What Do I Need to Know as a New Student?

  • Your GPA

    You will need to maintain a minimum overall grade point average of 3.0 and a minimum grade point average in Spanish of 3.0 through graduation in order to remain in the program. However, these are only minimums! Some school district superintendents report that, when they screen job applicants, they often disregard those applicants whose overall grade point averages are below 3.2 or even 3.5.

    Your Oral Proficiency in Spanish

    Your ability to use Spanish in oral communication is very important. Your oral proficiency will be assessed a minimum of two times: once during the second semester of your sophomore year and again the semester prior to student teaching. Students often find it helpful to have an oral assessment done upon return from a study abroad program. In rating your oral proficiency, the Department of Foreign Languages uses the Official ACTFL Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) and the scale developed by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). Your oral proficiency must be rated at least “Intermediate-Mid” during the second semester of your sophomore year as one requirement for successfully completing the Mid-Program Review, and your oral proficiency must be rated at least “Advanced-Low” the semester prior to student teaching according to the following dates:

    Student Teaching in Spring Semester: Complete OPI by October 15*

    Student Teaching in Fall Semester: Complete OPI by April 15*

    *Any exceptions to these dates may be granted only by the coordinator of Spanish Education K-12 and only in cases of extenuating circumstances.

    Sophomore-Year OPI: This OPI is an “advisory OPI”: it will be done by one of the department’s certified OPI testers and will be double rated by a second certified tester in the department in order to confirm your level. If you do not make the required minimum level of Intermediate-Mid, you will still be able to proceed with Spanish and education courses; however, your priority will need to be the improvement of your speaking proficiency. Your advisor will work with you to develop a plan for helping you to improve your oral proficiency.

    Final OPI Prior to Student Teaching: This OPI is an “Academic Institutional Upgrade” that is sent to Language Testing International for an official double rating. (There is a fee for this test.) You will receive an Official ACTFL Oral Proficiency Certificate that states your proficiency level. This is a very meaningful credential for you to have as you seek employment as a Spanish teacher. If you do not attain Advanced-Low, you are not permitted to student teach the next semester . Your advisor will work with you to develop a plan for acquiring the skills necessary to reach the level. You may still take Spanish courses and may take another OPI the following semester.

    Important Notes Regarding OPI:

    1. Please note that you may have only one oral proficiency interview (OPI) in a given semester. Improving one’s proficiency level requires time and a great deal of effort devoted to speaking Spanish outside of the classroom. It is highly unlikely that one’s OPI rating could change within one semester. If you do not attain the required level of proficiency, you will be asked to develop a plan with your advisor in which you outline how you will acquire the skills necessary for reaching the level. In this case, you may still take Spanish courses; but, if you are ready for student teaching, it will have to be postponed.
    2. If your OPI is confirmed by Language Testing International (LTI) to be lower than Advanced Low,  LTI requires that your subsequent OPI be a telephonic interview conducted by a different certified OPI tester. You will need to arrange for this OPI directly with LTI; the current cost of the telephonic test is $139 (subject to change). You will pay LTI directly.
    3. If you take your final OPI two semesters (not including summer) prior to student teaching (e.g., at the end of the Valladolid program) and you demonstrate Advanced-Low proficiency or higher, you do not have to repeat the OPI the semester prior to student teaching unless your student teaching is delayed. If you choose to take your final OPI more than two semesters prior to student teaching and you demonstrate Advanced-Low proficiency, you will need to be retested the semester prior to student teaching to be sure that your oral proficiency is still at the required level or higher.

    To attain the required level of oral proficiency, you must take the responsibility for practicing your Spanish outside of the classroom. You are encouraged to participate in the activities of Spanish Club (Ándale) and other international groups on campus. You might also arrange for practice with a student from a Spanish-speaking country.

