Over the decade leading up to the 2012 school year the number of English language learners (ELL) in Virginia nearly doubled, increasing to the current level of more than 91,400 public school students.
To become an ESL teacher in Virginia you will need to work with the Division of Teacher Education and Licensure, a branch of the Virginia Department of Education. The path that leads to what can be a fulfilling and lifelong career as an ESL teacher proceeds through these steps:
|Earn a Degree in TESOL|
|Pass Virginia’s Required Tests|
|Apply for an Teaching License and TESOL Certification|
|Renew Your Teaching License and TESOL Certification|
Step 1. Earn a Degree in TESOL
As you prepare to meet the Virginia TESL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certification requirements, your first order of business will be to earn at least a bachelor’s degree in TESOL while completing an educator preparation program.
The educator preparation component of your education will focus specifically on the development of pedagogical skills. Towards the end of this program you will complete a segment of student teaching. In Virginia there are nine ESL educator preparation programs available at the bachelor’s level.
If you have already earned a bachelor’s degree and want to become an ESL teacher you still need to complete an educator preparation program, and can do so in one of three ways:
- Complete an ESL educator preparation program as post-baccalaureate study.
- Complete a master’s degree such as an MATL, M.A.T., or M.Ed. that includes an ESL educator preparation program. There are 16 such programs at colleges and universities across Virginia.
- Enroll in Virginia’s Career Switcher Program. This is an alternative educator preparation program that begins with an intensive pedagogical segment followed by placement in the classroom as an ESL teacher. You need to have at least five years of professional work experience to enroll in this program, which also offers programs for TESOL certification in Virginia.
ESL Academic Course Requirements
To earn an endorsement in ESL you will need to complete a prescribed amount of credits in a number of subject areas according to Title 8 of Virginia’s Administrative Code. This information can be particularly useful for out-of-state teachers who are considering if they have obtained an equivalent education in their home state and for candidates who are adding an ESL endorsement to an existing teaching certificate. Approved ESL teacher preparation programs in Virginia will include all of this content.
- Teaching reading to ESL students, including five key areas of reading instruction – 6 semester credits
- Phonetic awareness
- Text comprehension
- These courses must also cover first-language reading versus second-language reading
- A specific course in this segment must also include the topic of reading instruction to ESL students
- Linguistics of English, including syntax, morphology, and phonology – 3 semester credits
- Cross-cultural education – 3 semester credits
- Modern foreign language study – 6 semester credits
- ESL electives – 3 credits
- General linguistics
- Applied linguistics
- ESL curriculum development
- ESL assessments
- Methods of teaching ESL in the elementary and secondary classroom – 3 semester credits
When completing the foreign-language requirement portion of the ESL course requirements, you may consider studying a language spoken by many English language learners in Virginia. The top five non-English first languages among public school students in Virginia are:
DOE Required Courses
Separate from the ESL course requirements but required by the Department of Education, you will also need to take the following two additional courses:
Step 2. Pass Virginia’s Required Tests
To become a licensed ESL teacher in Virginia you will need to pass up to two tests:
- Teacher Preparation Program Entry Assessment
- Virginia Communication and Literacy Assessment
Teacher Preparation Program Entry Assessment
Before you will be admitted to many educator preparation programs you will need to pass the Core Academic Skills for Educators assessment (CORE). This is sponsored by Educational Testing Service (ETS) and will determine that you possess the basic skills to be an effective teacher in any subject. The exam is offered in three sub-tests that you can take separately or together. Check with your educator preparation program for its specific entrance requirements.
- CORE Reading – passing score 156
- CORE Writing – passing score 162
- CORE Mathematics – passing score 150
Virginia Communication and Literacy Assessment
The Virginia Communications and Literacy Assessment is required of all prospective teachers and assesses the two important subject areas of reading and writing. The reading segment of the test is comprised of 40 multiple-choice questions. The writing portion of the test is also comprised of 40 multiple-choice questions and includes an additional:
- Three short-answer questions
- One written summary assignment
- One written composition
The purpose of this assessment is to ensure all educators in Virginia have basic reading and writing abilities.
Step 3. Apply for an Teaching License and TESOL Certification
At this stage you will be ready to submit an application packet to the Division of Teacher Education and Licensure. Along with this you will also need to include your official academic transcripts and an application fee, sending everything to:
Virginia Department of Education
Division of Teacher Education and Licensure
PO Box 2120
Richmond, VA 23218-2120
Once you receive your ESL license you will be qualified to go to work. The Department of Education maintains an employment website where you can find the latest opportunities on ESL jobs in Virginia.
Adding ESL as an Additional Area of Endorsement to a License
If you already have a Virginia teaching license to which you want to add an ESL endorsement you need to complete one of the following options:
- A Virginia Department of Education-approved ESL educator preparation program
- All of the ESL Academic Course Requirements
You can be eligible for out-of-state reciprocity by submitting either of the following to the Virginia Department of Education:
- Proof that you completed an ESL educator preparation program and bachelor’s degree approved by your home state
- Proof that you are a licensed ESL teacher in your home state
You will still need to complete the Virginia testing requirements and complete an application packet for licensure.
Step 4. Renew Your Teaching License and TESOL Certification
Your first ESL teaching license is valid for five years, and to renew this you will need to earn 180 professional development points. There are eight specified ways you can earn these points, such as through completing professional ESL development activities or relevant college credits. In most cases if you have not earned a master’s degree you will need to earn at least 90 of your professional development points by taking college or university courses. Encouraging its teachers to work towards a master’s degree is one way the Department of Education strives to improve the professional qualifications and teaching excellence of its educators.
Having a master’s degree will open up additional career possibilities and can also improve your job security. Virginia is home to some of the nation’s top public and private schools, and having a master’s degree will help you to be more competitive at these locations. Indeed some professionals in the field caution that without a master’s degree you may not even be considered for employment at some of Virginia’s highest performing schools.
In addition to gaining benefits from a master’s degree, you may also consider the benefits of earning National Board Certification. Sponsored by the non-profit National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), experienced ESL teachers in Virginia can obtain this credential by developing a portfolio that demonstrates a high level of teaching performance over the course of a year, while also completing a series of NBPTS assessments. ESL teachers can choose the NBPTS certification they would like to pursue based on the grade levels they teach.
- English as a New Language – Early and Middle Childhood
- English as a New Language – Early Adolescence Through Young Adulthood
Depending on funding availability, the Virginia Board of Education offers an initial bonus of up to $5,000 for teachers who are certified by the NBPTS, as well as up to $2,500 for each additional year you maintain this credential.
You also have the option of joining professional organizations that specializes in the field of ESL. You can find information regarding the latest ESL events, legislative changes in ESL, and professional networking opportunities with local associations such as Virginia Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages – VATESOL.