Iowa has increased its efforts in recent years to ensure that its English Language Learner (ELL) population receives the quality instruction needed to succeed. And they’re putting their money where their mouth is. For nearly 20 years, funding for ELL students here has increased more than 50 percent. This is crucial in a state that has seen the number of ELL students triple over the last 20 years.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), as of 2018, Iowa was home to about 31,000 ELLs, which is about 6.5 percent of the state’s total PreK-12 population – an increase of about 2,000 from just a year prior.
Both new and existing Iowa educators are sure to find exceptional opportunities in the ESL field in Iowa. But before you can become an ESL teacher here, you’ll need specific education and endorsement credentials.
These steps will show you exactly how to earn TESOL certification (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) and become an ESL teacher in Iowa:
Step 1. Earn a Degree in ESL and Qualify to Become an ESL Teacher in Iowa
The Iowa Board of Educational Examiners offers an endorsement in English as a Second Language (K-12), which is added to an elementary or secondary education license. This means that learning how to become an ESL teacher in Iowa (if you are new to the field and don’t yet have a bachelor’s degree) involves majoring in elementary or secondary education and then adding an ESL endorsement program to it.
You can begin your path to earning ESL certification by completing a bachelor’s or master’s degree in elementary or secondary education that’s part of an approved teacher preparation program and includes an ESL endorsement program.
Fortunately, most colleges and universities Iowa offering teacher preparation programs also offer ESL endorsements. Just a few of these institutions include Central College, Drake University, Faith Baptist Bible College, Iowa State University, and the University of Iowa.
To earn the ESL endorsement, you’ll need to complete a course of study that includes at least 18 semester hours in:
- Sociolinguistics and psycholinguistics
- English grammar and structure
- Acquiring and proficiency in language
- Methods and curriculum in ESL
- Assessment in academic content and language proficiency
- Cultural and linguistic diversity
- Current issues in immigrant populations
- Policy and legislation
- Theory, research and models
You must also complete supervised teaching experience, at both the K-6 and 7-12 endorsement levels. At least one of these experiences must include ESL. Most teacher preparation programs require that you complete a minimum of 12 classroom hours of ESL student teaching.
Already a licensed Iowa teacher and want to add an ESL endorsement?
If you’re already a licensed educator in Iowa and you want to add an ESL endorsement to your license, you can complete an undergraduate certificate, graduate certificate, or master’s in ESL to satisfy the required ESL coursework necessary for an endorsement.
For example, Morningside University offers a MAT in ESL Education, while Iowa State University offers a TESL/TEFL Graduate Certificate and an MA in TESL/Applied Linguistics.
Already have a bachelor’s in another field?
If you have a bachelor’s degree and you want to make the switch to teaching, you can pursue one of Iowa’s alternative license pathways. In addition to a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university, these programs require students to take 12-18 credits of coursework in teaching before they are placed in a high school with an intern license. After a one-year internship, students of this program satisfy a few more credit requirements to become a fully licensed teacher.
Your bachelor’s degree may also qualify you for a master’s degree leading to an initial teaching certificate. Many schools that offer bachelor’s degree programs as part of a teacher preparation program also offer master’s level programs that include all of the necessary coursework and practical experiences necessary to earn an initial teaching license.
Step 2. Pass Pedagogy and Content Area Exams
Iowa does not require its teachers to pass basic skills tests, as it is assumed these skills have been assessed during your teacher preparation program. You must, however, pass pedagogy and content area testing for each endorsement you seek. Usually, these tests are administered during your teacher preparation program.
You must pass the Praxis II Pedagogy test corresponding to the grade level in which you are certified to teach:
- Principles of Learning and Teaching: K-6 (a score of 167 is required to pass)
- Principles of Learning and Teaching: 5-9 (a score of 166 is required to pass)
- Principles of Learning and Teaching: 7-12 (a score of 165 is required to pass)
You must also pass the edTPA test for the endorsement area(s) you seek:
- Teacher Elementary Classroom K-6:
- Elementary Literacy (score of 41)
- Elementary Math (score of 41)
- Elementary Education (score of 49)
- ESL Teacher K-12:
- English as Additional Language (score of 41)
Content area testing
You must also pass the Praxis II content area examination for each area in which you seek endorsement.
