Pennsylvania, a spouse cannot substitute teach without a teaching certificate, but in the southern states Fuscallero has lived in, you can substitute with just a college degree.

The certification process ranges from state to state, too. Some states require the teacher to take a test, whereas others provide a course that must be completed first. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what your specialty is.

Upon a move to Alabama, Fuscallero, whose master’s degree is in reading specialty, spent six weeks as a substitute gym teacher.

“I was willing to do whatever the school needed me to do to get started,” she said.

Fuscallero is an advocate of substituting first, as a way to get your foot in the door, and eventually winning a full-time teaching job when a position becomes available. However, she cautioned, in some school systems, being a really good substitute can sometimes lead to just being a permanent substitute.

As soon as Fuscallero knows her new PCS destination, she follows a checklist for preparing for a new job search and encourages other spouses to do this as quickly as possible. She searches online for the new state’s department of education and prepares her credentials, her education transcripts, her certificate containing every endorsement and qualifications and all of her state licensing test scores. She combines this material with the state’s application packet and can then receive a certificate for the new state within six to eight weeks.

She also recommends not only applying online, but sending hard copies, too. Fuscallero said many states provide district job listings and teachers can apply for jobs in the districts of their choice. For these, Fuscallero always follows up with an email after applying to really “sell herself,” she said.

Upon arrival to her new state, Fuscallero continues her pursuits in person.

“It’s better to go in to a school yourself with your resume, or else, you’re just another name who has applied,” she said.

For teachers who have their education degree and may not have a certificate for any state yet, Fuscallero suggests personally visiting the school.

“Even if you don’t have a teaching certificate, just go in with a resume and introduce yourself anyway. Many schools will help you get your certificate and make suggestions for specific areas of endorsement that their school may need you to get,” she said.

Whether she’s teaching elementary or middle school, gym or social studies, Fuscallero is grateful to have had a teaching job everywhere she and her husband have been stationed.

“Sometimes there are challenges, but I like to have a good attitude, and I’m thankful for having a job and a purpose,” she said.

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