Kentucky ESL Teacher Job Description and ESOL Certification Requirements

Follow these steps to become an ESL teacher in Kentucky:

#1 ButtonTake the Coursework Required for Your ESL Endorsement
#2 ButtonPass the Praxis II ESL Exam
#3 ButtonApply for Your Kentucky Teacher’s License
#4 ButtonMaintain Your ESL Endorsement Through Professional Development
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
Saint Joseph's University Offers an English as a Second Language Certificate

The number of Kentucky students with limited English proficiency (LEP) has increased 383% since 1997 according to the Kentucky Department of Education. Kentucky’s K-12 LEP students in 2013 numbered 20,231. Although 70% of the LEP students spoke Spanish as their primary language, 2014 data from Kentucky’s schools indicate that students speak more than 94 different languages in all.

Along with an increase of students from varying linguistic and cultural backgrounds comes an increased need for teachers who can teach English as a second language (ESL). The job description for an ESL teacher frequently specifies working collaboratively with other staff members so that English learners succeed both academically and culturally.

To teach ESL in Kentucky, you can either pursue TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certification as your primary content area for initial licensure, or if you are already certified in another content area you can obtain an additional endorsement in ESL.



Step 1. Take the Coursework Required for Your ESL Endorsement

Eleven of Kentucky’s approved teacher preparation programs offer the opportunity to become an ESL teacher. You are required to take at least 12 hours of relevant coursework to get your ESL endorsement.

These courses often include:

  • Linguistics
  • Sociolinguistics
  • ESL assessment and testing
  • English as a second language
  • ESL teaching materials and methods

In many cases, you are required to take six hours of a foreign language. Spanish is a popular choice given the large number of English learners from Hispanic backgrounds.

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Initial Certification Candidates

A number of institutions offer you the chance to get a K-12 or P-12 ESL endorsement as you go through your initial undergraduate teacher preparation training. Two of these programs provide the ESL endorsement to students specializing in Elementary, Middle School, or Secondary Education.

Your final course will be an ESL practicum. This is the culmination of your studies and provides you with field-based experience in teaching. You have one opportunity to get your teaching experience in the Ukraine. This field experience gives you the chance to apply your following new skills:

  • Curriculum development and materials selection
  • Cultural inclusion
  • Language assessment
  • Program evaluation

You can graduate with a bachelor’s degree. Initial certification through this manner gives you a Rank I level license. If you spend a fifth year and get a master’s degree, this Planned Fifth-year Program will provide the more elite Rank II license.

Certified Teachers

If you already have your teacher’s license, you have several options to get an ESL endorsement. Some of the teacher preparation programs accept certified teachers. You can take part as a non-degree student and just get your endorsement. You must take the following courses:

  • Introduction to linguistic science
  • Language and culture
  • Methods and materials for teaching ESL
  • Foundations of second language acquisition

Certification to Teach Overseas

If you want to teach English as a foreign language in other countries and don’t want to get a Kentucky teaching certificate, you have several options. You can take the ESL courses to get a Masters in Humanities with a Concentration in Linguistics (EFL) at one Kentucky university. You will then be qualified to teach English in other countries, even though you don’t have a K-12 teaching certificate. Another university can provide you with a graduate TESOL (Teaching English to speakers of other languages) certificate.



Step 2. Pass the Praxis II ESL Exam

In addition to passing your ESL coursework and having teaching experience, the Commonwealth of Kentucky requires that you pass a specialized test before you can get your ESL endorsement. You must take the Praxis II 5361 test: English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). You will need to score at least 157 to meet Kentucky’s standard for endorsement.

Study guides are available on the website, and you should prepare for this two hour test ahead of time. It is particularly important that you become familiar with the speech of ELs.

One quarter of the exam involves listening to audio recordings. Section 1 involves two parts: A (oral grammar and vocabulary) along with B (pronunciation). You will listen to the speech of EL students and identify errors in them. These are the full exam topics that will be covered:

  • Foundation of linguistics and language learning
    • Linguistic theory
    • Language and culture
    • Second-language learning
    • Literacy
  • Planning, Implementing, and managing instruction
    • Instructional theory
    • Teaching techniques
    • Materials
    • Managing the classroom and students
  • Assessment
    • Knowledge of tests and standards
    • Appropriate use of tests
    • Interpreting and applying assessment results
  • Cultural and professional aspects of the job
    • Cultural understanding
    • Legal and ethical issues
    • Role of the ESL teacher
    • Professional development



Step 3. Apply for Your Kentucky Teacher’s License

Once you have passed your ESL exam, you are ready to apply for your initial license.

To get your initial Rank 1 certification, you need to get your certification official’s recommendation.

Along with your CA-1 application, you will need to provide these items:

  • Official transcripts
  • Verification of your student teaching from your Superintendent or Personnel Director

You can apply for advanced Rank II certification if you have completed a planned fifth-year program such as a master’s degree. You are exempt from the recency requirement if you have done this and have taught for two years within the past ten.

Otherwise, if it has been more than five years since you completed your bachelor’s level teacher preparation program, you’ll need six graduate-level semester hours to satisfy Kentucky’s recency requirement.



Step 4. Maintain Your ESL Endorsement Through Professional Development

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 will have to renew your license every five years. Your first renewal involves meeting these standards:

  • 15 graduate course hours or half of the CEO requirements (an independent professional growth plan)
  • Your superintendent must have verified that you taught for three years


  • Official course transcripts and a recommendation from your college

The requirements for your second renewal include having completed an approved Fifth Year program or Master’s degree.

One way to meet the requirements for your first or second renewal is to get a master’s degree in ESL. 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.

Kentucky ESL Endorsement Salary Bonus Incentives

The Kentucky Center for Economic Policy analyzed Kentucky’s immigrant population in a 2014 report called A Profile of New Americans in Kentucky. It reported that only 3.1% of the state’s residents fell into this category in 2012. However, Kentucky’s immigrant population grew 70% between 2000 and 2012. This was the seventh largest increase of any state in the country.

2% of the children in Kentucky’s public schools speak English as a second language and qualify for state-funded English instruction aid. Among this student population, 116 different languages are spoken. 57% of them speak Spanish at home, while 4% speak Arabic.

ESL teachers are essential to the academic success of these students and the U.S. Department of Education reported a critical shortage of ESL teachers in Kentucky during the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years.

The Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Center provides information on the salaries paid to K-12 teachers in the state in 2011. The average hourly wage of different classes of teachers is shown below:

  • Elementary School Teachers – $29.95
  • Middle School Teachers – $30.42
  • Secondary School Teachers – $31.03

Since there are frequently bonus incentives for endorsements, ESL teachers in Kentucky are likely to command a higher salary than the average teacher. Many ESL teachers obtain their endorsement by getting a master’s degree. This also results in higher wages and helps these specialists to advance in their careers.

Another employment option for ESL teachers is to train adults to speak English, so they can enter the workforce more readily. ESL teachers are included in the occupational category of Adult Basic and Secondary Education and Literacy Teachers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides 2013 salary data for these teachers throughout Kentucky.

Area name
Annual Median Salary
Huntington-Ashland WV-KY-OH
Lexington-Fayette KY
West Kentucky nonmetropolitan area
South Central Kentucky nonmetropolitan area
West Central Kentucky nonmetropolitan area
East Kentucky nonmetropolitan area

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