How to Become a Physical Education Teacher in Wisconsin

With its many lakes, open land, rivers, and other natural wonders, PE teachers help the future children and young adults of Wisconsin appreciate the importance of physical activity both in the classroom and outdoors.

You will need to make your way through several requirements in order to be eligible for PE teacher jobs in Wisconsin:

Earn a Bachelor’s Degree and Complete a State-Approved Physical Educator Preparation Program
Pass the Praxis I and Praxis II PE: Content and Knowledge Exam
Become a Licensed Physical Education Teacher in Wisconsin
Maintain and Upgrade Your Wisconsin PE Teacher License

PE teachers in Wisconsin have a long and proud tradition, and just last year a teacher from Cedarburg was named the National Physical Education Teacher of the Year.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction is the authority when it comes to setting physical education standards and issuing PE teacher licenses. The Teacher Education, Professional Development, and Licensing arm of this Department will become a familiar name for prospective students researching how to become a physical education teacher in Wisconsin.



Step 1. Earn a Bachelor’s Degree and Complete a State-Approved Teacher Preparation Program

Several colleges and universities in Wisconsin offer a bachelor’s degree that is specifically tailored for students who want to pursue K-12 physical education teacher jobs in Wisconsin. These programs, sometimes referred to as a Physical Education Teacher Option or PETE, combine a higher education curriculum in both PE and pedagogy. They also culminate in a Wisconsin PE teaching certification.

Candidates may also transfer with an associate’s degree or higher academic credentials to a state-approved PE teacher preparation program, provided they meet the program’s prerequisites for admittance.

These PE teaching prep programs will include courses such as:

  • First aid and CPR
  • Kinesiology fundamentals
  • Basic elements in physical education
  • Teaching PE concepts
  • Physical education pedagogy
  • Sports, movement, and learning
  • Psychology of physical education
  • Health and nutrition
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Evaluating the improvement of PE students

If you are completing or have already completed a bachelor’s program to be able to teach PE in grades K-12, a state-approved post-baccalaureate teaching program will be necessary.

There are 14 state-approved colleges and universities in Wisconsin that offer a teaching major in physical education at the bachelor’s and post-bachelor’s level.

An important element of a PE instructor prep program is its student teaching portion. This is completed as you reach your final year and takes place at one of Wisconsin’s public schools. During this segment of your instruction you will work under close supervision alongside an experienced PE teacher. As part of your student teaching experience you will:

  • Lead classroom sports and activities
  • Incorporate constructive feedback into your teaching methods
  • Adapt pedagogical theory to the classroom environment
  • Develop and implement physical education lesson plans
  • Encourage the growth and development of your students in the field of PE
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Step 2. Pass the Praxis I and Praxis II PE: Content and Knowledge Exam

As a requirement to gain entry into the upper-level PE teacher preparation program, you will need to take and pass three exams known as the Praxis I tests. These are offered through Educational Testing Service (ETS) and evaluate you on your basic knowledge in fundamental academic areas. The three required tests and their corresponding passing scores are:

Beginning September 1st of 2014, these Praxis I tests will be replaced by the following exams, similar in content and also administered by ETS. The tests, which are known as Core Academic Skills for Educators, or CORE exams, are shown here with the scores required to pass:

  • CORE Reading – 156
  • CORE Writing – 162
  • CORE Mathematics – 150

Also administered by ETS, the Praxis II Physical Education: Content and Knowledge exam will evaluate your specific knowledge about teaching PE in the classroom. You will need to take this before you apply for your initial teaching license. You can prepare for this test by consulting the ETS study guide. You will have two hours to complete 120 multiple-choice questions organized into four different categories:

  • 36 questions on PE content knowledge as well as student growth and development
  • 30 questions on management, motivation, and communication
  • 30 questions on planning, instruction, and student assessment
  • 24 questions on collaboration, reflection, and technology

You must receive of score of at least 150 in order to pass the Physical Education: Content and Knowledge Exam.



Step 3. Become a Licensed Physical Education Teacher in Wisconsin

There are several pathways to becoming a licensed PE teacher in Wisconsin. The most direct is to earn a PE teaching bachelor’s degree from a college or university with an approved educator preparation program. If you already hold a bachelor’s degree but have not yet completed a PE teaching preparation program, you will need to complete a post-baccalaureate teacher prep program before you can apply for a teaching license.

