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Can a Felon Become a School Teacher?

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Some felons may have enjoyed helping others in prison by instructing them and thought of becoming a teacher after their release. There are resources available for felons to start a new career as many employers have found that felons make good employees.

This blog post will address the issue of whether or not a felon can become a school teacher.

  • What Is a School Teacher?
  • What Education/Training Does a School Teacher Need?
  • How Much Does a School Teacher Earn?
  • An Opportunity for Felons?
  • Recommended Action


What Is a School Teacher?

A school teacher instructs students and helps them learn and apply the concepts in basic academic subjects such as:

  • Science
  • Mathematics
  • Language Arts
  • Social Studies
  • Art
  • Music

A school teacher works at all levels of education:

  • Elementary school – Kindergarten through fifth grade
  • Middle school – Sixth through eighth grade
  • High school – Ninth through twelfth grade

A teacher working in elementary school typically instructs in all subjects while someone in middle school and high school usually specializes in teaching one subject.

A teacher’s role involves many elements, including serving as a:

  • Parent
  • Disciplinarian
  • Mentor
  • Counselor

With this diversity of activities a school teacher typically has the following duties:

  • Teaching students
  • Preparing lesson plans
  • Grading student assignments
  • Evaluating students’ educational needs
  • Working with individual students to improve their abilities
  • Preparing students for standardized tests
  • Enforcing classroom rules
  • Communicating with parents

To be successful as a teacher someone must have many skills, including:

  • Instructional abilities to teach students
  • Empathy to understand students’ needs
  • Communication skills to share information with students and parents
  • Patience to work with students who are struggling
  • Interpersonal skills to negotiate with and persuade students
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Decision-making abilities
  • Observational abilities to monitor students’ progress
  • Writing skills to convey information regarding students

What Education/Training Does a School Teacher Need?

All states require public school teachers to have at least a bachelor’s degree, usually in a subject area, such as science or history. Private school teachers do not need to meet state educational requirements, but they typically have a bachelor’s degree. All states require teachers in public schools to be licensed or certified for a specific grade level. Those who teach in private schools typically are not required to be licensed.

In teacher education classes, students learn how to present information to students and how to work with students of different backgrounds, abilities, and learning styles. Programs typically include a student-teaching program in which they work under a mentor teacher.

Requirements for certification or licensure vary by state but generally involve:

  • A bachelor’s degree
  • Completion of a teacher education program and supervised experience
  • Passing a background check
  • Passing a general teaching certification exam
  • Passing a specific exam covering knowledge in a particular subject

How Much Does a School Teacher Earn?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that there are approximately 3,653,600 certified teachers in the United States. This occupation is expected to show an 8% growth by 2026.

The median annual salary  for high school teachers in 2016 was $58,030 annually. Middle school teachers earned $56,720, and elementary school teachers made $55,800. The median is that salary which half of the school teachers receive more than and half receive less.

Geographic location, certification, experience, and specialization could have a significant impact on these earnings. A school teacher on the East or West coast, for example, typically receives a higher salary than one in other areas of the country.

An Opportunity for Felons?

A felon can pursue any degree he or she wants. Approximately 60% of colleges consider criminal history in their admissions process, although there is no standard policy regarding a background check. Any felon that wants to get a degree so they can teach can find a college that will accept him or her. A felon may have difficulty getting accepted into some schools, but there are programs that will accept a felon.

Teachers are trusted to educate and prepare children while providing for their safety. Criminal background checks are necessary for anyone wanting to become a school teacher. While minor crimes may not interfere with a felon becoming a teacher, certain criminal offenses will prevent them from being certified. Each state legislature determines which crimes are not allowable for a teacher.

Regulations differ from state to state, but there are certain crimes that will keep all felons from becoming a teacher:

  • Murder
  • Arson
  • Rape
  • Sex crimes with a minor
  • Kidnapping
  • Extortion
  • Domestic violence

Additionally, there are stipulations against felons for specific crimes when wanting to teach children. There must be no:

  • Sexual offenses – Child molestation, sexual battery, lewd conduct
  • First or second degree felonies – Burglary, grand theft, manslaughter
  • Serious drug offenses – Manufacture, trafficking, drug addiction
  • Endangering others – Terrorist threat, stalking, weapons charge

Certification requirements vary by state as do regulations for various offenses. Often, teacher certification is possible with a felony conviction of theft but the offender will be required to provide additional information for consideration.

In some states a felony conviction requires the individual to provide to the State Board of Education the following:

  • A certified court record of the conviction
  • Evidence that a minimum of one year has passed since the end of the sentence
  • An explanation of the circumstances of the crime from the applicant
  • Signed statements from employers and college instructors

The State Superintendent reviews these documents and determines evidence of good character and rehabilitation in combination with the:

  • Seriousness of the offense
  • Individual’s age at the time of the offense
  • Individual’s background
  • Any criminal penalty that was imposed

It is important to be honest when applying for certification as a school teacher. If a felony isn’t disclosed but is found on a background check, this constitutes fraud and is punishable. It is a crime to falsify an application which could result in being sent back to prison.

In order to be successful as a teacher it is essential for felons to be honest about their background. They are already viewed with negative perceptions of being dishonest, untrustworthy, and unwilling or unable to follow directions from authority figures.

Having their record expunged can give them the chance needed to begin with a clean record and succeed in becoming a school teacher. Expunging a criminal record allows anyone to honestly state on an application that he or she has not been convicted of a crime.

Also, keep in mind that if you’re having issues finding employment, you can create your own courses online.  And, if things go really well, you may eventually be able to license your courses to other instructors and even companies to use in their own training program.

Recommended Action

It is a significant challenge, but it might be worth it for a felon that wants to become a school teacher. Having his or her record expunged and also documenting any training programs or additional education could make the essential difference in a felon succeeding. Spending time in a volunteer role in the educational field initially to gain experience could be essential.

Having support from family, friends, or previous employers can make a huge difference. A felon doesn’t have to be defined by his or her crime. We are not defined by our mistakes but by how we recover from them. He or she can begin again and live an honest life no matter how difficult it might seem.

What do you think about this blog post? Have you or someone you know been in the situation of trying to become a school teacher with a felony? What was that like for him or her, and how did he or she achieve success? Please tell us in the comments below.

3 thoughts on “Can a Felon Become a School Teacher?”

  1. Hi,
    I know someone who has a criminal record and has been convicted with a felony (theft). She is a well rounded lady with a lot of credentials. She has a Master’s degree in Social Work and a teaching certification. She used to teach until her felony. Unfortunately, she made a big mistake and has caused her her career. Is there any hope or chance of her going back to teach again? She would love to be an ESL teacher. Please provide some recommendations and/or advice.

    Thank you.

  2. I pray you’ve received some additional guidance in this area or have found a college on your own that would accept your admission 🙂 I guess as long as you look at your state’s guidelines and your crime does not constitute a condition where you would not be allowed to become a certified teacher there, you just need to find a college program you can apply to! 🙂 God bless!!! I pray you’re doing well.


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