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.
If you want to get in on this swiftly growing field, it’s time to get that valuable ESL credential on your teaching certificate.
Follow these steps to learn how to become an ESL teacher in Alaska:
|Earn a Degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)|
|Apply for a Teaching Certificate with ESL Endorsement|
|Renew Your ESL Teaching Certificate|
|Learn More About Working as an ESL Teacher in Alaska|
Step 1. Earn a Degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)
If you’re not already a certified teacher in Alaska, you’ll need to complete a bachelor’s degree, at a minimum, that’s part of an approved teacher preparation program.
In many cases, you’ll find that majoring in either elementary education or English at the secondary level and then choosing TESOL as a track, concentration, or minor gives you the most options when it comes time to choosing a teacher preparation program.
It’s also convenient to add a TESOL certification/endorsement to your existing Alaska certificate if you’re already a certified educator. TESOL programs are regularly offered as part of graduate certificates or master’s degrees in ESL.
You’ll also find a nice selection of programs that are now offered in partially or fully online, which allows you to complete your studies through a convenient, distance-based format, regardless of where home is for you.
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 earning an academic major or minor 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
Currently Certified Alaska Educators
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 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 3. Renew Your ESL Teaching Certificate
To renew your teaching certificate, you’ll need to complete a Renewal Form 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 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 4. Learn More About Working as an ESL Teacher 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.
For example, the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant currently offers $4,000 a year to students who are completing or plan to complete coursework needed to begin a career in teaching identified as a “high-needs” field which, as of 2021, includes English language acquisition. In exchange for the TEACH grant, you must serve in a PreK-12 school that serves low-income students for at least four years after you graduate.
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.