A large population of Mexican immigrants has made Colorado a hot spot for English Language Learners (ELLs) in recent years. In fact, every year since 2005, the state has reported about 100,000 ELLs which, as of 2018, accounted for about 11.4 percent of Colorado’s total PreK-12 student population.
While Mexico accounts for the largest percentage of immigrants in Colorado (about 40 percent as of 2018), immigrants from India (5 percent), China (3 percent), and Vietnam (3 percent) also play a large part in this state’s thriving foreign-born population, according to the American Immigration Council.
And it’s this steady demographic that has made ESL teachers in Colorado a hot commodity. In fact, as of the 2021-2022 school year, the U.S. Department of Education reported ESL teacher shortages in all grades, PreK-12.
If you want to become a Colorado ESL teacher, it’s time to earn that valuable ESL certification.
These steps will show you exactly how to earn TESOL certification (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) and become an ESL teacher in Colorado:
Step 1. Earn a Degree in Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Education (CLDE) and Qualify to Become an ESL Teacher in Colorado
Learning how to become an ESL teacher in Colorado involves earning an ESL endorsement on your existing teaching certificate. The ESL endorsement here is referred to as a Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Education (CLDE) Specialist endorsement (K-12).
You’ll major in elementary education or in a single subject at the secondary level (many aspiring ESL teachers choose English or language arts) and then choose an ESL minor, track or concentration.
If you’re new to the teaching field and don’t yet have a bachelor’s degree, you’ll want to complete a bachelor’s or master’s in ESL that’s part of an approved educator preparation program, which includes all of the necessary pedagogical and hands-on learning experience needed for a teaching certificate in Colorado. You’ll want to make sure the program you choose includes the option of adding an ESL minor, track or concentration.
Fortunately, there are plenty of options in Colorado that offer this type of program. For example, the University of Northern Colorado offers a Teaching English as Second Language (TESOL) program that can be combined with any education major (about 75% of all students in this program are elementary education majors) and results in a K-12 CLDE endorsement.
Already a Colorado certified teacher and want to add an ESL endorsement?
If you’re already a Colorado certified teacher, you can complete the required ESL coursework through a TESOL master’s degree or undergraduate/graduate certificate program that results in a second endorsement to your teaching certificate.
For example, the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs offers an MA in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) for in-service teachers that includes 30 semester hours, with the first 24 hours applicable to the CLDE endorsement.
The 24 semester hours required to earn the CLDE endorsement include:
- First and Second Language Acquisition
- Literacy Development for CLS Students
- Knowledge of English and Linguistics
- Assessment of Language Proficiency
- Foundations in CLD Education
- Teaching Strategies for CLD Learners
- CLD Field Experience
- Knowledge of Other Languages
Pursuing a master’s degree is a great way to satisfy the required courses necessary for the CLDE endorsement, meet the professional development requirements for your professional teaching license (see step 5), and position yourself for more professional opportunities and a larger paycheck.
You may also earn the acquired hours by completing them outside of a formal program, provided they are offered through a regionally accredited college or university.
Already have a bachelor’s in another field?
If you earned a bachelor’s or higher in another field but have not completed a teacher preparation program leading to an initial Colorado teaching certificate, you may be eligible to complete an alternative teacher preparation program. To qualify for this pathway, you must:
- Pass CBI and FBI background checks
- Demonstrate professional competence in an approved endorsement area (either through post-secondary education or by taking and passing the appropriate content exam – see step 2)
- Secure a classroom teaching position
- Obtain an agreement with a state-approved college or university that offers an approved alternative teacher preparation program
- Apply for an alternative teacher license through the Colorado Department of Education’s online system
You may also pursue a master’s degree in ESL leading to initial licensure if you have a bachelor’s in another field. In fact, many schools that offer bachelor’s level teacher preparation programs also offer programs at the master’s level. These programs include all of the necessary coursework and practical learning experiences necessary to become a certified teacher in Colorado.
Step 2. Take and Pass the Appropriate Content Examinations
Once you’ve completed the required teacher preparation program, you must take and pass the appropriate PRAXIS II content examinations (in elementary education or a secondary content area).
Learn more about PRAXIS exam requirements here.
Step 3. Apply for an Initial Teaching License or Endorsement
Upon completion of all necessary licensing requirements, you must apply for an initial teaching license through the Colorado Department of Education’s online system. Your initial teaching license is valid for a period of 3 years.
Step 4. Apply for a Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Education (CLDE) Endorsement
The CLDE endorsement in Colorado is an added endorsement only, so you’ll only be eligible to earn this endorsement if you already have a Colorado teacher license. Once you complete the CLDE endorsement required courses, you’ll be eligible for this endorsement and can apply through the online licensing system.
Step 5. Apply For a Professional Teaching License and Consider Maintaining It By Earning a Master’s in ESL
Upon completion of a Colorado State Board of Education-approved induction program, which may be completed through Colorado school districts, charter schools, and private schools, you may apply for an Initial to Professional Teaching License.
A professional teaching license must be maintained by renewing it every 5 years, during which time you must complete at least 90 contact hours of professional development activities (6 semester hours of coursework), which can be accomplished in part by earning a master’s in ESL
Step 6. Learn More About ESL Teacher Salary Expectations and Jobs in Colorado
As of May 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported the following salaries for educators in Colorado:
Early Career (25th percentile): $44,420
Experienced (90th percentile): $80,270
Early Career (25th percentile): $44,420
Experienced (90th percentile): $80,160
Early Career (25th percentile): $45,480
Experienced (90th percentile): $82,510
BLS stats also reveal what ESL teachers are earning in Colorado in some of its largest metro areas, as of May 2020:
Boulder (Elementary School)
Early Career (25th percentile): $54,770
Experienced (90th percentile): $95,580
Denver (Middle School)
Early Career (25th percentile): $46,880
Experienced (90th percentile): $83,000
Colorado Springs (High School)
Early Career (25th percentile): $43,480
Experienced (90th percentile): $71,080
While your salary as an ESL teacher in Colorado will reflect just your education and experience, you may qualify for scholarships and grants as an ESL student or for annual stipends or signing bonuses if you teach in a school district that’s labeled “hard to fill” or identifies ESL as a teacher shortage.
For example, the Colorado Association for Bilingual Education offers scholarships ranging from $1,500 to $10,000 for undergraduate and graduate students working toward a degree or certification in linguistically and culturally diverse education in a Colorado University.
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.