Hawaii ESL Teacher Job Description and ESOL Certification Requirements

Hawaii is among the top five states in the nation with the highest concentration of public school students participating in programs for English Language Learners. During the 2012 school year more than 13 percent of its students attended such programs, a figure that has increased nearly 50 percent over the past decade. These statistics highlight the important role that ESL teachers play in the state and point to an increasing demand for professionals in this field.

George Mason University Offers a Master of Education (MEd) in Curriculum and Instruction, Concentration in TESOL
The Master of Arts in Teaching - TESOL online program from the USC Rossier School of Education prepares you to teach students of all ages in the U.S. and internationally, gives you the option to pursue a teaching credential, and can be completed in 12 months.
Liberty University Offers Undergrad Cert and B.Ed. in English as a Second Language.
Capella University offers online Master’s program in English Language Learning and Teaching designed to help educators advance their career in supporting diverse student populations. While it does not satisfy licensure requirements, the program can help you build the skills to use instructional strategies, emerging trends, and best practices to effectively teach English Language Learners to help students adapt to new cultural environments.

To become an ESL teacher in Hawaii you will be working with the Hawaii Teacher Standards Board as you complete the following steps:

#1 ButtonEarn a Degree in the Field of ESL Education
#2 ButtonPass Hawaii’s Required Tests
#3 ButtonApply for an ESL Teaching License
#4 ButtonRenew Your Hawaii ESL Teaching License



Step 1. Earn a Degree in the Field of ESL Education

One of the minimum endorsement requirements for ESL teachers in Hawaii is having at least a bachelor’s degree. In-state schools and universities offer bachelor’s of arts and master’s of arts degrees, majors, minors, and graduate-level certifications in ESL, referred to in Hawaii as the field of TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages).

There are two basic components of a TESOL degree or certification program that will result in the eligibility for a teaching license:

Courses that are related to ESL as a subject will take you through topics such as:

  • Linguistics and language arts
  • English grammar and writing
  • English reading
  • History of ESL
  • Popular foreign languages – in Hawaii the most common non-English languages among students are:
    • Ilocano
    • Languages of the Pacific Islands
    • Tagalog
    • Japanese
    • Spanish

Completing a SATEP in ESL/TESOL is the most common way new teachers qualify to teach ESL in Hawaii, and is also one of the routes to licensure for those who want to add a TESOL endorsement to their current teaching license. This portion of the degree or certification focuses on the pedagogical aspects of ESL, such as:

  • Teaching diverse students and students from diverse cultures
  • Methods and strategies for teaching English
  • ESL curriculum development
  • Choosing and interpreting different ESL/TESOL assessments and exams
  • Practicum or student teaching in an ESL/TESOL classroom

Keep in mind that SATEPs in ESL/TESOL are offered at several levels depending on the grades you intend to teach:

  • Pre-K to 3rd grade
  • K-6th grade
  • 6th-8th grade
  • 6th-12th grade
  • K-12th grade

Out-of-State Reciprocity

If you are a new or inexperienced ESL teacher moving to Hawaii from another state you will need to complete a SATEP program in ESL/TESOL. However if you have at least three years of experience as an ESL teacher in your home state you may already meet the Hawaii ESL certification requirements and need only complete the testing requirements if you have not done so already.

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Step 2. Pass Hawaii’s Required Tests

There are several tests you should be aware of as you research the steps towards an ESL teaching certificate in Hawaii. These are all offered through Educational Testing Service (ETS):

  • Core Academic Skills for Educators Exam
  • English to Speakers of Other Languages Exam
  • Principles of Learning and Teaching Exam

Core Academic Skills for Educators Exam

The Hawaii Teacher Standards Board requires all candidates to pass this exam to ensure they have the basic skills needed to be a competent teacher. The exam is offered in three sub-sections that each evaluate a critical subject area:

English to Speakers of Other Languages Exam

The English to Speakers of Other Languages Exam is the assessment that specifically evaluates your knowledge in the field of ESL/TESOL. You will be allowed two hours to complete this, and the exam is divided into two sections with questions taken from four topic categories:

  • Section 1 listening test – this first section lasts a half hour. You will wear headphones and must answer questions that are read aloud by the recorded voice of a non-native English speaker. These questions are based from the topics of linguistics and language learning.
  • Section 2 – the second section is comprised of 100 select-response questions to be completed in 1.5 hours. Questions are on the topics of:
    • Foundations of language learning and linguistics
    • Cultural and professional aspects of being an ESL teacher
    • Strengths and selection of assessments
    • Planning, managing, and implementing classroom instruction

Principles of Learning and Teaching Exam

You will need to pass the Principles of Learning and Teaching Exam if you have not completed a SATEP. This exam assesses your knowledge of the essential elements in educating and being an effective teacher. The Hawaii Teacher Standards Board recognizes that if you have completed a SATEP then you have learned the necessary ESL/TESOL pedagogical skills as set forth in the Hawaii ESL teacher job description.

