Our nation’s northernmost state may not be the first to come to your mind when considering foreign-born citizens, but it’s actually home to quite a large immigrant community, most of which is from the Philippines. According to the American Immigration Council, there were about 61,000 immigrants living in Alaska in 2018, which accounted for about 8 percent of the total population. In addition, another 7 percent of the population included native-born U.S. citizens who lived with at least one immigrant parent.
It comes as no surprise, therefore, that Alaska has a large English Language Learner (ELL) population in its PreK-12 schools. As of 2018, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reported 14,686 ELL students, which was about 11.5 percent of the total student population at this time. Focusing your initial teaching certificate on ESL or adding an ESL endorsement to your current teaching certificate is a smart choice in Alaska, where the percentage of ELL students has averaged between 11-12 percent for more than a decade.
These steps will show you exactly how to earn TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certification become an ESL teacher in Alaska:
Step 1. Earn a Degree in English as a Second Language (ESL) and Qualify to Become an ESL Teacher in Alaska
If you’re new to the teaching field and you haven’t yet earned a bachelor’s degree, your first step to becoming an ESL teacher in Alaska should involve completing a bachelor’s or master’s degree that’s part of a state-approved educator preparation program.
In Alaska, you can add ESL to an elementary or secondary education license as a second content area endorsement, so the most streamlined path to a TESOL certification includes choosing a degree in elementary, special, or a single subject in secondary education and then adding ESL as a track, concentration, or minor.
Fortunately, in Alaska, you’ll find plenty of options. For example, the University of Alaska Fairbanks offers a TESOL minor that includes 16 credits in the following topics:
- Language, Education, Linguistics
- Field of Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages
- Introduction to Second Language Acquisition
- English Language for Second Language Teaching
- Theory and Methods of Second Language Teaching
Keep in mind that while bachelor’s degrees remain the most streamlined path to an initial teaching license, it has become commonplace for aspiring educators to choose a master’s in ESL as a pathway to earning their initial teaching license, as a graduate degree often means more professional opportunities and a bigger paycheck.
Already an Alaska certified teacher and want to add an ESL endorsement?
It’s also convenient to add an ESL endorsement to your existing Alaska certificate if you’re already a certified educator because there is no shortage of ESL programs offered as part of undergraduate or graduate certificates or master’s degrees.
For example, the University of Alaska Anchorage offers a Graduate Certificate in Language Education in the P-6 setting, while the University of Alaska Fairbanks offers an MEd in Second Language Acquisition, Bilingual Education and Literacy that’s well suited for English, language arts, and content area teachers who want to earn their master’s degree and an ESOL endorsement on their teacher certificate. Some of the classes in this program include:
- Introduction to Applied Social Science
- Developing Literacy
- Literacy in the Content Area
- Instruction and Assessment in Literacy
- Methods for Applied Linguistics
Already hold a bachelor’s degree in another field?
If you’re a career changer with a bachelor’s degree in another field, you can put your degree to use by choosing a master’s degree program leading to an initial teaching license.
You’ll find that many programs that offer bachelor’s degrees also offer these master’s programs that include all necessary coursework and practical learning experiences necessary to become a certified teacher in Alaska.
Step 2. Apply for a Teaching Certificate with ESL Endorsement
You may be surprised to learn that the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development does not require the passage of a Praxis exam to earn an ESL endorsement.
Instead, you’ll earn an ESL endorsement through an institutional recommendation or by completing a formal program in ESL. In short, completing a recognized program in ESL will qualify you for this endorsement. However, you’ll still need to pass the required Praxis competency and content area exams.
