More than 10 percent of Alaska’s public school students are English Language Learners (ELLs). As one of only eight states in the nation to share this distinction, the importance of ESL teachers in Alaska cannot be overstated. During the 2011-12 school year, more than 11 percent of Alaska’s students – 32,671 in total – participated in programs for English learners, an increase of more than 100 percent over the last decade.
Students in Alaska who do not speak English as their first language are most likely to speak:
- Aleut-Eskimo languages
To become an ESL teacher in Alaska, complete the following steps:
|Earn a Degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)|
|Apply for a Teaching Certificate with ESL Endorsement|
|Renew Your ESL Teaching Certificate|
Step 1. Earn a Degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)
If you have not already met the requirements for teaching certification you will need to do this. Becoming a certified ESL teacher in Alaska means you will need to:
- Complete at least a bachelor’s degree
- Complete a traditional or alternative teacher preparation program
- Pass a basic competency exam
- Earn a five-year teaching certificate
You can qualify to become an ESL teacher by completing a teacher preparation program in ESL that results in a degree with an eligibility to teach. Between state educational institutions and online opportunities you will have a number of options for obtaining appropriate ESL educator preparation education.
Once you have completed your ESL prep program you will need to have your educational institution complete a General Institutional Recommendation Form that certifies you have obtained the requisite knowledge in the field of ESL to teach this subject.
As you complete your initial academic ESL teaching certification requirements, you can expect courses such as:
- English grammar
- Language, teaching, and cultural studies
- Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)
- Teaching diverse students
- English reading, writing, and language arts
Major or Minor in ESL
In addition to ESL teacher preparation programs, you can also add an ESL endorsement to your teaching certificate by majoring or minoring in ESL. Universities in Alaska, online, and across the country offer the following degrees that can be combined with a major or minor in ESL:
Step 2. Apply for a Teaching Certificate with ESL Endorsement
The Alaska Department of Education and Early Development recognizes three ways that you can add an ESL endorsement to a current teaching certification:
- Through an institutional recommendation
- By earning an academic major or minor in the ESL subject area
- By earning the relevant Praxis II exam score
Note that to add an ESL endorsement, the current teaching certification you possess must be one of the following, valid for five years:
- Type A Regular Teaching Certificate
- Type B Regular Teaching Certificate
- Type C Regular Teaching Certificate
- Professional Teaching Certificate
Praxis II Exam
Although the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development recognizes the passage of some Praxis II tests as a qualifier for teachers seeing additional endorsements, currently there is no such recognized test for ESL.
Educational Testing Service (ETS) is responsible for administering Praxis II exams, and Alaskan teachers will be familiar with this organization because it also provides several required tests for initial teacher certification in the state. ETS does offer ESL tests such as the English to Speakers of Other Languages Exam, however because the Department of Education and Early Development do not currently accept these, Praxis II ESL tests will not qualify you for an ESL endorsement. In the rapidly changing world of teaching certification requirements, things can and do change so it is advisable to periodically check with the Department or ETS for the latest developments.
Alaska Native Alternative
Besides these three routes to an ESL endorsement, you may also be able to gain an Alaska teaching certification that is related to ESL if you have special skills that pertain to Alaska’s First Nations. In recognition of the importance of abilities that pertain to the native cultures of Alaska, you may also be eligible for a special Type M limited teaching certificate if you can demonstrate skills in Alaska Native language or culture.
This must be requested on your behalf by your local school board and you will need to be able to provide a resume that shows you have competency in an Alaska Native language or at least four years of work experience that involves an Alaska Native culture.
For those Seeking an Additional Endorsement in ESL
Once you have earned a five-year Alaska teaching certification and become eligible to add an ESL teaching endorsement through one of the three methods discussed, you will be ready to fill out an Application for Additional Endorsements. Make sure to include a $125 endorsement fee and send the completed package to:
Department of Education and Early Development
Teacher Education and Certification
801 W. 10th Street, Suite 200
PO Box 110500
Juneau, AK 99811-0500
Once you have receive your ESL endorsement you can start seeking employment in this field. Candidates can browse vacant ESL teacher jobs in Alaska on websites such as Alaska Teacher Placement (ATP). When searching for employment, always read the Alaska ESL job description carefully as there can be a notable difference between working in a city such as Anchorage or Juneau and a remote village that is only accessible by airplane.
Step 3. Renew Your ESL Teaching Certificate
To be eligible to renew your five-year ESL teaching certificate you will need to complete a Renewal Form and make sure you have met the following renewal requirements:
- Six semester or nine quarter credits from an accredited university, or their equivalent in the form of approved Continuing Educational Units (CEUs)
- $125 renewal fee
At least half of your education renewal requirements must be upper-level courses and be able to be listed on an official transcript. Renewing your ESL teaching certificate highlights the advantages that come with a master’s degree, such as an M.A.T., M.Ed. or MATL. Earning a master’s degree can provide you with several advantages in addition to fulfilling the renewal requirements for your ESL teaching certification:
- Provide greater job security
- Provide additional opportunities for career advancement and promotion
- Serve as a tangible qualification on which to justify a higher salary
- Add expertise to your ESL foundation and improve your teaching effectiveness, which in turn improves your students’ education
National Board Certification
You also have the option of renewing your ESL teaching certification by becoming certified through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). This is offered in two areas for ESL teachers, depending on the grade levels you teach:
- English as a New Language – Early and Middle Childhood
- English as a New Language – Early Adolescence Through Young Adulthood
NBPTS certification is an independent non-profit organization that is regarded as a benchmark of teaching excellence. To become certified you will need to complete a series of assessments while also developing a portfolio of your work experience that serves as evidence of your teaching effectiveness. Over the span of at least a year you will collect different types of this evidence that you will eventually submit to the NBPTS for a final evaluation to determine if you are eligible to become certified by the National Board.
You can find additional ESL opportunities related to continuing education, professional networking and development, and employment through local state organizations such as
- Alaska Association for Bilingual Education (AKABE) – affiliated with the National Association for Bilingual Education and TESOL, AKABE advocates goals such as:
- Support of heritage language education and bilingual education in K-12 education
- The fostering and retention of heritage cultures and languages
- Involvement of parents in the education process
- Recognition, support, and celebration of ESL teachers who advance bilingualism
- Raised awareness about bilingual education and the issues that affect English Language Learners and their families
- Alaska Native Language Center ANLC – this center strives to study and document Alaska’s 20 native languages such as the Eskimo and Northern Athabascan languages. The ANLC can provide ESL teachers with:
- Bilingual language materials
- Consulting and language training services
- Different academic degree programs in several Alaska Native languages
- Educational materials to help raise awareness about Alaska’s native languages