South Dakota ESL Teacher Job Description and ESOL Certification Requirements

Nearly four percent of South Dakota’s public school students took part in programs for learners whose first language was not English during the 2012-13 school year. Totaling more than 4,500 statewide, these students directly benefit from the instruction of ESL teachers who provide them with critical knowledge to ensure a future with bright possibilities.

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The Department of Education is in charge of evaluating new teachers, and it does this specifically through its Division of Assessment and Accountability. The path to become an ESL teacher in South Dakota includes the following steps:

#1 ButtonEarn a TESOL Degree and Complete a Teacher Preparation Program
#2 ButtonPass the Principles of Learning and Teaching Test
#3 ButtonApply for Teaching Certification
#4 ButtonRenew and Develop Your Certification



Step 1. Earn a TESOL Degree and Complete a Teacher Preparation Program

One of the main TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certification requirements in South Dakota is having at least a bachelor’s degree. This will involve a TESOL program combined with a teacher education program that will focus on your pedagogical development for K -12 students.

If you already have at least a bachelor’s degree but have not completed a teacher education program, you will still need to do so. You can either complete a program that includes K-12 learning that is approved by NCATE (National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education) or complete either a post-bachelor’s certificate or master’s degree program that results in an M.A.T., M.Ed. or MATL. If you take this latter route you will still need to ensure you meet the classroom teaching experience requirement as well as the additional ESL endorsement requirements.

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The specific ESL requirements to add this field as a primary or secondary endorsement are 18 semester credits in the following, as well as a practicum, internship, or student teaching segment with K-12 students:

  • Linguistics
  • ESL curriculum development
  • Teaching ESL to English language learners
  • Language and culture studies – the five most common non-English languages in South Dakota are:
    • German
    • Spanish
    • Arabic
    • Russian
    • Chinese
  • ESL program assessment
  • Teaching the subject of reading for English language learners
  • ESL language methodology

TESOL certification courses may also be cross-listed as ESL courses. In South Dakota ESL teachers are also referred to as English as a New Language (ENL) teachers.



Step 2. Pass the Principles of Learning and Teaching Test

As a prospective teacher, you will need to pass the Principles of Learning and Teaching Test, administered by ETS (Educational Testing Service). This exam is required to ensure that you have the necessary pedagogical skills as specified in the ESL teacher job description. ESL teachers can serve in grades K-12, and as such you should choose the version of this exam which most closely corresponds to the grade levels you intend to teach:

The exam is comprised of 74 questions for which you will have two hours to complete. Exam questions are based on five main topics:

  • Process of instruction, including basic pedagogical theories and local to national teaching standards
  • Student learning, including the history and foundations of pedagogical theory, as well as student religious and ethnic backgrounds
  • Professional development and community leadership, such as current pedagogical issues, continuing education, and changing legislation
  • Testing and assessments, including assessment strengths, weaknesses, and interpretations
  • Scenario analysis involving situations created from these subject elements

Many states also require a specific test covering your knowledge in the field of ESL, however South Dakota is not one of these. It is always a good idea to remain current on the latest news regarding teaching rules and legislation. In the future an ESL assessment may become a requirement, and if you ever relocate to a different state this will also likely be the case.



Step 3. Apply for Teaching Certification

Once you have completed the steps up to this point you will be ready to make an application for South Dakota teaching certification. As a first-time application you will need to do this online, however if you would like to get a feel for what an application includes you can also view a paper copy. Along with your online application, you will also need to include the following:

  • Official transcripts showing you have completed the required coursework for ESL teaching certification
  • Application fee
  • Proof that you have completed the Principles of Learning and Teaching test – for in-state applicants ETS will send your score to the Department of Education automatically
  • Out-of-state teaching certificate, if applicable

When filling out your application, note that in South Dakota the ESL endorsement is a Stand Alone Instructor Endorsement code# 5791, officially referred to as K-12 English as a New Language.

