The rise of Arkansas’ English Language Learner (ELL) student population (PreK-12) has been nothing short of dramatic, rising from just 11,850 students (about 2.6 percent of the total student population) in 2000 to nearly 39,000 students in 2018, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Today, Arkansas’ ELL population comprises about 8.1 percent of the total student population.
During the 2018-19 school year, the Arkansas House Interim Committee on Education and the Senate Interim Committee on Education reported that some districts (largely in the northwest portion of the state) were home to particularly large ELL populations, including Springdale (21.4 percent) and Rogers (11.4 percent).
The largest percentage of ELLs in Arkansas during this time were native Spanish speakers, at 83.2 percent, followed by Marshallese (7.9 percent), Vietnamese (1.1 percent), and Arabic (1 percent).
Whether you’re interested in focusing your initial Arkansas teaching certificate on ESL or you want to add an endorsement to your current teaching certificate, one thing’s certain: there are bountiful opportunities for ESL education experts in Arkansas.
These steps will show you exactly how to earn TESOL certification (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) and become an ESL teacher in Arkansas:
Step 1. Earn a Degree in English as a Second Language (ESL) and Qualify to Become an ESL Teacher in Arkansas
If you don’t currently hold a degree and are just getting started down the path to becoming an ESL teacher in Arkansas, your first step is to earn a bachelor’s degree in education. That bachelor’s needs to be part of a state-approved educator preparation program that includes all the coursework and student teaching experiences required to become a licensed teacher.
And since you want to be able to work effectively with students who are earning English, it should also include the courses you need for ESL certification.
Arkansas is among the majority of states that doesn’t offer ESL as a main teacher certification content area with initial licensure. That just means you will be certified in your main content area, and then add ESL as a second content area endorsement.
And it’s easier than you might think to qualify for both at the same time and start your teaching career with an ESL endorsement. All you have to do is choose a bachelor’s degree that offers a minor or option in ESL.
It’s most common to see elementary school teachers or middle school and high school language arts and English teachers earning an ESL endorsement through their bachelor’s program.
But in Arkansas, any student preparing to become a teacher at any level and in any content area, from math and science to English and language arts, can add an ESL minor to their bachelor’s degree and qualify for the endorsement.
A TESL minor that can be added to any major would consist of an additional 18 hours of courses in:
- English Language Acquisition
- Teaching English as a Second Language
- ESL Assessment
- Teaching People of Other Cultures
- Teaching English in the Secondary School
- Introduction to Linguistics
Already an Arkansas certified teacher and want to add an ESL endorsement?
If you already hold an Arkansas teaching certificate in any content area, you can complete your ESL education through either a master’s degree or graduate certificate program in TESOL.
Arkansas Tech University, for example, offers an MA in TESOL and an MA in English with a TESL option. The MA in English with a TESL option includes 30 semester hours of courses for current secondary teachers who want to enhance their teaching certificate with an ESL endorsement.
The University of Arkansas offers a certificate program that allows teachers to add four courses in ESOL at the graduate level to earn an ESOL endorsement on their current teaching certificate. Courses include:
- Second Language Acquisition
- Second Language Methodologies
- Teaching People of Other Cultures
- Second Language Assessment
Go to Step 4 for more information on how to add an ESL endorsement to your teaching license.
Already have a bachelor’s in another field and want to become a teacher in Arkansas?
Career changers with a bachelor’s degree in another field can also pursue a master’s in ESL that leads to initial licensure.
Initial licensure 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.
At the master’s level, you will also find alternative or nontraditional programs that get you in the classroom to fill an open position even before completing the program.
The Arkansas Division of Elementary & Secondary Education maintains a list of state-approved educator preparation programs.
Alternative pathways: APPEL and PPTL
The Arkansas Professional Pathway to Educator License program, or APPEL program – The APPEL program allows you to begin teaching while you complete all necessary components of the program, which includes on-the-job learning; mentoring during the program; specific assessments; and instructional modules (both face-to-face and online).
The APPEL program often results in a master’s degree for participants.
Provisional Professional Teaching License – Another route to licensure as an ESL teacher in Arkansas may be through the achievement of a Provisional Professional Teaching license, a three-year provisional license that is awarded to candidates with a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university and at least three years of experience in a language/bilingual field.
For example, Arkansas Tech University offers an MEd in Teaching, Learning, and Leadership through its Nontraditional Teacher Licensure (MTLL-NTL) program. Students in the MTLL-NTL program can teach on an Arkansas Provisional License while enrolled.
To qualify for this license, you must pass all state-required examinations and have an offer of employment from an Arkansas public school.
During the provisional licensure period, you will be required to complete at least 24 hours of pedagogy training.
Step 2. Pass the Required PRAXIS Examinations
The Arkansas Department of Education requires all candidates for teacher licenses in the state to take and pass all required examinations. To become an ESL teacher in Arkansas, you must complete the following:
- PRAXIS Core Academic Skills for Educators tests in Reading, Writing, and Mathematics; AND
- Elementary Education: Multiple Subjects and Principles of Learning and Teaching, Grades K-6; OR
- Middle School English Language Arts (5047); OR
- English Language Arts: Content Knowledge and Principles of Learning and Teaching: Grades 7-12
Step 3. Apply for a Provisional and Standard Teaching License and Consider Keeping it Current By Earning a Master’s in ESL
Upon completing all requirements for licensure, teacher candidates must apply for a one-year provisional license. During this time, you will work under the guidance of a certified mentor.
After you have completed this mentoring program, you may apply online for a Standard Arkansas Teaching License. You can also request a paper application by contacting the Office of Educator Licensure at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your teaching license must be renewed every 5 years, which requires you to complete at least 36 professional development hours per school year. You can satisfy these requirements in part by earning a master’s in ESL.
You must complete your renewal application through the online system. Paper applications are no longer allowed.
Step 4. Qualify for an ESL Endorsement If You Didn’t Earn One with Your Initial License
To achieve ESL endorsement, you must be a currently licensed Arkansas educator, and you must successfully complete the following:
- Passing the PRAXIS examination: English to Speakers of Other Languages (5362)
- An ESL Add-on Endorsement K-12; a program must include at least 12 credit hours in the following:
- Methods and materials for teaching second languages (Teaching English as a second language)
- Second language assessment
- Second language acquisition
- Teaching people from other cultures
You’ll apply online to add the ESL endorsement to your current teaching license.
Step 5. Learn More About ESL Teacher Salary Expectations and Jobs in Arkansas
As of May 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported the following salaries for educators in Arkansas:
Early Career (25th percentile): $42,080
Experienced (90th percentile): $64,240
Early Career (25th percentile): $43,280
Experienced (90th percentile): $67,600
Early Career (25th percentile): $43,760
Experienced (90th percentile): $70,840
BLS stats also reveal what ESL teachers are earning in Arkansas in some of its largest metro areas, as of May 2020:
Little Rock (Elementary School)
Early Career (25th percentile): $43,180
Experienced (90th percentile): $69,780
Jonesboro (Middle School)
Early Career (25th percentile): $38,660
Experienced (90th percentile): $58,390
Fayetteville-Springdale (High School)
Early Career (25th percentile): $48,840
Experienced (90th percentile): $77,150
ESL teachers in Arkansas, while paid on the same salary schedule as other educators, may qualify for financial incentives such as grants, bonuses, and salary stipends if they teach in an area that’s identified as having a shortage of ESL teachers.
Part of learning how to become an ESL teacher in Arkansas includes joining a professional group like ARKTESOL – Arkansas Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, which promotes TESOL and the professionals within the field.
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.