The Importance of Keeping your Credentials Current

by Marti Ahlquist

You are teaching overseas and your teaching credentials will expire in four months. Your school does not check to see if your credentials are current. It is costly to do; plus, the organization that gives you your credential does not recognize the professional development that your school is doing. What can you do? Is it worth renewing your credential?

I have heard these types of comments from various people over the years. Even people going through GECO/ICO (Pre-field Orientation for SIL TC&E staff: GECO – Global Education & Care Orientation/ICO – International CHED Orientation – previous name),who are not overseas yet, are contemplating letting their credentials expire. Please reconsider thinking this way. Great teachers contribute to creating great students. Years of research on teacher quality support the fact that effective teachers not only make students feel good about school and learning, but also that their work actually results in increased student achievement.  It is critical to ensure that we have ongoing and regular opportunities to learn due to: new research on how children learn, emerging technology tools for the classroom, new curriculum resources, and more.

Here is why keeping your credentials updated is important:

  1. To sharpen your skills through relevant training and potential interaction with other professionals.
  2. To keep abreast of what is happening in the field of education, and specifically in your subject area.
  3. To help the parents of your students know that you are seeking to maintain a level of expertise in your teaching.
  4. To ease your return to a job in teaching should you have to leave the mission field without spending additional time and money to get recurrent.

I kept my credentials current when I was overseas even the 13 years of serving in school administration. After moving to Dallas to work in Global TCK Care & Education, I kept my license current. Why would I spend the time and money to do that? It helped to give my role a more professional standing, as I continued to develop myself.

When I was overseas, I purposely planned my furlough to include distance education courses, even a few at the local university. Even with busy furlough and traveling it can be workable. Today’s online courses make it much easier to take the credits needed to get the professional development required. Learner’s Edge is a great resource because of the quality of the courses with a reasonable cost. Their whole focus is continuing education for teachers. They collaborate with several US colleges for the graduate credit. Check their site for current prices and group discounts should a couple of teachers from your school want to take the same course and pay less. Other options to get credits can be found on the this website, both degree and non-degree options.

Some countries and certain states in the US give lifetime credentials which is great! Yet I hope that does not keep you from seeking to improve in your teaching by increasing your knowledge. If you do need to maintain your credentials, here are some helpful suggestions.

  1. Find out exactly what is required to maintain your credentials. You can find this on the internet for any department of education.
  2. Look for a few options that will fulfill the requirement. This will help you choose the one that best fits your schedule and aligns with your interests, too.
  3. Some locations require a state or national test to verify the credential being updated. Investigate if this is needed for you and add the testing, or training, etc. you need to your schedule well before the due date.
  4. Submit the appropriate documentation to receive credit for the work you did. Proving you did something after the fact is more difficult than taking care of it in a timely way.

Okay, that applies for teachers, but what about boarding home parents (BHP) or youth workers? How does this concept translate for me?

Professional development is still important. What can you do to be better at the job you are doing? For youth workers, reading or research to better understand the students you are working with may enhance your skill set. Learning more about areas where students struggle (such as pornography or sexting) may help. As a BHP, you may want to improve language skills to better communicate with the locals helping you in the home. Or, you also might need to do some reading or research in the cultures represented in your home or issues that they may struggle with developmentally or mentally/emotionally. Regardless of your role in working with MKs, learning and building our expertise allows us to give them our best.

Life is busy living overseas. On top of all the responsibilities in your role, life itself takes more effort, whether preparing meals from scratch, extra cleaning of foods from the market/store or doing laundry without automatic machines. Even those who thought they were long term (and did stay overseas a long time) end up returning to their passport country and trying to find a job, whether in Wycliffe or outside. Keeping current really helps your resumé and makes you look a more promising candidate.

Rethink letting your credentials go – or even if you have let them go already, what can you do to continue to be involved in professional development to be able to promote yourself when needed sometime in the future?