To become an ESL teacher in Idaho, you will work with the Teacher Certification Division, a branch of the state’s Department of Education. You will need to complete the following steps to fulfill the requirements for certification as determined by the Idaho State Board of Education:
|Earn at Least a Bachelor’s Degree in ESL Education|
|Pass the Required Tests|
|Apply to Become an ESL Teacher in Idaho|
|Renew Your ESL Teaching Certificate|
During the 2012-13 school year, more than 15,000 Idaho public school students participated in programs for English language learners, a number that makes up nearly six percent of all public school students in the state. The primary first languages among these students are often French, Ukrainian, or Spanish. Over the last decade and a half, the number of students in Idaho participating in programs for English language learners has grown by more than 40 percent statewide.
ESL teachers have a vitally important job, as they work to prepare the state’s non-native English speakers to be successful members of society who are comfortable reading, writing, and conversing in English.
Step 1. Earn at Least a Bachelor’s Degree in ESL Education
One of the primary requirements to become an ESL teacher in Idaho is a bachelor’s degree. Schools across Idaho offer degrees related to ESL/ENL (English as a Second Language or English as a New Language), TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), and Bilingual Education.
To be eligible for a teaching certificate in ESL – in Idaho this means qualifying for an endorsement in Bilingual Education or English as a New Language – the degree program you choose needs to include an approved teacher education program as well as the following:
- At least four to nine upper-division semester credits in a modern language other than English
- These should include writing and literature
- These should also meet the standards for advanced proficiency as set forth by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL)
- English and bilingual methods
- Cultural diversity
- Second language acquisition practice and theory
- Foundations of English and bilingual education
- State and federal law
- Testing and the identification of limited English proficiency students
- At least one to two semester credits in a bilingual practicum
- At least three semester credits in an elective that is related to bilingual education, such as:
- Critical pedagogy
- Parent involvement
Adding ESL as an Additional Endorsement
If you are already a teacher in Idaho and have an endorsement in a different subject area, you can earn an ESL endorsement by completing an educational program that includes these elements, before then going on to pass the required exams for an ESL endorsement.
Another essential part of becoming an ESL instructor in Idaho is graduating from an approved teacher education program in Bilingual Education/ESL/TESOL. The State Board of Education considers graduates of teacher education programs offered by institutions that are approved by NCATE (National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education) as meeting the Idaho ESL certification requirements.
The teacher education program will focus on the pedagogy of ESL, and may be combined with, or separate from, your major course of study. Classes you will take include subjects such as:
- ESL theory and practice
- Developing lesson plans for English language learners
- ESL assessments and evaluations
- Teaching students from diverse cultural backgrounds
- ESL practicum or student teaching
Alternative Route to ESL Certification
If you have already earned at least a bachelor’s degree in a field related to ESL, you have the additional option of completing an alternative teacher education program in an area related to ESL. These are typically programs that offer an intensive pedagogical segment followed by mentored on-the-job training as an ESL/bilingual teacher.
You may also wish to consider post-bac teacher education programs.
If you are an ESL teacher from out-of-state the Idaho Board of Education will confirm that the teacher education program you completed meets the endorsement requirements for ESL teachers in Idaho. Once this has happened you will be eligible for Idaho ESL teaching certification.
Step 2. Pass the Required Tests
The first exam you will encounter on the road to becoming an ESL teacher is administered by your teacher education program. This will evaluate you on three basic areas which you should have developed up to this point:
- Pedagogical application and knowledge
- Use of technology as an ESL teacher
- Comprehensive literacy
English to Speakers of Other Languages
The next exam you must pass is administered by Educational Testing Service (ETS): English to Speakers of Other Languages. This exam is comprised of 120 questions for which you will have two hours to complete. Questions are taken from the subject areas of:
- Foundations of language learning and linguistics – 40 percent of the test
- Linguistic theory, language, and culture
- Second language learning and literacy
- Implementing, planning, and managing instruction – 30 percent of the test
- Instructional theory, teaching techniques, and materials
- Managing students and the classroom
- Assessments – 15 percent of the test
- Knowledge of standards and tests
- Appropriate use of tests
- Applying and interpreting assessment results
- Cultural and professional aspects of being an ESL or bilingual teacher – 15 percent of the test
- Cultural understanding and the role of the ESL teacher
- Legal and ethical considerations
- Professional development
Included in this is a half-hour listening section comprised of 20 questions. To complete this you will listen to a non-native English speaker and answer questions based on what you understand. This listening section will evaluate you in three categories:
- Oral grammar
Once you have passed the English to Speakers of Other Languages exam you will be eligible for Idaho teaching endorsements in two areas:
- English as a New Language (ESL) Grades K-12
- Bilingual Education Grades K-12
Finally, you must complete a background check before you will be allowed to work with students in the classroom. To accomplish this you will need to submit fingerprint cards and a fee of $40 to the Office of Certification, as well as:
- Complete a criminal background check through the Idaho Bureau of Criminal Identification (BCI)
- Complete an FBI background check
- Not be listed in the Statewide Sex Offender Register
- Have no felony convictions
Step 3. Apply to Become an ESL Teacher in Idaho
Once you have earned at least a bachelor’s degree, completed a teacher education program, and passed the required tests you will meet all the elements on an ESL teacher job description and be ready to apply for certification. To do this you will need to complete an Initial Application, and send this along with the following to the State Department of Education; Teacher Certification/Professional Standards;
PO Box 83720; Boise, ID 83720-0027:
- $75 application fee
- Official transcripts from your education institution(s) where you completed at least a bachelor’s degree as well as your teacher education program
- Details about any previous teaching experience, if applicable
- Score from the English to Speakers of Other Languages exam or National Board Certification
Once you receive your teaching certification you can start looking for ESL teacher jobs in Idaho on websites such as SchoolSpring. This site allows you to search for teaching positions by state region as well as subject.
National Board Certification refers to a certification offered by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). As a national non-profit organization, NBPTS offers two different certifications depending on the age groups you teach
- English as a New Language – Early and Middle Childhood
- English as a New Language – Early Adolescence Through Young Adulthood
You can become NBPTS-certified once you have gained a few years of experience as an ESL teacher. The certification process requires you to complete a series of assessments and submit a portfolio of evidence which demonstrates teaching excellence as reflected in your students and your professional activities. If you gain National Board Certification you can be eligible for a $2,000 annual salary bonus.
Step 4. Renew Your ESL Teaching Certificate
The standard teaching certification in Idaho is valid for five years. To be eligible to renew your certification you will need to earn at least six semester renewal credits that are relevant to your duties as an ESL teacher. These credits must meet the following conditions:
- At least three of these credits must be able to appear on an official transcript from a college or university
- An additional three credits may be obtained from professional development activities such as in-service trainings
- 15 contact hours is equal to one in-service training credit
You can find more information about continuing education, professional development, and employment opportunities with organizations such as Intermountain TESOL.
Many ESL teachers choose to renew their teaching certifications by working towards a master’s degree such as an MATL, M.A.T., or M.Ed. Earning a master’s degree can accomplish several things in addition to making you eligible to renew your teaching certification:
- Increased professional options and career mobility
- Increased job stability and institutional appreciation of advanced credentials
- Improved annual salary
- Improved teaching skills that can directly translate into better student achievement and performance reviews