Illinois ESL Teacher Job Description and Certification Requirements

Illinois’ large immigrant population, much of which is positioned in the Chicagoland area, has resulted in a growing number of English Language Learners (ELLs) and plentiful opportunities for the state’s ESL teachers. According to the American Immigration Council, Illinois’ growing number of foreign-born citizens, the majority of which hail from Mexico, are vital to the economic vitality of the state. In fact, more than one in six workers in Illinois and about one-third of all business owners in the Chicago metro area are immigrants.

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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.
Campbellsville University Offers an ESL Endorsement (P-12), M.A. in Teaching - Secondary Education, M.A. in TESOL
Liberty University Offers Undergrad Cert and B.Ed. in English as a Second Language.
Greenville University Offers a Master of Arts in Education - Teaching English as a Second Language (ESL)
George Mason University Offers a Master of Education (MEd) in Curriculum and Instruction, Concentration in TESOL
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.
St. John's University Offers an Online Ph.D. in Literacy

A large immigrant population translates into an equally large number of ELLs. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), there were 228,640 ELLs in Illinois in 2018, which translates into about 12.1 percent of the total PreK-12 population.

It’s clear Illinois continues to struggle with educating its ELL population, as the U.S. Department of Education reported teacher shortages in ESL, Bilingual Education, and Bilingual Special Education as of the 2021-2022 school year.

Illinois’ challenges have resulted in outstanding opportunities for educators who have focused their careers on teaching ELLs.

These steps will show you exactly how to earn TESOL certification (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) and become an ESL teacher in Illinois:

#1 ButtonEarn a Degree in ESL and Qualify to Become an ESL Teacher in Illinois
#2 ButtonPass the Required Exams
#3 ButtonApply for Your Illinois Teaching License and ESL Endorsement
#4 ButtonConsider Earning a Master’s Degree in ESL to Maintain and Upgrade Your Illinois Teaching License
#5 ButtonLearn More About ESL Teacher Salary Expectations for Jobs in Illinois

 


 

Step 1. Earn a Degree in ESL and Qualify to Become an ESL Teacher in Illinois

If you are new to the field and don’t yet have a bachelor’s degree, learning how to become an ESL teacher in Illinois starts with earning a bachelor’s or master’s degree that’s part of a state-approved teacher preparation program. You will need to decide what type of Professional Educator License you wish to earn, as your teaching license will be in one of the following areas:

  • Early Childhood Education (Birth-Grade 3)
  • Elementary Education (Grades K-9)
  • Secondary Education (Grades 6-12)
  • Special Teaching (Grades K-12)
  • Special Education (Grades PK-Age 21)
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Additionally, to earn ESL certification on your teaching license, you must complete a concentration in TESOL studies, which varies depending upon your certification area:

  • If you hold an Early Childhood or Elementary Education license, or a Special Teaching license but intend to teach in these grades, the Primary Endorsement is called English as a Second Language (ESL) and requires:
    • 18 semester hours of college coursework:
      • Elective (additional bilingual or ESL course)
      • Cross cultural studies for teaching limited English proficient students
      • Methods and materials for teaching ESL
      • Assessment of the bilingual student
      • Theoretical foundations of teaching ESL
      • Linguistics
    • No content area test is required for this endorsement
  • If you hold an Elementary Teacher Education (intending to teach the grade range for middle school 5-8), Secondary Teacher Education (intending to teach the middle school grade range 6-8), Special K-12 or Special Education PK-21 license, the Middle School Endorsement is called English as a Second Language (ESL) and requires:
    • 18 semester hours of college coursework:
      • Elective (additional bilingual or ESL course)
      • Cross cultural studies for teaching limited English proficient students
      • Methods and materials for teaching ESL
      • Assessment of the bilingual student
      • Theoretical foundations of teaching ESL
      • Linguistics
    • No content area test is required for this endorsement
    • ESL endorsement, which requires:
      • 18 semester hours of college coursework:
        • Elective (additional bilingual or ESL course)
        • Cross cultural studies for teaching limited English proficient students
        • Methods and materials for teaching ESL
        • Assessment of the bilingual student
        • Theoretical foundations of teaching ESL
        • Linguistics
      • No content area test is required for this endorsement
  • If you hold a Secondary Education (grades 9-12), Special K-12 or Special Education PK-21 license, there are two different endorsements possible at the Senior High level:
    • English as a New Language (ENL) endorsement- the advanced endorsement – which requires:
      • 24 semester hours of college education, with 12 at the upper division level,
      • Passing the English as a New Language content area test (see Step 2)

Additional requirements for TESOL certification in Illinois at any grade level include:

  • Receiving a grade of C or better in all ESL coursework
  • Completion of a clinical experience in ESL, equaling at least 100 clock hours, or three months of experience in teaching ESL students
  • Additional requirements for the ESL endorsement at the middle school level include:
  • 3 semester hours of courses in middle school curriculum, philosophy and instructional methods, and teaching programs that are developmentally appropriate, including reading, AND
  • 3 semester hours of courses in educational psychology with a focus on development of early adolescents and the role of the middle school teacher in assessing and referring students to appropriate social and health services

Already an Illinois licensed teacher and want to add an ESL endorsement?

