In the decade leading up to 2012, the number of English language learners in Texas grew by nearly 100,000 students. Now totaling 722,000 students, English language learners now represent nearly 15 percent of the total student body statewide. ESL teachers in Texas serve as a vital bridge between the state’s ELL students and opportunities for academic achievement and lifelong success.
To become an ESL teacher in Texas you will need to work through the TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certification requirements established by the Texas Education Agency and implemented by the State Board for Educator Certification. Follow these steps to become an ESL teacher in Texas:
|Earn a Degree in TESOL while Completing a Teacher Prep Program|
|Complete the Texas Testing Requirements|
|Apply for Your Teaching License and TESOL Certification|
|Maintain Your ESL Teaching Certificate|
Step 1. Earn a Degree in TESOL while Completing a Teacher Prep Program
Earning a bachelor’s degree at minimum is the first step towards meeting the licensure and TESOL certification requirements in Texas. Your course of study will need to include an approved educator preparation program.
There are three types of ESL educator preparation programs that correspond to different grade levels:
- ESL generalist for grades 4-8
- ESL generalist for early childhood through grade 6
- ESL supplemental for all grades – this option is only available if you are already a certified Texas teacher and are adding on an extra ESL certification
Common among all ESL educator preparation programs are courses such as:
- Linguistics and language education
- Cultural diversity, sensitivity, and understanding
- Methodology and strategies for developing a successful ESL curriculum
- ESL assessment strengths, weaknesses, and options
- State and federal laws that pertain to being an ESL instructor
- Psychology and pedagogy of learning English
- ESL practicum or student teaching experience in a classroom setting
Many teachers find that studying a second language is also advantageous when preparing to become an ESL teacher. The five most common languages among Texas’s ELL students are:
Step 2. Complete the Texas Testing Requirements
You will need to complete up to three assessments to be eligible for certification as an ESL teacher. You can register for these through the Texas Education Agency Electronic Testing Service (ETS) website.
- Basic Skills Test
- Pedagogy and Professional Responsibilities Exam
- ESL Test
Basic Skills Test
Depending on the educator preparation program you complete, you may need to take a basic skills test that demonstrates you have knowledge of foundational concepts in reading, writing, and mathematics. These have been identified by the Texas Education Agency as being key areas in which all teachers need to have a basic level of competency. Check with your individual degree program and educator preparation program for specific testing requirements. These programs may require one of the following exams:
Pedagogy and Professional Responsibilities Exam
You will have to pass the Pedagogy and Professional Responsibility Exam for early childhood (EC) through grade 12. This will ensure you possess the adequate pedagogical skills to be an effective teacher. The exam is comprised of 100 multiple-choice questions that cover the topics of:
- The promotion of student learning, instructional design, and assessments – 34 percent
- Creation of a positive and productive classroom environment – 13 percent
- How to implement effective and responsive instruction and assessments – 33 percent
- The professional responsibilities and roles of a teacher – 20 percent
This test will ensure you have the necessary skills to meet the quality standards that are specified in the Texas ESL teacher job description. There are three versions of the ESL Test and you should choose the one that corresponds to the grade levels you intend to teach:
- ESL Exam #193 for early childhood education through grade 6
- ESL Exam #120 for grades 4-8
- ESL Exam #154 for adding an ESL certification to an existing certificate, valid for all grades
Exams 193 and 120 cover roughly the same subject areas and are both comprised of 200 multiple-choice questions. The topics evaluated are as follows:
- Language acquisition and language concepts – 8 percent
- ESL assessment and instruction – 14-15 percent
- Family and community involvement, cultural awareness, and the foundations of ESL education – 10 percent
- English reading and language arts – 21-22 percent
- ESL mathematics – 13-15 percent
- ESL social studies – 13-15 percent
- ESL science – 12-15 percent
- Exam 193 includes coverage of ESL in health, physical education, and fine arts – 8 percent
Exam 154 is comprised of 70 multiple-choice questions on the topics of:
- Language acquisition and language concepts – 25 percent
- ESL assessment and instruction – 45 percent
- Family and community involvement, cultural awareness, and the foundations of ESL education – 30 percent
ESL teaching candidates should be aware that starting in the 2015-2016 academic school year exams 193 and 120 will no longer be offered or required to become a certified ESL teacher for the respective grade levels.
Step 3. Apply for Your Teaching License and TESOL Certification
At this point you will be qualified to submit an application to become a certified ESL teacher. If this will be your first time attempt at certification you can apply through the Educator Certification Online System (ECOS).
As part of your application you will need to include official transcripts from the school or schools where you completed your degree and ESL educator preparation program. Your test scores are automatically sent to the Texas Education Agency once they are calculated.
After you have applied you will also need to have your fingerprints taken and pass a criminal background check. Once you are approved and receive your teaching certification you can begin looking for ESL jobs in Texas through websites such as the Texas Education Agency’s Statewide School District Job Search.
Adding ESL to an Existing Certificate
If you are already a certified teacher in Texas you also have the option of adding an ESL certification on top of your existing certification. This also happens to be the only way to become an ESL teacher in grades 9-12. To do this you will need to pass the appropriate ESL test that corresponds to the grades you intend to teach.
Step 4. Maintain Your ESL Teaching Certificate
You will need to renew your ESL teaching certificate every five years, and you can do with the same ECOS account you used to make an initial application. To be eligible for renewal you need to earn 150 hours of approved continuing professional education by engaging in activities such as ESL workshops, seminars, and additional college education.
Many teachers choose to fulfill their renewal requirements while simultaneously earning a master’s degree such as an M.A.T., MATL, or M.Ed, or a master’s specific to their content area. For teachers who are planning on advancing up the career ladder into senior positions this especially makes sense because you can use the same accomplishment to fulfill two objectives. Having a master’s degree will also solidify your expertise in the field of teaching and ESL, resulting in a better experience for your students. Higher professional credentials can also lead to faster promotional opportunities and greater job security.
As you become more experienced as an ESL teacher you may wish to consider affiliating yourself with a professional association. These can offer insights into legislation affecting ESL as well as professional development and employment opportunities:
- Texas Association for Bilingual Education (TABE) – an association of professionals and advocates that promotes the growth and quality development of bilingual education throughout Texas. You can pertinent find ESL resources with this association pertaining to curriculum development, conferences, and professional training.
- TexTESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) – this organization strives to maintain and develop excellence in English language learning and teaching. You can find useful information about upcoming conferences, professional trainings, TESOL certification, and networking opportunities in the field of ESL through TexTESOL.