Are you interested in teaching mathematics to middle-school or high-school students? Our department has a long tradition of preparing some of the state's best secondary-school mathematics teachers; we continue to be one of the largest sources of teachers for the schools, and are regularly contacted by school districts looking to hire mathematics teachers.
To teach in the public schools of the state of Illinois requires Certification (a legal document separate from your NIU degree). You may obtain a certification to teach mathematics in grades 6-12 by completing requirements comparable to the requirements for our bachelor's degree.
Those who hold or are seeking Illinois certification in one academic area may also teach in another area if they obtain an Endorsement in the second area. You may obtain an endorsement to teach mathematics in grades 9-12 by completing requirements comparable to the requirements for the Minor in Mathematical Sciences; you may obtain an endorsement to teach in grades 6-8 by completing requirements comparable to the requirements for the Minor in Elementary Mathematics Teaching.
(Those whose Certification is in Secondary-School Mathematics may also wish to obtain an Endorsement in a second area. There's plenty of demand for mathematics teachers, even without an Endorsement. But an Endorsement can, for example, increase your chances of being hired by one of the more competitive school districts.)
It is necessary to have a bachelor's degree (or higher) in order to obtain a Teaching Certificate. It is not necessary to have a major in mathematics to obtain a certificate in seconday-school mathematics (and it is not necessary to have a minor in mathematics to obtain an endorsement to teach mathematics). However, we encourage students, in general, to obtain both the degree and the certification (or the minor and the endorsement) because we believe this makes for better-prepared teachers -- and principals know this when they hire teachers. It's also usually very little additional work for you, the prospective teacher; why not get the extra credentials while you're at NIU? But we also welcome those who are only interested in the certification or endorsement. In particular, we can work with Postgraduate Students, Graduate Students, and Students-at-Large to prepare them for certification. (These terms refer to different groups of students who already have a bachelor's degree.) Please consult with an advisor in our department for more information.
While all students in the department are urged to stay in regular contact with their faculty advisors, this is especially important for students who are planning to teach. Since the state government is involved, there is quite a bit of paperwork to handle, and extra hurdles to be jumped. While it is possible for you to obtain Certification (or an Endorsement) directly from the State Board of Education, we strongly urge you to complete the requirements as set out by NIU while you work closely with an advisor in our department. (The state has reviewed our programs and determined that they meet the requirements for certification.) The program your advisor arranges with you will allow you to complete all the requirements in a timely fashion.
Please bookmark the department's main Teacher Certification page so that you have a reference for all the Certification requirements for secondary-school mathematics teaching.
As noted above, there are two endorsements in mathematics for those with certification in another area. As you might expect, the mathematics requirements are stronger for those who wish to teach grades 9-12 than for those who wish to teach grades 6-8. Both are challenging and rewarding careers and we encourage all those with talent and determination to work for the endorsements. While completing the requirements for the endorsement, you should consider also obtaining either of these minors:
For those with primary certification in another area but a strong background in mathematics, an endorsement in mathematics may be obtained either for grades 9-12 or for grades 6-8 while completing a Minor in Mathematical Sciences. Please note that these programs require approximately 18 credit hours of coursework after the three-semester calculus sequence.
If your certification is or will be in grades K-9 and you are interested in the middle-school mathematics endorsement, please consult the 6-8 endorsement requirements. If you are currently completing an undergraduate degree at NIU you should also consult the requirements for the Minor in Elementary Mathematics Education because they are similar but distinct; that is, it's not hard to obtain both but it takes a little planning.
No special certification is necessary (or available) for teaching mathematics in the primary grades beyond the standard K-12 certificate. That is, all primary-school teachers are expected to be competent to teach their students mathematics -- a very important responsibility! Therefore, all prospective K-12 teachers take at least one mathematics content course (Math 201) and one methods course on teaching mathematics to elementary-school students (Math 402). Additional coursework is available for those who would like to prepare to become excellent first teachers for the budding mathematicians of the future.
Those who intend to teach mathematics at the tertiary level are not required to study the teaching of mathematics. The appropriate credential for a future teacher of mathematics at a community college is a Master's degree in mathematics; a Ph.D. is often preferred. If you hope someday to teach mathematics at a four-year college or university, you should plan to earn a Ph.D. in Mathematics, which is usually required. Since your college years are then preparing you to enter graduate school, you should probably complete the requirements for the major in our department; the General Emphasis is probably the best one for you because it introduces you to the more abstract material necessary for graduate school.
In particular, it is not especially appropriate to think about "teaching at the high school level for a while and then moving up to teaching college". Those are two very different careers, each very important but requiring different preparation. We encourage students to think about what their real life-time goals are and to prepare directly for them during their college years.
However, it is definitely true that teaching at the high-school and college (especially junior-college) levels have much in common, and so a future college-level teacher could benefit from the same preparation experienced by a future high-school teacher. So if you are interested in college-level teaching, our emphasis in Mathematics Education could still be beneficial for you. Please discuss your future plans with an advisor in our department early in your college career.
Coordinator of Teacher Certification:
Ms. Bonnie Kersten