You should choose the version of this exam that corresponds to the grade levels you intend to teach:



Step 3. Apply for an ESL Teaching License

When you have reached this point you will be ready to apply for a Hawaii teaching license in the ESL/TESOL field. You can do this either online by creating an account known as MyHTSB (Hawaii Teacher Standards Board) or by sending a completed application to:

Hawaii Teacher Standards Board
650 Iwilei Road, Suite 201
Honolulu, HI 96817
Attention: Licensing Section

Along with the application you will also need to submit:

  • Proof of SATEP completion
  • ETS exam scores
  • $240 license fee
  • Copy of out-of-state license, if applicable

Once your application has been approved and you are issued your teaching license you will be ready to apply for ESL teacher jobs in Hawaii. You may find helpful links and information through websites such as the Hawaii Department of Education’s job opportunities page.

Current Hawaii Teachers

If you are currently employed as a teacher in Hawaii and your license is in a different field, you can apply to add a field of ESL/TESOL to your license. To be eligible for this you must meet one of the following conditions:

  • Complete a SATEP in ESL/TESOL
  • Complete the equivalent subject matter as found in an ESL/TESOL SATEP, such as by majoring in an ESL program
  • Have at least one year of ESL teaching experience and have completed the English to Speakers of Other Languages Exam
  • Have NBPTS Certification

NBPTS Certification

NBPTS Certification refers to what is also known as National Board Certification, and is offered through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). Certification is possible according to the grades you teach, and gaining this involves completing an extensive process of evaluation with the NBPTS:



Step 4. Renew Your Hawaii ESL Teaching License

Your teaching license is valid for five years, and you must maintain your proficiency in 10 key elements in order to renew your license for another five years. You can demonstrate proficiency in these key areas in a variety of ways, such as attending professional ESL conferences or earning a master’s degree, and proof of such will only be required if you are randomly audited. The 10 key elements are:

  • Ethical practice and professional development
  • ESL instructional planning
  • Development of supportive learning environments
  • Student ability development and improvement in ESL
  • ESL content knowledge
  • Testing and assessments in ESL
  • ESL strategies for instruction
  • Collaboration and leadership in the ESL field
  • Recognition of and adaptation to student learning differences
  • Application of the concepts of ESL and TESOL

There are two ways you can demonstrate proficiency in all 10 of these areas in one fell swoop:

  • Earn National Board Certification
  • A satisfactory rating in your most recent teacher evaluation and professional development plan

Your teacher evaluation is conducted by officials with your employing school and will evaluate your effectiveness and competence as an ESL teacher. As part of this officials will consult your professional development plan. You will develop this plan in conjunction with your school’s administration, and it will identify specific goals you have identified that will improve your teaching performance.

You also have the option of upgrading your ESL teaching license to an Advanced License that is valid for 10 years. To be eligible for this upgrade you must be able to fulfill the following requirements:

  • Have a regular five-year teaching certificate with at least five years of full-time teaching experience, and one of the following:
    • NBPTS Certification
    • A master’s degree or other specialist degree related to the field of ESL or TESOL

In Hawaii’s competitive ESL field the advantages of having a relevant master’s degree cannot be overlooked. In addition to fulfilling part of the renewal requirements, a master’s degree can also open up additional career opportunities, justify a higher salary, and increase job stability. A master’s degree can also solidify your knowledge in the field of ESL, thereby increasing your professional performance and ability to teach effectively.

Hawaii ESL Endorsement Salary Bonus Incentives

The Hawaii State Department of Education is committed to employing teachers with the strongest credentials, and this includes those with ESL (English as a second language) endorsements added to their primary content area. Hawaii offers competitive salaries for teachers and offers a higher pay rate for teachers that have taken the courses necessary to add a secondary ESL endorsement.

ESL is also considered a primary content area in Hawaii, so teachers can devote their careers to working with Hawaii’s growing number of non-native English speakers.

Hawaii has one of the most evenly distributed populations of non-native English speakers, with nearly 18% speaking Tagalog, 13% speaking Japanese and another 13% speaking Chinese as their first languages. This is in contrast to most other states in which a single cultural and linguistic background tends to dominate. This speaks to the true diversity found within Hawaii’s public school system.

The average annual salary among teachers in Hawaii, including those with primary and ancillary endorsements in ESL, was $55,930 in 2013, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The top ten percent of earners, representing the most experienced tenured teachers, earned an average of $74,140.

ESL teacher salaries in Hawaii tend differ only slightly between metro and non-metro areas:


  • Average: $56,500
  • Entry: $41,080
  • Experienced: $74,790
  • Median: $55,850

Non-Metropolitan Areas

  • Average: $ 54,460
  • Entry: $40,330
  • Experienced: $72,220
  • Median: $53,950

Getting an ancillary ESL endorsement in Hawaii can diversify the teaching portfolio while making those who hold it eligible for a higher pay rate.

Below is a table that shows salaries for adult ESL educators, classified as Adult Basic and Secondary Education and Literacy Teachers, by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Area name
Annual Median Salary
Honolulu HI
Hawaii / Maui / Kauai nonmetropolitan area

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