The year 2019 was big for Arizona’s English Language Learners (ELLs), thanks to the passage (long overdue, many say) of ELL reform legislation. Senate Bill 1014 allows the state’s ELLs to enjoy more time with their native peers instead of keeping them largely separated for the majority of the day. This new model of learning translates into a highly immersive educational experience which, combined with a two-hour daily language block, means a more natural learning experience for Arizona’s ELLs.
As of 2018, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) revealed that about 82,000 PreK-12 students were identified as ELLs in Arizona, which translates into about 7 percent of the total student population.
And while the percentage of ELL students in Arizona is lower than many other Southwest states (for example, New Mexico’s ELLs accounted for nearly 16 percent of the total student population in 2018), demand for ESL teachers remains high in the Grand Canyon State. As of the 2021-2022 school year, the U.S. Department of Education reported ESL teacher shortage areas in all grades (preK-12) in Arizona.
If you’re looking for a good reason to either earn your initial teaching license in Arizona in ESL or add an ESL endorsement to your current Arizona certificate, this is it. Pursuing ESL endorsement is a smart choice for educators who want to add value to their teaching certificate, increase their professional opportunities, and position themselves for a higher salary.
These steps will show you exactly how to earn TESOL certification (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) and become an ESL teacher in Arizona:
Step 1. Earn a Degree in ESL and Qualify to Become an ESL Teacher in Arizona
To become an ESL teacher in Arizona, you’ll earn an ESL endorsement alongside your teaching certificate. You can add an ESL endorsement to a teaching certificate in elementary, secondary (in a single subject) special, early childhood, or arts education.
If you’re new to the field of education and want to learn how to become an ESL teacher in Arizona, your first step to becoming involves the completion of a bachelor’s or master’s in ESL that’s part of an Arizona State Board of Education approved teacher preparation program. If you choose a program that offers an ESL minor, track, or concentration, you can complete the required ESL coursework as you earn your initial teaching degree.
For example, the University of Arizona offers a BAE in Elementary Education (ESL option) that leads to an Arizona teaching certificate. Once you complete all requirements, you can apply for an initial teaching certificate in elementary education (K-8) with an ESL endorsement.
Already an Arizona certified teacher and want to add an ESL endorsement?
If you already hold a current Arizona teaching certificate and you want to add the valuable ESL to your certificate, you can complete a post-graduate ESL program, which is often designed as a post-baccalaureate certificate, graduate certificate, or master’s in TESOL.
Certificate programs provide a quick pathway to completing the courses required to earn an ESL endorsement, while a master’s degree provides a more comprehensive course of study that often leads to more professional opportunities and a larger paycheck.
Northern Arizona University offers a graduate certificate in ESL that meets Arizona’s endorsement requirement. Certified teachers must provide proof that they’ve taught ESL students for two years or complete a teaching practicum course to meet the requirements of this program.
Coursework requirements include:
- ESL Methods
- Teaching Reading and Writing to LEP Students
- Assessment of LEP Students
Already have a bachelor’s in another field and want to become a teacher in Arizona?
If you already have a bachelor’s degree and/or experience in teaching ESL and want to become a teacher, Arizona’s Alternative Pathways to Teacher Certification Program may be right for you.
If you qualify for the Alternative Path to Certification program, you will complete all necessary pedagogy and educational requirements while teaching with a teaching intern certificate.
Alternatively, you can pursue a master’s degree leading to initial licensure if you already hold a bachelor’s degree in another field.
These master’s programs work much the same as a bachelor’s-level teacher preparation program by including the necessary courses and student teaching experiences you need to become certified.
Step 2. Take and Pass All Required NES Examinations
Once you complete an approved education program, you must take and pass the following National Evaluation Series (NES) Professional Knowledge Exams:
If you want to teach ESL at the elementary level, you must take and pass:
If you want to teach ESL at the secondary level, you must take and pass:
- Assessment of Professional Knowledge: Secondary; AND
- Middle Grades English Language Arts; OR
- English Language Arts
The framework of the Middle Grades English Language Arts NES exam includes the following topics (and their percentage of the exam):
- Reading Process and Comprehension and Reading in Multiple Subject Areas: 21 percent
- Reading Various Text Forms and Analyzing and Interpreting Literature: 29 percent
- English Language Conventions, Composition, Writing Process, and Research: 15 percent
- Modes of Writing: 21 percent
- Oral and Visual Communication: 14 percent
The framework of the English Language Arts NES exam includes the following topics (and their percentage of the exam):
- Vocabulary, Reading Comprehension, and Reading Various Text Forms: 23 percent
- Analyzing and Interpreting Literature: 23 percent
- English Language Conventions, Composition, Writing Process, and Research: 19 percent
- Modes of Writing: 23 percent
- Oral and Visual Communication: 12 percent
You can view testing information and examination content and register to take the tests on the NES website.