    Advanced-Low Descriptor for Speaking: Speakers at the Advanced-Low level are able to handle a variety of communicative tasks, although somewhat haltingly at times. They participate actively in most informal and a limited number of formal conversations on activities related to school, home, and leisure activities and, to a lesser degree, those related to events of work, current, public, and personal interest or individual relevance. Advanced-Low speakers demonstrate the ability to narrate and describe in all major time frames (past, present and future) in paragraph length discourse, but control of aspect may be lacking at times. They can handle appropriately the linguistic challenges presented by a complication or unexpected turn of events that occurs within the context of a routine situation or communicative task with which they are otherwise familiar, though at times their discourse may be minimal for the level and strained. Communicative strategies such as rephrasing and circumlocution may be employed in such instances. In their narrations and descriptions, they combine and link sentences into connected discourse of paragraph length. When pressed for a fuller account, they tend to grope and rely on minimal discourse. Their utterances are typically not longer than a single paragraph. Structure of the dominant language is still evident in the use of false cognates, literal translations, or the oral paragraph structure of the speaker's own language rather than that of the target language. While the language of Advanced-Low speakers may be marked by substantial, albeit irregular flow, it is typically somewhat strained and tentative, with noticeable self-correction and a certain grammatical roughness. The vocabulary of Advanced-Low speakers is primarily generic in nature. Advanced-Low speakers contribute to the conversation with sufficient accuracy, clarity, and precision to convey their intended message without misrepresentation or confusion, and it can be understood by native speakers unaccustomed to dealing with non-natives, even though this may be achieved through repetition and restatement. When attempting to perform functions or handle topics associated with the Superior level, the linguistic quality and quantity of their speech will deteriorate significantly. View the complete list of speaking proficiency guidelines.

    Your Writing Proficiency in Spanish

    The development of your writing proficiency is also important. The semester prior to student teaching you will take the Official ACTFL Writing Proficiency Test (WPT) and must receive a minimum rating of Advanced-Low as a prerequisite for student teaching. (There is a fee for this test.) If you do not attain Advanced-Low, you may not student teach the next semester . Your advisor will work with you to develop a plan for acquiring the skills necessary to reach the level. You may still take Spanish courses and may take another WPT the following semester.

    Sophomore-Year Writing Sample: As part of the Mid-Program Review, you will complete a writing sample in Spanish, designed to mirror the format of the WPT. The purpose of this writing sample is to provide you with feedback on your writing in Spanish and familiarize you with the format of the WPT. You will not receive a proficiency rating, nor is there a required level or score. This writing sample is designed to provide you with early feedback on your writing so that you are aware of what you need to do in order to reach the minimum level of Advanced-Low on the WPT. Your advisor will work with you to develop a plan for helping you to improve your writing proficiency.

    Advanced-Low Descriptor for Writing: Writers at the Advanced-Low level are able to meet basic work and/or academic writing needs, produce routine social correspondence, write about familiar topics by means of narratives and descriptions of a factual nature, and write simple summaries. Advanced-Low writers demonstrate the ability to narrate and describe in major time frames with some control of aspect. Advanced-Low writers are able to combine and link sentences into texts of paragraph length and structure. Their writings, while adequate to satisfy the criteria of the Advanced level, may not be substantive. Writers at the Advanced-Low level demonstrate an ability to incorporate a limited number of cohesive devices but may resort to much redundancy, and awkward repetition. Subordination in the expression of ideas is present and structurally coherent, but generally relies on native patterns of oral discourse or the writing style of the writer's first language. Advanced-Low writers demonstrate sustained control of simple target-language sentence structures and partial control of more complex structures. When attempting to perform functions at the Superior level, their writing will deteriorate significantly. Writing at the Advanced-Low level is understood by natives not used to the writing of non-natives although some additional effort may be required in the reading of the text. View the complete list of writing proficiency guidelines.

    Important Note Regarding WPT:

    Please note that, generally speaking, you may have only one writing proficiency interview (WPT) in a given semester. LTI has a 90-day wait policy for cases in which the level is one sub-level below Advanced Low. However, LTI permits a one-time only waiver to this policy per student. If you are at least Intermediate High in writing and provided there is time in the semester for you to remediate, the coordinator of Spanish Education K-12 may permit you to request the waiver. In this case, the coordinator would make arrangements for a re-take and you would need to pay for a second WPT (cost is currently $50, but is subject to change). If you do not attain the required level of proficiency on the second WPT, you will be asked to develop a plan with your advisor in which you outline how you will acquire the skills necessary for reaching the level. In this case, student teaching will have to be postponed until the required level is met.

