It’s no secret that Alabama’s educational system has long struggled to compete in the national arena in terms of funding. But that’s about to change in a very big way. Alabama’s $7.7 billion education fiscal budget for 2022—the largest in the state’s history—is committed to investing in the state’s educational system, which includes programs aimed at English language learners (ELLs).
This is good news for ELLs in Alabama, who have steadily increased in numbers in recent years. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), 27,702 ELL students were learning in Alabama’s school system in 2018—that’s about 2,500 more students than just a year earlier and nearly four times the number reported a generation ago.
As of 2018, ELL students in Alabama accounted for about 3.8 percent of all students in elementary and secondary schools.
If you want to join Alabama’s growing number of ESL teachers and begin making a difference in the lives of the state’s PreK-12 learners, you’ll need to meet the licensing requirements set forth by the Alabama State Department of Education’s Teacher Certification Section.
Step 1. Earn a Degree in ESL Education from an Approved Educator Preparation Program
To become an ESL teacher in Alabama, you’ll need to first set your sights on completing a minimum of a bachelor’s degree within a state-approved teacher preparation program for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL).
You’ll find a nice selection of programs throughout Alabama that’ll prepare you to become a certified ESL teacher in Alabama, although in most cases, you’ll need to complete a teacher preparatory program in either elementary education or, at the secondary level, English, and then choose TESOL as a track, concentration, or minor.
If you already hold an Alabama teacher certification and want to add a TESOL endorsement, you can complete a graduate certificate in TESOL or a TESOL master’s degree. These programs may go by a number of names, including ESL, TESL, TESOL, and ESOL.
You’ll also find that an increasing number of colleges and universities now offer teacher prep programs through a partially or fully online format. These flexible programs allow you to complete the required coursework through distance-based learning and then complete the required practical experiences in a school close to home.
Step 2. Pass the Praxis II: English to Speakers of Other Languages Exam
Once you’ve satisfied the degree requirements, including the necessary student teaching experience, you’ll need to take and pass the Praxis II: English to Speakers of Other Languages Exam, which is administered by Educational Testing Service (ETS). This computer-based exam is divided into two sections:
- Section 1: A listening portion that includes 20 select-response questions from non-native English speakers. To complete this segment, you’ll listen to an audio recording and complete separate oral grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation sections.
- Section 2: One hundred select-response questions taken from the following four areas of essential knowledge:
- Foundations of language learning and linguistics – 40 percent of the exam
- Linguistic theory, language and culture, second language learning, and literacy
- Implementing, managing, and planning instruction – 30 percent of the exam
- Teaching techniques, instructional theory, materials, and classroom/student management
- Choosing and conducting student assessments – 15 percent of the exam
- Knowledge of standards and testing, effective use of tests, and result interpretations
- Professional and cultural aspects of being an ESL teacher – 15 percent of the exam
- Cultural understanding, ethical and legal issues, professional development, ESL teacher role
- Foundations of language learning and linguistics – 40 percent of the exam
Step 3. Apply for Your Teaching License and TESOL Certification
To apply for your initial Alabama teaching certificate, complete the application packet, which includes your Praxis test scores sent directly from ETS, the Supplement NA1 document (completed by the college/university), and a $30 application fee (paid directly to the Educator Certification Online Payment System).
Adding an ESL Endorsement to an Existing License
If you have a current Alabama Professional Educator Certificate and have worked as a full-time teacher in your area of initial certification for at least two years, you can apply to add an ESL endorsement to your Alabama certificate.
Complete the Application to add an additional teaching field, including part one and part two, the Supplemental Experience Form that verifies you have at least two years of full-time teaching experience, and send it to:
Alabama State Department of Education
Educator Certification Section
5215 Gordon Persons Building
P.O. Box 302101
Montgomery, AL 36130-2101
Step 4. Renew Your ESL Teaching Certification
Your Professional Educator Certificate must be renewed every five years by completing at least one of the following:
- Teach as an ESL full-time teacher for at least three years and complete 50 hours of approved professional development activities
- Teach as an ESL full-time teacher for at least three years and complete at least three semester credits of approved education
- Complete at least three semester credits of approved education and 50 hours of approved professional development activities
You can learn more about continuing education requirements here.
5. Learn More About ESL Teacher Salaries for Jobs in Alabama
As of May 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported the following salaries for educators in Alabama:
Early Career (25th percentile): $44,640
Experienced (90th percentile): $63,680
Early Career (25th percentile): $46,130
Experienced (90th percentile): $64,210
Early Career (25th percentile): $45,690
Experienced (90th percentile): $64,910
BLS stats also reveal what ESL teachers are earning in Alabama in some of its largest metro areas, as of May 2020:
Montgomery (Elementary School)
Early Career (25th percentile): $45,040
Experienced (90th percentile): $63,120
Mobile (Middle School)
Early Career (25th percentile): $43,030
Experienced (90th percentile): $62,620
Birmingham (includes Hoover) (High School)
Early Career (25th percentile): $47,670
Experienced (90th percentile): $67,670
While your salary as an ESL teacher will reflect your colleagues in all other areas of practice with similar credentials, you may enjoy financial incentives like signing bonuses, grants, and annual stipends if you teach in a district that identifies ESL as a teacher shortage or “hard to fill” area.
You can get a good idea what efforts are being made across the state for Alabama’s ELLs by checking out district ESL programs like:
- Birmingham City Schools ESL Program – the goal of this ESL program is provide ELLs with effective education that allows them to become full and active members of society
- Montgomery Public School District ESL – this ESL program strives to develop students who are effective communicators, learners, and participatory members in their city as well as the world at large
You can also get involved in efforts to advance ESL efforts throughout Alabama by becoming involved in Alabama-Mississippi Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (AMTESOL), an organization of Alabama ESL teachers, community volunteers, university students, and others with interest in advancing ESL programs throughout the two states.
Alabama’s Department of Education’s online employment portal should be your first stop for all the educator opportunities available throughout the state. You can view jobs and apply for open positions directly through the portal.
May 2020 Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and job market trends for elementary school teachers, middle school teachers, and secondary school teachers represent state data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed June 2021.
Student population data from the National Center for Education Statistics represents English language learners (ELL) enrolled in public elementary and secondary schools in the fall of 2018.