Step 3. Apply for an Initial Teaching Certification
Once you have completed all necessary requirements for certification as an educator in Arizona, you must apply for initial ESL certification by completing the Application for Certification. (All applications are found under the PreK-12 Teaching Certificate tab.)
Submit it along with the application fee of $60 (made payable to the Arizona Department of Education) and an Arizona Identity Fingerprint Clearance card (obtain one by contacting DPS at 602-223-2279), to the:
Arizona Department of Education – Certificate Unit
P.O. Box 6490
Phoenix, AZ 85005-6490
Step 4. Earn a Provisional ESL Endorsement
You can apply for a provisional ESL endorsement once you’ve earned your Arizona teaching certificate and completed the following:
- 3 semester hours of ESL methods
- 3 semester hours of ESL courses that can be applied to the full endorsement
The provisional ESL endorsement is valid for 3 years as you work toward the full endorsement.
Step 5. Earn a Full ESL Endorsement
To qualify for a full ESL endorsement, you must show proof of:
- The completion of an ESL education program from an accredited institution; OR
- The completion of the following courses:
- Courses in foundations of instruction for non-English-language-background students
- ESL methods
- Teaching of reading and writing to limited-English-proficient students
- Assessment of limited-English-proficient students
- Courses dealing with school, community, and family culture and parental involvement in programs of instruction for non-English-language background students; AND
- 3 semester hours of practicum or at least two years of verified, full-time ESL or bilingual teaching experience; AND
- A second language learning experience
Once you have met these requirements, you can apply for a full ESL endorsement.
Information About SEI and BLE Requirements for Arizona Educators Working in SEI Classrooms
The Arizona Board of Education, due to the large immigration population in many parts of the state, now requires all PreK-12 educators working in a Structured English Immersion (SEI) setting to achieve one of three endorsements:
- Structured English Immersion (SEI) endorsement
- English as a Second Language (ESL) endorsement (sometimes called TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certification)
- Bilingual Language endorsement (BIL)
If you earn the ESL endorsement, you are exempt from the SEI or BIL endorsement.
To work as an ESL educator in a Structured English Immersion (SEI) classroom, you must complete the 45-hour SEI Endorsement Completion course and become endorsed in SEI. In most cases, you will have already completed the required courses as part of your initial teacher preparation program.
Learn more about the 45-Hour SEI Endorsement Completion course here.
You may also apply for a Bilingual (BIL) endorsement.
To qualify for BLE endorsement, you must show proof of the following:
- Completion of a bilingual education program from an accredited institution; OR
- Completion of the following courses:
- Foundations of instruction for non-English-language-background students
- Bilingual methods
- English as a second language for bilingual settings
- Courses in bilingual materials and curriculum; assessment of limited-English-proficient students; teaching and reading in a native language; or English as a second language for bilingual settings
- Courses dealing with school, community, and family culture and parental involvement in programs of instruction for non-English-language-
- background students; AND
- A practicum in a bilingual program or at least two years of verified full-time teaching experience; AND
- Verification of proficiency in a spoken language other than English.
Step 6. Apply for and Maintain a Standard Teacher Certification
Upon the expiration of your initial teaching certificate, which is valid for three years, you may either apply for an extension or apply for a standard teaching certificate in Arizona.
To qualify for the standard teaching certification in Arizona, you must show proof of the completion of at least three years of full-time teaching experience.
To maintain your standard teacher certificate, you must renew it every six years by completing the Application for Renewal of Certificate (available both as a paper and online application) and completing at least 15 clock hours of professional development for each year of the certificate term (one semester hour of college coursework = 15 clock hours of professional development activities).
Step 7. Learn More About ESL Teacher Salary Expectations and Jobs in Arizona
As of May 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported the following salaries for educators in Arizona:
Early Career (25th percentile): $39,850
Experienced (90th percentile): $64,710
Early Career (25th percentile): $39,030
Experienced (90th percentile): $62,450
Early Career (25th percentile): $43,440
Experienced (90th percentile): $76,200
BLS stats also reveal what ESL teachers are earning in Arizona in some of its largest metro areas, as of May 2020:
Phoenix (Elementary School)
Early Career (25th percentile): $41,670
Experienced (90th percentile): $67,260
Flagstaff (Middle School)
Early Career (25th percentile): $42,770
Experienced (90th percentile): $64,500
Tucson (High School)
Early Career (25th percentile): $37,270
Experienced (90th percentile): $57,480
While you’ll earn a salary as an ESL teacher that’s similar to your PreK-12 colleagues in other subject areas, you may qualify for financial incentives if you fill a position in an area or school that identifies ESL as a teacher shortage area. Just some of the financial perks afforded to many ESL teachers in Arizona include grants, annual stipends, and signing bonuses.
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.