To become an ESL teacher you will need to work with the Alabama State Department of Education’s Teacher Certification Section. This agency is tasked with ensuring that all prospective ESL teachers make the grade in terms of basic qualifications.
To complete the ESL teacher certification process you will need to navigate the following steps:
|Earn a Degree in ESL Education from an Approved Educator Preparation Program|
|Pass the Praxis II: English to Speakers of Other Languages Exam|
|Renew Your ESL Teaching Certification|
English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers in Alabama are playing an increasingly important role in the development and education of the state’s future generation. Over the past ten years, the number of English Language Learners (ELLs) in Alabama has skyrocketed by over 239 percent. The most recent numbers released by the National Center for Education Statistics show there were more than 32,000 ELLs in Alabama’s public schools at the end of the 2011-12 school year. The most common languages other than English spoken by Alabama public school students are:
Step 1. Become a Certified Teacher in Alabama
To become an ESL teacher in Alabama, you will need to start out by completing at least a bachelor’s degree in teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL) that includes a teacher preparation program.
For those with an undergraduate degree in TESOL that have not completed a teacher prep program, certification can be accomplished by completing a master’s degree program such as an M.A.T., M.Ed. or MATL that includes at least 30 credits of graduate-level coursework in a teaching field.
Once you have gained experience in your teaching field you will need to pass the Praxis II: English to Speakers of Other Languages Exam. It is helpful if your initial teaching certification is in an area – or includes courses – that are related to teaching English Language Learners (ELLs) or teaching English as a Second Language (ESL). These courses can include:
- English, reading, and language arts
- Pedagogy and teaching to diverse student populations
- Teaching strategies for ELLs
- Instruction and assessments in the subjects of reading and writing
- Curriculum development and methods for teaching ESL
- Internships, seminars, or student teaching that involve ESL
Schools throughout Alabama and online offer degree programs in English as a Second Language that will prepare you to become a certified ESL teacher by the state’s Department of Education. ESL teachers are often considered to be exceptionally skilled and can therefore expect to earn elevated salaries, especially in high-demand areas such as Montgomery and Birmingham.
Graduate school programs offer particularly informative ESL courses that greatly contribute to preparing you to have the necessary knowledge to pass the Praxis II: English to Speakers of Other Languages Exam. A master’s degree in education with an emphasis in ESL can additionally open up future career possibilities, as well as boost your initial credentials as you apply for ESL teaching positions throughout the state.
For Existing Teachers Adding an ESL Endorsement
Before you can qualify to add an additional certification to your teaching credentials you need to meet the following conditions, in addition to passing the Praxis II: English to Speakers of Other Languages Exam:
- Have earned an Alabama Professional Educator Certificate
- Have worked as a full-time teacher in your area of initial certification for at least two years
Once you have fulfilled these you will have met all the endorsement requirements for ESL teachers in Alabama, and you will be ready to fill out the following forms. Send the completed versions of these to the Alabama State Department of Education’s Teacher Certification Section at 5215 Gordon Persons Building; PO Box 302101; Montgomery, AL zip code 36130-2101:
- Application to add an additional teaching field, including part one and part two
- Supplemental Experience Form which verifies you have at least two years of full-time teaching experience
Note that the Department of Education does not accept applications by email or fax.
Once you become certified you can start searching for ESL teacher jobs in Alabama through resources such as the Department of Education’s online employment portal.
Step 2. Pass the Praxis II: English to Speakers of Other Languages Exam
At this point the largest of the Alabama ESL certification requirements left for you to complete is the Praxis II: English to Speakers of Other Languages Exam, which is administered by Educational Testing Service (ETS). This exam is divided into two sections and is computer-based:
- Section 1: a listening portion that includes 20 select-response questions. To complete this segment you will wear headphones to hear an audio recording, and the listening portion itself is divided into an oral grammar and vocabulary section as well as a pronunciation section. The audio selections you will hear are from a non-native English speakers.
- Section 2: 100 select-response questions taken from the following four areas of essential knowledge.
You will have 30 minutes to complete the listening portion of the exam and 90 minutes to complete the exam’s additional components. Exam questions will evaluate you on four essential areas of knowledge:
- Foundations of language learning and linguistics – 40 percent of the exam
- Linguistic theory, language and culture, second language learning, and literacy
- Implementing, managing, and planning instruction – 30 percent of the exam
- Teaching techniques, instructional theory, materials, and classroom/student management
- Choosing and conducting student assessments – 15 percent of the exam
- Knowledge of standards and testing, effective use of tests, and result interpretations
- Professional and cultural aspects of being an ESL teacher – 15 percent of the exam
- Cultural understanding, ethical and legal issues, professional development, ESL teacher role
These exam topics should also provide you with clues on classes to take and what to study as you plan ahead when completing your initial education to become a certified teacher in Alabama.
You can register for this exam through ETS, who will arrange to have your testing score results sent to the Alabama Department of Education.
Step 3. Renew Your ESL Teaching Certification
You will need to renew your Professional Educator Certificate every five years, and this can be done by meeting one of the following requirements:
- Have taught as an ESL full-time teacher for at least three years and completed 50 hours of approved professional development activities
- Have taught as an ESL full-time teacher for at least three years and completed at least three semester credits of approved education
- Have completed at least three semester credits of approved education and 50 hours of approved professional development activities
Whether you renew your license by completing approved academic courses or through professional development activities, you will need to ensure that the activities you complete align with the following 12 standards adopted by the state Board of Education:
- The professional and educative goals of your development program should be aligned with those of the school, school district, and state
- The education and development from your chosen program should offer a continuous and progressive improvement
- Learning and collaboration should be supported
- The areas of professional development that you chose should be prioritized based on student assessments and other disaggregated student data
- Multiple sources of information should be combined and synthesized to improve education
- Research in the field of ESL should be applied effectively
- Learning strategies should be used to improve teaching and education
- Pedagogical ESL principles should be enhanced
- The professional development activity should create a safe and nurturing ESL environment that fosters development
- Your fundamental ESL knowledge should be strengthened
- Continuing education should give you the tools to involve the families of ESL students in the creation of a positive learning environment at home
Many of these professional development values will be second nature to you by the time you need to renew your teaching certification because they also align with the values reflected in your Alabama ESL teacher job description.
Alabama resources that can help with continuing professional development or education as well as employment opportunities include agencies such as:
- Birmingham City Schools ESL Program – the goal of this ESL program is provide ELLs with effective education that allows them to become full and active members of society
- Montgomery Public School District ESL – this ESL program strives to develop students who are effective communicators, learners, and participatory members in their city as well as the world at large
- AMTESOL (Alabama-Mississippi Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) – an organization made up of Alabama ESL teachers as well as community volunteers, university students, and anyone else who is interesting in advancing ESL programs throughout the two states