- Teacher Elem Classroom K-6: Elementary Ed: Content Knowledge (score of 152)
- ESL Teacher K-12: English to Speakers of Other Languages 5361 (score of 148)
Step 3. Apply for Your Iowa Teaching License and ESL Endorsement
If you have completed the education, experience and testing required, you may apply for your initial teaching license in Iowa. You’ll create an account with, and apply through, the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners.
To qualify for the ESL endorsement, you must meet one of the criteria below:
- Receive a recommendation from your approved Iowa teacher preparation program that the requirements for the endorsement have been met
- Receive verification from your Iowa institution that the state requirements for the endorsement have been met if you did not complete their teacher preparation program
- Receive verification from a state approved, regionally accredited institution that the state requirements for the endorsement have been met
- Apply for a review of your transcripts by the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners
To apply for the endorsement, you’ll choose from one of two options: (1) apply to add an endorsement through an Iowa institution, or (2) apply for a review of your transcripts if you have completed the requirements through a non-Iowa institution.
Step 4. Consider Earning a Master’s in ESL to Maintain and Upgrade Your Iowa Teaching License and ESL Endorsement
After you’ve achieved two years of teaching experience in an Iowa public school (or three years in an accredited private school), you may convert your Initial Teaching License to a Standard License by creating an account and applying through the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners online system. Two renewals of your Initial Teaching license are allowed if you haven’t met the experience requirement.
Your Standard License is valid for five years. To renew:
- During the five year validity of your license, you must complete six credits that meet at least one of the following requirements:
- Are from an accredited institution and add depth to your ESL endorsement
- Are from an accredited institution and count towards completing a graduate degree
- Are from an accredited institution and count towards completing requirements for another endorsement
- Are chosen from among the Board-approved Iowa licensure renewal courses
- Are earned from receiving certification from the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards (up to four credits may be earned in this manner)
- One credit may be earned a combination of the following activities (3 points equals one credit):
- Mentoring a student teacher for at least 12 weeks (2 points)
- Mentoring a student teacher for less than 12 weeks (1 point)
- Mentoring a practicum student for 60 contact hours (1 point)
- Going to a teachers’ workshop with a mentoring student (1 point)
- Serving for over 12 months on a teacher education program’s advisory committee (1 point)
- Additionally, if you work in an Iowa public school or have an Iowa address, you must complete the mandatory child and dependent adult abuse reporter training
Pursuing a graduate degree in teaching can help you to earn renewal credits for your Iowa teaching license. It can also help to increase your earning potential in Iowa. Examples of graduate degrees that ESL teachers in Iowa might pursue include:
- Master of Arts in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL)
- Master of Arts in Education with a Concentration in TESL
- Master of Arts in Applied Linguistics/TESL
- Master of Education with a Concentration in TESL
Step 5. Learn More About ESL Teacher Salary Expectations for Jobs in Iowa
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), teachers in Iowa earned the following salaries as of May 2020:
Early Career (25th percentile): $43,850
Experienced (90th percentile): $77,180
Early Career (25th percentile): $45,210
Experienced (90th percentile): $80,210
Early Career (25th percentile): $45,960
Experienced (90th percentile): $81,550
BLS stats also reveal what ESL teachers are earning in Iowa in some of its largest metro areas, as of May 2020:
Cedar Rapids (Elementary School)
Early Career (25th percentile): $44,990
Experienced (90th percentile): $74,100
Des Moines (Middle School)
Early Career (25th percentile): $46,580
Experienced (90th percentile): $80,250
Cedar Falls (High School)
Early Career (25th percentile): $51,320
Experienced (90th percentile): $99,150
You can begin your job search for an ESL teaching position in Iowa by creating an account with and applying for available jobs directly through Teach Iowa.
You can also get involved and learn more about working as an ESL teacher in Iowa by becoming involved in a professional association like the Iowa Council of Teachers of English.
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.