Many Churches in the South Offer Introductory Training for Volunteer ESL Teachers

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Reviewed by Mary McLaughlin, Ma-TESOL; M.S. SpEd

Churches in the South have long served as forces of cultural change in their communities. Church members were pivotal in the civil rights movements of the 1960s. Current efforts frequently involve integrating refugees and immigrants into the community. One way to do this is to teach them English, so many people serve as ESL volunteers.

One such course takes place in Pelham, Alabama each summer at the local Baptist Church. The Shelby Baptist Association offers a two-day course in teaching ESL at the First Baptist Church. The church offered its most recent course in August 2016.

While the certification of completion is not enough to qualify you to formally become a full-time ESL teacher, you can use it to volunteer. This type of training is also a good first step if you want to pursue a career teaching ESL. Attendees who completed the 11-hour course received their certification from the North American Mission Board.

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The Baptist Association’s Rebekah Parr organized the course which provided training by an ESL instructor from the University of South Alabama and the University of Mobile. Instructor Kimberly Wilson also serves as the volunteer director for the Mobile Baptist Association’s International Language School.

Volunteer Robin Eberhardt took the course in the summer of 2015. She learned the skills she needed to be able to volunteer as an ESL teacher at the Dawson Memorial Baptist Church in Birmingham.

Eberhardt found the course to be “very thorough,” and she appreciated being provided with a manual on what was taught. She uses her training to teach beginning ESL students weekly from September through May.

Specific training provided included:

  • Preparing lessons
  • Receiving guidance on which books to teach from
  • Providing vocabulary in ways that students are more likely to retain