South Dakota ESL Teacher Job Description and ESOL Certification Requirements

Nearly four percent of South Dakota’s public school students took part in programs for learners whose first language was not English during the 2012-13 school year. Totaling more than 4,500 statewide, these students directly benefit from the instruction of ESL teachers who provide them with critical knowledge to ensure a future with bright possibilities.

The Department of Education is in charge of evaluating new teachers, and it does this specifically through its Division of Assessment and Accountability. The path to become an ESL teacher in South Dakota includes the following steps:

Earn a TESOL Degree and Complete a Teacher Preparation Program
Pass the Principles of Learning and Teaching Test
Apply for Teaching Certification
Renew and Develop Your Certification



Step 1. Earn a TESOL Degree and Complete a Teacher Preparation Program

One of the main TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certification requirements in South Dakota is having at least a bachelor’s degree. This will involve a TESOL program combined with a teacher education program that will focus on your pedagogical development for K -12 students.

If you already have at least a bachelor’s degree but have not completed a teacher education program, you will still need to do so. You can either complete a program that includes K-12 learning that is approved by NCATE (National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education) or complete either a post-bachelor’s certificate or master’s degree program that results in an M.A.T., M.Ed. or MATL. If you take this latter route you will still need to ensure you meet the classroom teaching experience requirement as well as the additional ESL endorsement requirements.

*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 specific ESL requirements to add this field as a primary or secondary endorsement are 18 semester credits in the following, as well as a practicum, internship, or student teaching segment with K-12 students:

  • Linguistics
  • ESL curriculum development
  • Teaching ESL to English language learners
  • Language and culture studies – the five most common non-English languages in South Dakota are:

    • German
    • Spanish
    • Arabic
    • Russian
    • Chinese

  • ESL program assessment
  • Teaching the subject of reading for English language learners
  • ESL language methodology

TESOL certification courses may also be cross-listed as ESL courses. In South Dakota ESL teachers are also referred to as English as a New Language (ENL) teachers.



Step 2. Pass the Principles of Learning and Teaching Test

As a prospective teacher, you will need to pass the Principles of Learning and Teaching Test, administered by ETS (Educational Testing Service). This exam is required to ensure that you have the necessary pedagogical skills as specified in the ESL teacher job description. ESL teachers can serve in grades K-12, and as such you should choose the version of this exam which most closely corresponds to the grade levels you intend to teach:

The exam is comprised of 74 questions for which you will have two hours to complete. Exam questions are based on five main topics:

  • Process of instruction, including basic pedagogical theories and local to national teaching standards
  • Student learning, including the history and foundations of pedagogical theory, as well as student religious and ethnic backgrounds
  • Professional development and community leadership, such as current pedagogical issues, continuing education, and changing legislation
  • Testing and assessments, including assessment strengths, weaknesses, and interpretations
  • Scenario analysis involving situations created from these subject elements

Many states also require a specific test covering your knowledge in the field of ESL, however South Dakota is not one of these. It is always a good idea to remain current on the latest news regarding teaching rules and legislation. In the future an ESL assessment may become a requirement, and if you ever relocate to a different state this will also likely be the case.



Step 3. Apply for Teaching Certification

Once you have completed the steps up to this point you will be ready to make an application for South Dakota teaching certification. As a first-time application you will need to do this online, however if you would like to get a feel for what an application includes you can also view a paper copy. Along with your online application, you will also need to include the following:

  • Official transcripts showing you have completed the required coursework for ESL teaching certification
  • Application fee
  • Proof that you have completed the Principles of Learning and Teaching test – for in-state applicants ETS will send your score to the Department of Education automatically
  • Out-of-state teaching certificate, if applicable

When filling out your application, note that in South Dakota the ESL endorsement is a Stand Alone Instructor Endorsement code# 5791, officially referred to as K-12 English as a New Language.

Once you have received your certification you must complete two final requirements before you can start searching for ESL jobs in South Dakota:

  • Human relations course – a three semester-credit course you must complete that provides instruction in several subjects the Department of Education has identified as being important:
    • The benefits, values, and history of a pluralistic society
    • The awareness and ability to deal with biases such as sexism, racism, and discrimination
    • Translating an understanding of human relations into positive experiences for students

    • Cultural dynamics of the Lakota and Dakota people
    • History of the US government interaction with the Lakota and Dakota people
    • Educational theory and background
    • Implementation and strategies for methods to improve the education standards for all South Dakota students

Adding an ESL Endorsement to an Existing Teaching Certification

If you are already a certified teacher in South Dakota and hold teaching certification in another area, you can fill out an online application to add an additional endorsement in ESL. To be eligible to do this you will need to meet the specific 18 semester credits of coursework requirements detailed in Step 1. Also remember that adding an endorsement will not extend the period of validity for your current teaching certification.

Out-of-State Applicants

If you are a certified ESL teacher in a different state you will need to submit a Verification of Teaching Experience form along with an application for teaching certification to be eligible for certification in South Dakota. The Department of Education will generally recognize out-of-state reciprocity if the process you completed to become a certified ESL teacher in your home state is similar to that of South Dakota’s.



Step 4. Renew and Develop Your Certification

Your ESL teaching certification is valid for five years and can be renewed by completing six credits of continuing professional education. The type of continuing professional education you must complete depends on your level of education:

  • If you have a bachelor’s degree you must obtain at least three of your renewal credits from a college or university.
  • If you hold a master’s degree you can earn these six credits in any approved way you choose

In terms of college and university courses, professional development points are awarded at a rate of one per every 15 hours of classroom contact. You may also choose to earn renewal credits through professional activities such as workshops or other courses that are approved by the South Dakota Department of Education.

As suggested by the association of the renewal requirements and college and university courses for ESL teachers who only hold a bachelor’s degree, educators in South Dakota are encouraged to continue their education and earn a master’s degree. Having a master’s degree can provide several advantages for an ESL teacher:

  • Increased flexibility for activities that count as professional development credits for renewal
  • Increased employment security
  • Increased amount of career options and promotional opportunities
  • Increased professional and student performance

As you gain more experience as an ESL teacher in South Dakota you may also wish to consider obtaining certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). Also referred to as National Board Certification, this is a nationally-recognized credential that signifies you have navigated an extensive evaluation and testing process administered by the NBPTS. National Board Certification is available in two areas for ESL teachers:

Having NBPTS certification will also allow you to complete your six renewal credits in any approved area you choose.

Besides developing your professional credentials, you may also find it valuable to associate yourself with professional organizations in your field of expertise. Dakota TESL (Teachers of English as a Second Language) is an organization that keeps track of legislative news about ESL requirements, employment opportunities, and teacher training opportunities throughout South Dakota as well as North Dakota.

Back to Top