Minnesota ESL Teacher Job Description and ESOL Certification Requirements

ESL teachers in Minnesota are in high demand, and the U.S. Department of Education has designated the state as having a critical shortage of ESL teachers during the 2014-15 school year.

Follow these steps to become an ESL teacher in Minnesota:

Earn a Degree in Teaching English as a Second Language
Pass the MTLE Exams
Apply for Your Minnesota Teacher’s License and TESOL Certification
Fulfill The Professional Development Requirements to Renew Your Minnesota License

According to Minnesota Public Radio, there were 65,000 students in the state who spoke another language at home in 2014. In fact, the English learner (EL) student population in Minnesota is made up of native speakers of more than 200 different languages, the most common of which are Spanish, Hmong, Somali and Vietnamese.

Educators who teach English as a second language (ESL) provide both general academic and language support to these students. This is a particularly important specialty in Minnesota given the linguistic diversity of the state’s EL students.



Step 1. Earn a Degree in Teaching English as a Second Language

If you are an aspiring ESL teacher, but not yet licensed, you can pursue TESOL (teaching English to speakers of other languages) certification as your primary content area for initial licensure. If you are already certified in another content area, you may add TESOL certification as an additional endorsement.

The Minnesota Department of Education named 16 approved institutions available to prepare teachers for initial TESOL certification or for additional endorsement.

*Capella University offers an online Master’s program in English Language Learning and Teaching designed to help educators advance their career in supporting diverse student populations. While it does not satisfy licensure requirements, the program can help you build the skills to use instructional strategies, emerging trends, and best practices to effectively teach English Language Learners and help students adapt to new cultural environments.

*The USC Rossier School of Education offers its Master of Arts in Teaching - Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (MAT-TESOL) program online, allowing current and aspiring educators to earn a master’s degree from a top-ranked university and specialize in teaching English to non-native speakers - from anywhere in the world.

The Minnesota Board of Teaching has established competency areas that you must study to earn TESOL certification. These course requirements include:

  • English grammar
  • General linguistics
  • Language acquisition
  • Language and culture
  • Student testing and assessment
  • Second-language teaching methods
  • Teaching studies with limited English proficiency

In addition, you need to obtain teaching experience and pass Minnesota’s standardized test for ESL teachers to get your license. A Minnesota K-12 ESL license should qualify you to teach in almost every state in the U.S.

Initial ESL Training in a Teacher Preparation Program

ESL Bachelor’s Degree – Minnesota is unusual in its approach to ESL teachers since it allows stand-alone ESL licensing. This allows you to major in ESL as a content area within your bachelor’s degree program. For instance, your major could be K-12 English as a Second Language (ESL).

One Minnesota college requires that you take eight education classes in addition to your ESL coursework to pursue an ESL major. With this type of degree, you will teach general ESL classes rather than specializing in particular subjects.

ESL Minor You can also obtain your ESL training in the form of a minor. Such programs can be designated as a TESL licensure minor (Teaching English as a second language). If you pursue this track, you will have to take additional education courses to be able to get certified as a teacher in Minnesota. In addition, you can major in a more traditional content area such as social studies or math.

Graduate ESL Study – Besides teacher education at the undergraduate level, you can obtain an initial teaching license by getting a master’s degree. One option is an M.A. in TESL. This program has a capstone requirement. You have to either complete a thesis or an alternative plan paper. The latter option involves writing a paper to describe your research findings in the form of a journal article. Another program lets you apply your ESL coursework to get a Curriculum and Instruction Master’s degree.

You can also get your initial license through a Graduate Certificate program in English as a Second Language (ESL). This program shares four of its ESL courses with those that meet the standard of the K-12 Reading Teacher certificate. Thus, you will be particularly well equipped to meet the literacy needs of your ESL students.

TESOL Certification for Licensed Teachers

If you already have a Minnesota teacher’s license, you have a number of options. You can go back to school and get an ESL endorsement at either the undergraduate or graduate level.

You may have to take additional educational coursework in order to get the required K-12 licensing. For instance, if you are an elementary teacher, you will have to take coursework in secondary education. If you are licensed for 5-12 or 7-12, you must take a course in reading and writing at the elementary level.

Non-Certification Programs for Teaching Adults

If you want to focus on teaching ESL to adults and don’t want K-12 teacher certification, you have several options in Minnesota. You can get a TESL Non-Licensure Minor at the undergraduate level. For instance, this would prepare you for teaching for the Peace Corps abroad.

You can also get a graduate certificate in TESL without pursuing the K-12 licensure option. This would prepare you for the following types of teaching:

  • Organizations (government and non-government)
  • Private enterprises
  • Adult learners overseas



Step 2. Pass the MTLE Exams

Tests for Initial Licensure

Minnesota has its own set of exams for teacher licensure: the Minnesota Teacher Licensing Exams (MTLE). You will need to take two sets of exams to get your initial teaching license. One is the Basic Skills Tests that will assess your skill in reading, writing, and math. The other is a pedagogy test.

You will take one on elementary or secondary teaching depending on your specialty. If you are getting a K-12 license, you will only need to take one of these exams.

ESL Exam

The Minnesota Department of Education offers its own standardized content area test on the principles and strategies of teaching ESL. You must take the MTLE for English as a Second Language to get K-12 ESL certification in the state. This is true even if you have passed all of the exams necessary to get your initial license.

This exam has two subtests that take about an hour each. You can prepare ahead of time for this exam using a free study guide. The categories of the exam are:

  • Subtest 1:
    • I. Foundations of ESL Instruction, Communication, and Assessment
    • II. Content and Communication Instruction and Assessment for English Language Learners
  • Subtest II:
    • Linguistics, Language Acquisition, and Cultural Pluralism
    • Principles of Second-Language Teaching



Step 3. Apply for Your Minnesota Teacher’s License and TESOL Certification

To qualify for your ESL teacher’s license, you’ll need to get approval from the school that provided your TESOL education. This is the case whether you are getting your initial teaching license or adding an endorsement to your current license.

You can apply for three different types of initial licenses online at the Minnesota Department of Education’s website. These include:

  • First-time Full Professional Education License
  • Limited Full Time License
  • Two Year, Short-Call Substitute License

If you want to apply for one of the alternate licenses, you will need your school district to verify that they have trouble finding licensed ESL teachers.



Step 4. Fulfill the Professional Development Requirements to Renew Your Minnesota License

Minnesota’s Professional TESL Organization

After you have become a licensed ESL teacher in Minnesota, you may want to join the state’s professional organization: MinneTESOL. In addition to advocating for ESL teachers in the state, it provides a number of useful resources to help you teach the subject.

Advanced TESOL Education for Licensed Teachers

If you already have a teaching license after completing a bachelor’s degree program, but want to acquire more advanced knowledge about the field of TESL, you can pursue an M.Ed. Professional Studies program with a concentration in Second Languages and Cultures Education (SLC) or an M.A.T. with an Endorsement in English as a Second Language, among other specialized programs. You will take courses in education, as well as those specific to second languages and culture.

Clock Hour Opportunities

When you go to renew your TESOL teaching license each year, you will have to demonstrate that you took part in professional training to advance your teaching skills. Your employing school district is responsible for approving your clock hours for professional development. You can find a list of potential resources for obtaining clock hours on the Minnesota DOE website.

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