    Note: Teacher candidates take the OPI and the WPT in place of the PRAXIS II Spanish Content Knowledge Test. These tests will be scheduled by the IUP Department of Foreign Languages. Candidates must still take the Fundamental Subjects Test of PRAXIS II. The current fee for the OPI/WPT package is $90.

    Your Participation in Study Abroad Programs

    It is not too early to start thinking about participating in one or more of our study abroad programs. You are required to study abroad to help you to attain the desired proficiency goal and to develop a first-hand experience with Hispanic cultures. Prospective employers will want to know about the types of experiences you have had abroad. Your advisor will give you detailed information about these programs and will discuss with you how the credits earned abroad will fit into your IUP program requirements. Students may choose study abroad programs outside of IUP provided that programs are from accredited institutions and that IUP accepts the credits earned from courses completed.

    Criminal Record Checks and CastleBranch

    In accordance with the Pennsylvania Department of Education and school districts with which we partner for field experiences, teacher education candidates must maintain current clearances. All candidates are required to have a CastleBranch account for managing their clearances. The CastleBranch management system will allow students to upload, maintain, and access their clearances from any electronic device. Candidates must update their clearances by August 15 of each year and must return for fall semester with all clearances updated. The clearances that will be stored and monitored within CastleBranch are: Act 34—Arrest and Conviction Report; Act 34—Criminal Background Check; Act 114—FBI Fingerprinting (Note: Students now need to purchase their own copies of this report for a small charge); Act 126—Child Abuse Recognition and Reporting Act; Act 151—Child Abuse History Clearance; TB test (free to all students who have paid the wellness fee); Proof of liability required—PSEA membership or private insurance. See the IUP Educator Preparation website for details regarding how to set up a CastleBranch account.

    Teacher candidates should be aware that some districts or intermediate units may not accept placements if any criminal record is reflected on these background checks. Candidates with a criminal record, even a summary offense, are asked to disclose this history to their program upon entry so that a determination can be made about whether placement will be possible. Some serious offenses, typically involving child welfare, preclude state certification. Students who do not provide the required background checks or for whom the College of Education and Communications cannot find an acceptable placement will be terminated from the program.

    Your Professional Involvement

    You will want to begin thinking about ways in which you will become involved in your professional development outside of your course work. Throughout your time in our program, you will keep track of your professional activities by means of the “Professional Involvement Log” that appears in Appendix A. You will present this log at two points in the program: the Mid-Program Review and Step 2. Ways in which you develop professionally include:

    • your efforts to improve your Spanish outside of class through activities such as involvement in clubs (e.g., Ándale, LASO) and interactions with conversational partners;
    • your attendance at professional development events such as conferences;
    • your familiarity and involvement with (including membership in) foreign language professional organizations, such as the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), the Pennsylvania State Modern Language Association (PSMLA), the local chapter of the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese (AATSP), and the local Appalachian Language Educators’ Society (APPLES), to name just a few.

    See the rubrics for Mid-Program Review English Interview in Appendix B.

    Your Professional Dispositions

    It is essential that you demonstrate the dispositions (i.e., attitudes, behavior) characteristic of a professional in the field of education. Remember that you will be a role model for young people and are also a representative of IUP and the Department of Foreign Languages as you complete field experiences in the public schools. Keep the following in mind during your years as a Spanish Education K-12 major:

    1. Monitor carefully what you have posted on social networks such as Facebook and MySpace. Is there anything posted that you would not want public school administrators, parents, and students to see or read, either in English, Spanish, or any other language? Are there photos and/or messages that may be perceived as portraying you in a negative light? If so, we highly recommend that you remove questionable material, make your site as private as possible, or better yet, that you consider closing it temporarily. Teachers have recently been fired because of questionable photos posted to these sites. Student teachers have been removed from student teaching because of messages posted to their “walls,” the content of which was perceived to be unprofessional. Remember that, even if you think your information is private, once it is out there, you have little control over where it goes and who sees it. School districts and the college office monitor these sites on a regular basis, so don’t run the risk of having social networking compromise your success as a teacher.
    2. Begin to dress professionally as you transition from student to teacher. For females, plunging necklines, bare midriffs, and short skirts/shorts are not appropriate, even while you are a student attending classes. For males, sagging trousers that reveal underwear and baseball caps that cover the eyes are not appropriate. Further, certain bodily decorations, such as visible tattoos and lip/tongue piercings, are not considered to be professional. You will be given specific guidelines for clothing expectations during field experiences, but remember that you are a reflection of being a professional from the time you enter the program.
    3. Consider carefully the effects of alcohol/drug consumption. In addition to obvious health risks, engaging in this type of risky behavior is likely to have a negative effect on your academic progress and status in the program. Contact the COE-ET for more information on the consequences of DUIs and other alcohol/drug-related criminal charges.