Once you’ve completed your program in ESL and passed the required Praxis exams, you’ll apply for an Initial Two/Three Year Teacher Certificate by completing the application, having it notarized, and mailing it to:
Department of Education & Early Development
Teacher Education & Certification
P.O. Box 110500
Juneau, AK 99811-0500
Step 3. Apply For an ESL Endorsement If You Didn’t Earn One With Your Initial Teaching Certificate
If you’re a currently certified Alaska educator, you’ll need to hold one of the following before you can add an ESL endorsement:
- Initial Two/Three Year Teaching Certificate
- Professional (5 Year) Teaching Certificate
- Master (10 Year) Teaching Certificate
You’ll complete the Application to Add/Remove Teaching Endorsement (located under the Forms tab) and send it to:
Department of Education and Early Development
Teacher Education and Certification
PO Box 110500
Juneau, AK 99811-0500
Alaska Native Alternative
You may also be eligible for a special Type M limited teaching certificate if you can demonstrate skills in Alaska Native language or culture.
This must be requested on your behalf by your local school board and you will need to be able to provide a resume that shows you have competency in an Alaska Native language or at least four years of work experience that involves an Alaska Native culture.
Step 4. Consider Earning a Master’s in ESL to Renew Your ESL Teaching Certificate
To renew your teaching certificate, you’ll need to complete a Renewal or Reinstatement Certificate application (located under the Forms tab) that includes proof of the completion of at least six semester hours of renewal credit (either credits through an accredited university or through approved Continuing Education Units) and four mandatory training hours.
At least half of your education renewal requirements must be upper-level courses and be able to be listed on an official transcript. Renewing your ESL teaching certificate highlights the advantages that come with a master’s degree, such as an M.A.T., M.Ed. or MATL. A master’s degree in ESL not only satisfies your continuing education requirements, but it also offers:
- Greater job security
- More opportunities for career advancement and promotion
- A higher salary, in most cases
- The opportunity to add to your ESL foundation
National Board Certification
You also have the option of renewing your ESL teaching certification by becoming certified through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). This is offered in two areas for ESL teachers, depending on the grade levels you teach:
- English as a New Language – Early and Middle Childhood
- English as a New Language – Early Adolescence Through Young Adulthood
NBPTS certification is an independent non-profit organization that is regarded as a benchmark of teaching excellence. To become certified, you will need to complete a series of assessments while also developing a portfolio of your work experience that serves as evidence of your teaching effectiveness. Over the span of at least a year, you will collect different types of this evidence that you’ll submit to the NBPTS for a final evaluation to determine if you are eligible to become certified by the National Board.
Step 5. Learn More About ESL Teacher Salary Expectations for Jobs in Alaska
As of May 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported the following salaries for educators in Alaska:
Early Career (25th percentile): $61,190
Experienced (90th percentile): $102,850
Early Career (25th percentile): $65,920
Experienced (90th percentile): $108,150
Early Career (25th percentile): $62,960
Experienced (90th percentile): $104,160
BLS stats also reveal what ESL teachers are earning in Alaska in some of its largest metro areas, as of May 2020:
Anchorage (Elementary School)
Early Career (25th percentile): $62,320
Experienced (90th percentile): $108,190
Alaska nonmetropolitan area (High School)
Early Career (25th percentile): $59,600
Experienced (90th percentile): $96,730
While you won’t automatically earn more as an ESL teacher in Alaska, you may qualify to earn signing bonuses, annual stipends, grants, and other financial incentives if you teach ESL in an area that identifies ESL as a teacher shortage area.
As an ESL educator, you’ll find a wealth of knowledge and support through Alaska’s organizations aimed at bilingual education:
- Alaska Association for Bilingual Education (AKABE) – affiliated with the National Association for Bilingual Education and TESOL, AKABE advocates goals such as:
- Support of heritage language education and bilingual education in K-12 education
- The fostering and retention of heritage cultures and languages
- Involvement of parents in the education process
- Recognition, support, and celebration of ESL teachers who advance bilingualism
- Raised awareness about bilingual education and the issues that affect English Language Learners and their families
- Alaska Native Language Center ANLC – this center strives to study and document Alaska’s 20 native languages such as the Eskimo and Northern Athabascan languages. The ANLC can provide ESL teachers with:
- Bilingual language materials
- Consulting and language training services
- Different academic degree programs in several Alaska Native languages
- Educational materials to help raise awareness about Alaska’s native languages
You’ll also find the latest job openings for Alaska ESL teachers through Alaska Teacher Placement (ATP).
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.