You can also add the ESL endorsement to your existing Illinois teaching license by completing an undergraduate certificate, graduate certificate, or master’s in ESL. You may also simply take the required courses.

For example, educators can take the required ESL courses through the University of Illinois Chicago or complete the courses through one of its master’s degrees in education:

  • Ed. Early Childhood Education
  • Ed. Educational Studies
  • Ed. Language, Literacies & Learning (LLL)
  • Ed. Science Education
  • Ed. Special Education

Already hold a bachelor’s degree in another field?

The Illinois State Board of Education maintains a list of providers that offer alternative (non-traditional) licensure programs. If you hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college of university, you may qualify for a streamlined pathway to your initial Illinois teaching license. Learn more about alternative licensure programs here.

Your bachelor’s degree may also qualify you for one of the many available master’s degree programs leading to an initial teaching license. You’ll find many of the schools that offer bachelor’s level teacher preparation programs also offer programs at the master’s level. These programs include all of the coursework and practical experiences necessary for initial licensure.

 


 

Step 2. Pass the Required Exams

Illinois hosts its own examination system that all teachers must participate in to become licensed – the Illinois Licensure Testing System (ILTS). Tests that you must pass are at the basic skills and content area levels.

Basic skills testing

You must pass the edTPA (Teacher Performance Assessment), an evidence-based assessment of teacher effectiveness, after you’ve completed your student teaching.

Content area testing

You need not pass any content area examinations to obtain the ESL endorsement.

In order to receive the ENL endorsement in Illinois at the senior high level (the advanced level endorsement), you must next pass the ILTS English as a New Language content area test. This exam will test your knowledge in professional collaboration, conduct and growth; development of English language skills; and foundations of ENL instruction. You must pass the test with a score of 240 or better.

 


 

Step 3. Apply for Your Illinois Teaching License and ESL Endorsement

Once you have completed the above requirements, you are ready to apply for your teaching license in Illinois. You will have a pending entitlement notification on your ELIS (Educator License Information System) account. Once you receive this notification, you’ll apply through the ELIS system.

When you receive your teaching license, it must be registered. This may also be done via the ELIS online system. Your license does not become valid until you register it, and you must register it in all regions of the state in which you teach. You must pay $50 in registration fees for a five-year professional educator’s license ($10 per year). You must pay separately for each license you hold.

 


 

Step 4. Consider Earning a Master’s Degree in ESL to Maintain and Upgrade Your Illinois Teaching License

Your Professional Educator License is valid for five years. You can renew your license online. During the five-year validity period of your license, you must complete 120 professional development hours.

If you are certified by the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), you’ll need to complete just 60 PD hours.

Learn more about Illinois’ approved Professional Development Providers here.

Graduate Degrees

As you can see from the above, earning a graduate degree can benefit you as a teacher in Illinois. There are many types of ESL graduate degrees available within the state’s institutions and online. Some of them include:

  • Master of Arts in Teaching of English as a Second Language (MATESL)
  • Graduate Certificate in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages)
  • Master of Arts in English with concentration in TESOL
  • Master of Arts in Linguistics with concentration in TESOL
  • Master of Education with concentration in TESOL

 


Step 5. Learn More About ESL Teacher Salary Expectations for Jobs in Illinois

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Illinois teachers earned the following salaries as of May 2020:

 

Elementary School

Early Career (25th percentile): $48,550
Median: $62,780
Experienced (90th percentile): $101,720

 

Middle School

Early Career (25th percentile): $48,830
Median: $61,830
Experienced (90th percentile): $99,560

 

High School

Early Career (25th percentile): $53,100
Median: $70,740
Experienced (90th percentile): $122,320

 

BLS stats also reveal what ESL teachers are earning in Illinois in some of its largest metro areas, as of May 2020:

 

Bloomington (Elementary School)

Early Career (25th percentile): $40,530
Median: $54,020
Experienced (90th percentile): $81,150

 

Chicago (Middle School)

Early Career (25th percentile): $51,810
Median: $64,750
Experienced (90th percentile): $102,890

 

Chicago (High School)

Early Career (25th percentile): $44,800
Median: $55,600
Experienced (90th percentile): $78,140

 

You can learn about opportunities to finance your education and advance in the ESL field by becoming a member of a professional association like the Illinois Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages – Bilingual Education and the Illinois Association of Multilingual Multicultural Education.

 

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.

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