    Your Field Experiences in Spanish Classrooms

    You will have three opportunities to develop your teaching expertise by teaching in public school classrooms:

    Year Experience Grade Level
    Sophomore/Junior Pre-Student Teaching I
    (min. of 35 hours)
    Elementary School (Rural)
    Junior Pre-Student Teaching II
    (min. of 35 hours)
    Middle or High School
    Senior Student Teaching
    (15 weeks)
    Middle or High School
    (Urban or Suburban)

    How do we determine where you are placed for each field experience? First of all, by the time you complete the program, you must have an elementary, and a middle and/or high school experience. You should also experience urban, suburban, and rural settings. An urban field experience is a must! School district superintendents in all three settings report that job applicants must have had an urban experience in order to be considered for employment. Secondly, we select the school in which you will be placed, because we work with certain sites where we have highly qualified teachers. Therefore, you must not call school districts on your own. Further, we have other restrictions on where you can be placed: for example, you cannot return to the district from which you graduated or in which a relative is employed. Our placements are situated in Southwestern Pennsylvania (i.e., in the Indiana Area and south and west within approximately a 75-mile radius).

    Important Prerequisites for Student Teaching

    Given the many variables which must be taken into consideration when arranging for both Pre-Student Teaching II and Student Teaching, the following are important prerequisites:

    • It is expected that you have your own transportation, preferably your own car for all field experiences.
    • You should be prepared to arrange for housing near the school where you are placed.
    • Because of the demands on your time during student teaching, your coursework will already be completed and you are not permitted to take courses during this semester.
    • Having a job is highly discouraged: Student teaching is a full-time endeavor, and you must often stay after school and come to school in the evenings for events.
    • All clearances (including TB) must be updated when the student teaching application is placed. Clearances must last for the duration of all field experiences
    • Proof of liability insurance is required for all field placements, including Spanish 390. You may provide proof of liability insurance by joining PSEA or by having private insurance (must have a minimum of $1,000,000 per claim and an aggregate of $3,000,000 per occurrence if obtained via private insurance).

    Knowing this information at this early stage will help you to prepare for your field experiences, particularly student teaching.

    Your Electronic Portfolio: Documenting Your Professional Growth

    Throughout your years at IUP, you will compile an electronic portfolio in order to document your growth as a teacher and your effectiveness on student learning. You should read very carefully the last section of this handbook (beige pages) for details on how to begin this process. You will be working closely with your advisor and your professors in making selections of your work for inclusion in the portfolio. All students will be required to purchase LiveText, as part of their registration for ACE103, which they will use for the design of their electronic portfolios.

    Your Advisor

    You must meet with your designated academic advisor at least one time each semester, during the advising period prior to registration for the following semester. You will not be given your PIN number until after you have this meeting. At this meeting, you and your advisor will decide which courses you should select for the following semester. Never attempt to register without seeking the assistance of your advisor. Your advisor has a great deal of program information to share with you; therefore, it is extremely important to schedule regular meetings.

    In addition to this meeting, you will find it necessary to meet with your advisor concerning:

    • application for each step of the Three-Step Process for Teacher Education;
    • completion of requirements for mid-program review;
    • placement for student teaching;
    • any change in your program needs;
    • ongoing discussion about your electronic portfolio and professional involvement;
    • change in your address/phone;
    • your general academic progress;
    • study abroad opportunities and/or job opportunities;
    • any other questions or problems you might encounter.

    Your advisor will have posted office hours, during which time you may come in without an appointment. You might also schedule a specific appointment if you need more time or a time other than the posted office hours. You can also e-mail your advisor or if you have a brief question that can be answered easily over the telephone, you can call him/her.

    Successful students keep in close contact with their advisors!