State & Federal Prison Teacher
- Teach incarcerated youth basic literacy
- Educate adult prison inmates
- Change lives with career education
Most prisoners (youth and adults) have access to educational courses and training while in prison. The objective of prison education is to help inmates gain skills and qualifications that will allow them to find employment when they are released. Research has shown that prisoners who gain employment after release are much less likely to re-offend.
Who are prison teachers?
A teacher for the state or federal prison system is either a uniformed prison officer who has obtained their teaching credentials and certification, or a civilian with their teaching credentials with previous career experience. Much of the training they offer is in vocational and practical skills, such as construction, basic literacy, mathematical skills and career preparation. The learning environment is much harsher than in a high-school classroom, and inmates' attitudes toward their training can vary from highly enthusiastic to extremely negative -- so prison teachers need to be flexible and thick-skinned.
State and federal prison teachers plan their training programs around their students, based on the prison's assessment data, their own knowledge of teaching strategies and learning styles, and availability of resources. In-classroom work may include individualized teaching, peer tutoring and computer lessons.
A diverse curriculum is needed to meet the variety of inmates in prison classrooms. This may require writing an original curriculum rather than modifying the standard lesson plans used in more traditional classrooms. Inmates may have special learning needs such as dyslexia, hearing limitations and limited social or educational understanding.
Teachers also need to develop a record-keeping system to successfully track each student's progress. If a student is failing in one area, then teachers and other staff members may need to analyze the student's strengths and weaknesses, and properly modify the curriculum to help the student succeed. Prison staff members' observations are crucial, as social difficulty outside the classroom can hamper educational efforts. Input can come from a variety of sources such as psychological reports, prior teachers and inmate medical records.
Prison teachers may also assist and train institutional staff in working with inmates who have low educational abilities or learning disabilities. They may also serve as education advisers at meetings and offer measurable goals for the inmates.
In addition to teaching basic literacy and career-oriented skills, some teachers teach art and art therapy to prisoners. Art Behind Bars is a community service organization that teaches art education and donates inmate art creations to numerous non-profit organizations locally and nationally, such as Habitat for Humanity.
There are many teaching opportunities available within the state and federal prison system. Teachers can advance to management roles, or transfer to other types of institution, such as a mental institutions or state-funded health facilities. Teaching inmates can also be a great transition from a previous career into an educational career that makes a difference. It's not an easy career, but each life changed through career skills, social skills, or a new outlook on life is a lifetime award.
Requires a degree in:
- Secondary Learning
- Teaching methods
- Assessing individual prisoner's skills and competence levels
- Develop and implement educational curricula
- Organize and track student progress
- Teach social educational skills
- Life Skills for State and Local Prisoners
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- Correctional Officer
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