The immigrant population in Kentucky, while relatively small compared to other states, remains an influential and growing part of the economy and workforce. A third of all immigrants here hold a college degree, according to the American Immigration Council, and they comprise about 17 percent of the workforce in the state’s fishing, farming, and forestry industries.
And while foreign-born learners comprised just 4.2 percent of the PreK-12 student population in Kentucky as of 2018, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), this demographic continues to grow. The number of ELLs in the public school system was up to 27,067 as of 2018.
The growth of this population has created a demand for ESL teachers in recent years. As of the 2021-2022 school year, the U.S. Department of Education reported shortages of ESL teachers at all grade levels (PreK-12) in the Kentuckiana Works (includes Bullitt, Henry, Jefferson, Oldham, Shelby, Spencer, and Trimble counties) and Bluegrass (includes Anderson, Bourbon, Boyle, Clark, Fayette, Franklin, Garrard, Harrison, Jessamine, Lincoln, Madison, Mercer, Nicholas, Scott, and Woodford counties) regions.
Now is the time to take advantage of the exceptional professional opportunities available to ESL teachers in Kentucky by earning ESL certification on your Kentucky teaching license.
These steps will show you exactly how to earn TESOL certification (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) and become an ESL teacher in Kentucky:
Step 1. Earn a Degree in TESOL and Qualify to Become an ESL Teacher in Kentucky
To teach ESL in Kentucky, you can either major in an ESL and pursue TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certification for initial licensure, or you can major in elementary education or in a single subject in secondary education and then choose TESOL as an endorsement to your teaching certificate.
Regardless of which route you choose, learning how to become an ESL teacher in Kentucky starts with completing a bachelor’s or master’s degree that’s part of an approved teacher preparation program.
If you want to earn a TESOL teaching certification in Kentucky, you’ll find a nice selection of programs that offer TESOL as a major. For example, Murray State University offers a Major in English Education/TESOL (P-12) Track that qualifies graduates for TESOL certification.
Many universities also offer TESOL coursework that can be added to an existing teaching program. For example, Western Kentucky University offers a Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) minor to students, which allows graduates to pursue a teaching certificate in English and then TESOL as an endorsement.
Courses within a TESOL program include:
- ESL assessment and testing
- English as a second language
- ESL teaching materials and methods
In many cases, you’ll also be required to take six hours of a foreign language.
Already a Kentucky certified teacher and want to add a TESOL endorsement?
If you already have your teacher’s license, you can get the education you need to earn a TESOL endorsement by completing an undergraduate certificate, graduate certificate, or master’s in ESL. For example, the University of Kentucky offers an MA in TESL and a graduate certificate in TESL.
While certificate programs provide a more streamlined path to earning TESOL endorsement, a master’s degree is a popular pursuit among educators who want to improve their professional opportunities and increase their earning potential.
A master’s degree in Kentucky automatically qualifies you for a Rank II teaching certification and can help you maintain your teaching certificate. (See Step 4.)
Already have a bachelor’s degree in another field?
Your bachelor’s degree in another field may qualify you to complete a master’s degree leading to your initial teaching license. Many schools that offer bachelor’s level teaching certificate programs also offer master’s options that include all of the coursework and practical experiences necessary to become certified as a Kentucky educator.
Step 2. Pass the Required Exam(s)
After you complete your degree program and student teaching experience, you’ll need to take and pass the English to Speakers of Other Languages Praxis II exam with a score of at least 157 to meet Kentucky’s standard for endorsement.
You’ll have two hours to complete the exam’s 120 questions in the following content areas:
- Foundations of Linguistics 18%
- Foundations of Language Learning 22%
- Planning and Implementing Instruction 23%
- Assessment and Evaluation 15%
- Culture 11%
- Professionalism and Advocacy 11%
If you choose to earn your teaching certificate in another area and then choose TESOL as an endorsement, you’ll also need to pass the Praxis exam that corresponds to the grade in which you plan to teach.
Step 3. Apply for Your Kentucky Teaching Certification
Once you have passed your ESL exam, you are ready to apply for your initial Kentucky certification.
To get your initial Rank III certification (you may be eligible for a Rank II certification upon earning a master’s in ESL or a related area), you’ll need to complete the CA-1 application and provide the Department of Education with your official transcripts and verification of your student teaching (sent directly from your superintendent or personnel director).
Step 4. Consider Earning a Master’s in ESL to Maintain and Upgrade Your Certification
Given the importance of educating Kentucky’s diverse student population, the Kentucky Department of Education provides a large number of resources for ESL teachers and a number of links for professional development.
You’ll need to renew your teaching certificate every five years upon the successful completion of one of the following:
- At least 3 years of classroom teaching experience
- At least 6 semester hours of graduate credit
You may meet the continuing education requirements for your license and work toward Rank II (or Rank I with a master’s degree and an additional 30 graduate credits of education or National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certification) certification by earning a master’s degree.
In most cases, earning a Rank II or Rank I certificate in Kentucky translates into higher pay. Learn more about Kentucky educator salaries here.
Some of the degrees that provide P-12 endorsement in Kentucky include:
- M.Ed. Teacher Leader program (ESL area of emphasis)
- M.A. in Humanities with a Concentration in Linguistics (ESL)
An alternative is to get an ESL endorsement for more specialized areas of education:
- M.A.Ed. in Elementary Education with an option in Elementary or Middle School Education
- M.A.Ed. in Secondary Education
If you already have a master’s degree, you can enroll in an ESL master’s degree program that will provide you with Rank II certification to teach ESL.
Step 5. Learn More About ESL Teacher Salary Expectations for Jobs in Kentucky
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), educators in Kentucky earn the following salaries as of May 2020:
Early Career (25th percentile): $44,910
Experienced (90th percentile): $67,220
Early Career (25th percentile): $45,570
Experienced (90th percentile): $69,520
Early Career (25th percentile): $46,810
Experienced (90th percentile): $74,130
BLS stats also reveal what ESL teachers are earning in Kentucky in some of its largest metro areas, as of May 2020:
Lexington (Elementary School)
Early Career (25th percentile): $47,290
Experienced (90th percentile): $77,790
Louisville (Middle School)
Early Career (25th percentile): $45,930
Experienced (90th percentile): $75,680
Bowling Green (High School)
Early Career (25th percentile): $45,110
Experienced (90th percentile): $67,500
A professional association like the Kentucky TESOL Association is a great way to find continuing education and professional opportunities in ESL. TESOL offers a number of scholarships every year to both aspiring and existing educators who focus their careers on ESL.
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.