Over the past decade the number of Georgia public school students who participate in programs for English language learners has grown by nearly 13,000, with five percent of the state’s public school students participating in these types of programs during the 2012 school year. ESL teachers are instrumental when it comes to offering quality preschool through 12th-grade education to the future leaders of the state. These professionals may also be encouraged by the most recent statistics that show Georgia’s segment of English language learners is predicted to grow in the coming years.
The state’s Professional Standards Commission is the agency responsible for ensuring you meet the standards for ESL certification. This is the agency you will work with as you complete the following steps towards what can be a lifelong and fulfilling career as an ESL teacher in Georgia:
|Earn at Least a Bachelor’s Degree and Complete a Professional Education Program|
|Pass the Required GACE Assessments|
|Apply for ESL Certification with the Professional Standards Commission|
|Renew Your ESL Teaching Certification|
Step 1. Earn at Least a Bachelor’s Degree
Officially referred to as an ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages) teacher, the first step to become an ESL teacher in Georgia is to earn at least a bachelor’s degree.
It is most advantageous to earn a degree in a field that includes relevant ESL topics such as:
- Reading, writing, and grammar
- Language arts
- Cultural diversity
- Teaching and education
- Psychological development
- Foreign languages
The most common non-English languages spoken by students in Georgia are:
The Georgia Professional Standards Commission understands that for many prospective ESL teachers the costs of obtaining a college education can be daunting. That is why it maintains its Financial Assistance for Prospective Educators webpage as a service to provide links to additional opportunities for college funding.
Teacher Prep Program
In addition to earning at least a bachelor’s degree, all prospective teachers must complete an approved professional education program in ESL. These programs will instruct you on the pedagogical and educational elements that are essential for being an effective ESL teacher.
Many teachers in the state become certified in a basic area of education and then move on to earn an additional endorsement in ESL. This is reflected by the fact that in Georgia there are currently no approved traditional baccalaureate professional education programs for ESL. However there are three other in-state routes to meeting this professional education program endorsement requirement for ESL teachers in Georgia:
- GATAPP in ESL – the most common route offered at colleges and universities throughout the state
- Through post-bac non-degree study in ESL – several educational institutions offer these types of ESL programs in Georgia
- By earning a master’s degree or MAT-equivalent in ESL – this option is also offered by several colleges and universities throughout the state
The Georgia Teacher Academy for Preparation and Pedagogy, referred to as GATAPP, is generally a two-year program that will prepare you for classroom teaching in ESL. You will need to submit an application to your selected GATAPP program through your local school. Admission to an approved GATAPP program for ESL requires you to meet the following conditions:
- Have already earned at least a bachelor’s degree with at least a 2.5 GPA
- Pass the necessary GACE assessments
- Have a job offer for a classroom teaching position
- Have no previous teaching experience
Once you have gained admission you will begin by studying an intensive pedagogical segment that focuses on developing ESL teaching skills. This is followed by classroom placement as an ESL teacher, where you will work with the mentoring and guidance of an experienced team of professionals.
If you are already an experienced ESL teacher in another state you can be eligible to teach in-state,
provided the licensing process you completed had similar standards to that of the Georgia ESL certification requirements. To qualify for reciprocity you need to have been working as a certified ESL teacher for at least three years in your home state.
Step 2. Pass the Required GACE Assessments
There are two relevant assessments you should be aware of as you complete the process to become an ESL teacher in Georgia. Both of these are part of the Georgia Assessment for the Certification of Educators (GACE) system and are administered by Educational Testing Service (ETS):
- Program Admission Test
- English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Test
Program Admission Test
Depending on the professional educator program you choose, you may have to pass the Program Admission Test as a prerequisite for entry. This exam covers the basic areas of knowledge that are considered essential competencies for all teachers in Georgia, and is offered in three sub-tests:
You can be exempt from these tests by earning any of the following minimum scores on these exams:
- SAT – 1000 on the verbal and math sections
- GRE – 1030 on the verbal and quantitative sections
- ACT – 43 combined score on the math and English sections
English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Test
The ESOL assessment covers your specific knowledge relating to the field of ESL, and is divided into two subtests that are each 2.5 hours in length, which can also be taken simultaneously over the course of five hours:
- Test I – evaluates the subjects of language, culture, and professionalism, including a listening segment as part of the language portion
- Test II – implementing, managing, and planning classroom instruction and assessment
Testing is conducted on a computer and each subtest is comprised of 80 select-response questions.
Step 3. Apply for ESL Certification with the Professional Standards Commission
Once you have completed the steps up to this point you will have met the qualification standards as specified on the Georgia ESL teacher job description. To apply for teaching certification you must submit a completed application to the Professional Standards Commission, located on 200 Piedmont Avenue Southwest, Suite 1702 in Atlanta, zip code 30334-9032. As part of the application process you must:
- Complete a criminal background check
- Provide transcripts from your college degree program
- Provide transcripts from your professional education program
- Provide proof of passing the English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Test
You will also need to create an online MyPSC account with the Professional Standards Commission as part of the application process, and if you are approved for an ESL teaching certification this will be issued to you through your MyPSC account. You can also check the status of your application through this account.
The Georgia Professional Standards Commission maintains the employment website TeachGeorgia where you can find listings for ESL teacher jobs in Georgia.
Step 4. Renew Your ESL Teaching Certification
ESL teaching certification in Georgia is valid for five years, and to renew this you will need to complete one of the following three options:
- Master Teacher Certification – a program coordinated by the Professional Standards Commission that certifies master teachers after they have proven themselves through a Criterion-Referenced Competency Test (CRCT) and have shown outstanding professional as well as classroom performance.
- National Board Certification – offered by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), a non-profit agency that provides this nationally-recognized certification. You can earn this by developing a portfolio that demonstrates your teaching excellence, and you must also complete a series of assessment tests. This certification is offered on two levels:
- Approved professional education in either of the following two options – the Professional Standards Commission must approve this education and development, and one approved provider is the International Association of Continuing Education and Training (IACET)
- 10 professional learning or continuing education units
- 6 semester credits of college courses
Importance of Additional Education
Georgia teachers are encouraged to continue pursuing a higher level education because the Professional Standards Commission recognizes that doing this will improve classroom learning and student performance. That is why gaining additional college or university education is one way of renewing a teaching certificate. Many teachers often choose to pursue more advanced degrees such as an M.A.T., M.Ed. or MATL.
As a new ESL teacher with a bachelor’s degree, you will start at a rank of level four. Your level rank can influence a variety of factors such as salary, tenure, and job security. Advancing your career and your rank can be done with additional education as follows:
- Master’s degree – level 5
- Doctoral degree without a dissertation or a Education Specialist degree – level 6
- Doctoral degree – level 7
As you progress in your career as an ESL teacher, you may find additional resources regarding employment, continuing education, and other professional development activities with organizations such as:
- Georgia Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (GATESOL)
- Georgia State PIRC (Parent Information Resource Center)