All prospective PE teachers will start by applying for what is called an Initial Educator License. Applications can be completed and submitted online through the state’s ELO (Educator Licensing Online) system. Key to the online system is the creation of a Wisconsin Web Access Management System (WAMS) user ID. The Initial Educator License is valid for five years and will be issued specifically in the area of physical education at the developmental level of EC-A (early childhood through adolescent).

There is another significant segment of prospective PE teachers who are eligible to become licensed but who have not completed a Wisconsin-approved teaching preparation program, and these are of course those from out-of-state. If you already have at least a bachelor’s degree and three years of teaching experience in your home state, you may be eligible for a Wisconsin PE teacher’s license as part of the state’s License Based on Equivalency standards. You will need to undergo a performance-based assessment process to determine that you do in fact meet the teaching standards prescribed by Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction. Before your license is issued, you will also need to pass all the tests required for licensure in Wisconsin.



Step 4. Maintain and Upgrade Your Wisconsin PE Teacher License

After three years of successful PE teaching experience with an Initial Educator License, you will be eligible to upgrade this to a Professional Educator License. To do this you will need to submit a Professional Development Plan (PDP). The content of a PDP will include a reflection on what you contribute to your PE students, a plan to achieve specific goals, and a review of this plan.

Your Professional Educator License is valid for five years, and you will need to complete a new PDP each time you want to renew this. You also have the option to apply for a 10-year Master Educator License. To be eligible for this you will need to already have a Professional Educator License and meet one of the following two requirements:

  • Certification by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS)
  • Have completed the Wisconsin Master Educator Assessment Process (WMEAP)

Also referred to as National Board Certification, NBPTS certification results from a vigorous independent scrutiny of your classroom conduct, your curriculum development, and your effectiveness in teaching PE. To complete this process you will need to submit extensive documentation, reports, and evaluations to the NBPTS for review. This also includes video recordings of you and your students in the classroom as well as demonstrated instances of student growth and development.

If you are a PE teacher working with students who have disabilities, you may be eligible for the WMEAP program. This is only an option for you if you work in the Adaptive Physical Education field, otherwise you will need to participate in the NBPTS certification program for PE teachers. The WMEAP program is similar to the NBPTS process, and involves submitting an extensive portfolio of your physical education work in the classroom for an in-depth review. You can develop this portfolio of examples of your work over the course of two years.

Both the WMEAP and NBPTS certification programs, and on a smaller scale the PDP (Personal Development Plan), are all designed to measure your physical education teaching effectiveness through evaluation. The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction places an emphasis on collaborative feedback and critiques because it believes this to be the best way to create good PE teachers. Becoming a PE teacher means that you will need to be not only well-versed in the subjects of PE and pedagogy, you will also need to be an effective communicator who can respond and adapt to constructive criticism.

Phys Ed Teacher Salary in Wisconsin

Data published on Wisconsin’s Worknet, the state-sponsored portal for occupational wage data, reveals a statewide average phys ed teacher salary in Wisconsin of $51,970. The average starting salary is a lot lower at $21,310. However, the average annual experienced salary is $67,300, which is 68% above the starting salary and nearly 23% higher than the statewide average. So, longevity is obviously one of the keys to financial gain in this profession.

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Of course, one of the other factors involved is geographic location. Here are some of the phys ed teacher salaries throughout the state by county:

Milwaukee County

(Includes Milwaukee)

Entry: $16,880
Average: $50,790
Experienced: $67,750
Fond du Lac County

Entry: $38,310
Average: $56,940
Experienced: $66,250
Waukesha County

Entry: $16,880
Average: $52,360
Experienced: $70,100
Douglas County

Entry: $43,740
Average: $60,020
Experienced: $68,150
St. Croix County

Entry: $29,260
Average: $53,990
Experienced: $66,350
Salaries among phys ed teachers in Wisconsin, as released by the U.S. Department of Labor, are shown here:

Area name
Annual median wage
Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis WI
Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington MN-WI

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