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Once you have received your certification you must complete two final requirements before you can start searching for ESL jobs in South Dakota:

  • Human relations course – a three semester-credit course you must complete that provides instruction in several subjects the Department of Education has identified as being important:
    • The benefits, values, and history of a pluralistic society
    • The awareness and ability to deal with biases such as sexism, racism, and discrimination
    • Translating an understanding of human relations into positive experiences for students
    • Cultural dynamics of the Lakota and Dakota people
    • History of the US government interaction with the Lakota and Dakota people
    • Educational theory and background
    • Implementation and strategies for methods to improve the education standards for all South Dakota students

Adding an ESL Endorsement to an Existing Teaching Certification

If you are already a certified teacher in South Dakota and hold teaching certification in another area, you can fill out an online application to add an additional endorsement in ESL. To be eligible to do this you will need to meet the specific 18 semester credits of coursework requirements detailed in Step 1. Also remember that adding an endorsement will not extend the period of validity for your current teaching certification.

Out-of-State Applicants

If you are a certified ESL teacher in a different state you will need to submit a Verification of Teaching Experience form along with an application for teaching certification to be eligible for certification in South Dakota. The Department of Education will generally recognize out-of-state reciprocity if the process you completed to become a certified ESL teacher in your home state is similar to that of South Dakota’s.



Step 4. Renew and Develop Your Certification

Your ESL teaching certification is valid for five years and can be renewed by completing six credits of continuing professional education. The type of continuing professional education you must complete depends on your level of education:

  • If you have a bachelor’s degree you must obtain at least three of your renewal credits from a college or university.
  • If you hold a master’s degree you can earn these six credits in any approved way you choose

In terms of college and university courses, professional development points are awarded at a rate of one per every 15 hours of classroom contact. You may also choose to earn renewal credits through professional activities such as workshops or other courses that are approved by the South Dakota Department of Education.

As suggested by the association of the renewal requirements and college and university courses for ESL teachers who only hold a bachelor’s degree, educators in South Dakota are encouraged to continue their education and earn a master’s degree. Having a master’s degree can provide several advantages for an ESL teacher:

  • Increased flexibility for activities that count as professional development credits for renewal
  • Increased employment security
  • Increased amount of career options and promotional opportunities
  • Increased professional and student performance

As you gain more experience as an ESL teacher in South Dakota you may also wish to consider obtaining certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). Also referred to as National Board Certification, this is a nationally-recognized credential that signifies you have navigated an extensive evaluation and testing process administered by the NBPTS. National Board Certification is available in two areas for ESL teachers:

Having NBPTS certification will also allow you to complete your six renewal credits in any approved area you choose.

Besides developing your professional credentials, you may also find it valuable to associate yourself with professional organizations in your field of expertise. Dakota TESOL (Teachers of English as a Second Language) is an organization that keeps track of legislative news about ESL requirements, employment opportunities, and teacher training opportunities throughout South Dakota as well as North Dakota.

South Dakota ESL Endorsement Salary Bonus Incentives

According to the Migration Policy Institute, the number of immigrants in the U.S. grew by 24 percent between 2000 and 2009, rising from 31.1 million to 38.5 million. However, in 14 states, including South Dakota, the immigrant population grew by 49 percent during the same period. In fact, South Dakota ranked sixth in the nation for its increase in the immigrant population between 2000 and 2009.

South Dakota is representative of what the Migration Policy Institute refers to as the “new destinations” of immigrants in the U.S, which are primarily in the southern and central regions.

Among English Language Learners (ELLs) in South Dakota, the Institute reported that 38.1 speak Spanish, 13.2 speak African languages, 12.8 percent speak German, and 3.7 percent speak Serbo-Croatian.

The South Dakota State Department of Education (SDDE), which oversees all licensure for public school teachers in the state, offers an endorsement in K-12 English as a New Language. This educator endorsement requires an ESL internship and at least 18 credits of coursework in English as a Second Language (ESL), including:

  • Applied Linguistics for Teaching ESL
  • Methods of Teaching English as a Second Language
  • Teaching Language Arts for ESL Across the Curriculum
  • Cultural and Psychological Perspectives in the Acquisition of ESL

Although there are not definitive statistics regarding ESL teacher salaries in South Dakota, the National Education Association reported that educators in South Dakota were paid an average salary of $38,804 during the 2012-13 school year. First-year teachers in the Rapid City area schools earned a salary of $30,753, while first-year educators with a master’s degree earned an average salary of $34,053, thereby highlighting the benefits of achieving a master’s degree in this state.

ESL teachers in South Dakota may also be part of the South Dakota INCENTIVEplus program, which offers recruitment and signing incentives for teachers in hard-to-fill positions with participating schools. The incentive for new teachers may be as much as $5,000. Given the increasing number of ELLs in South Dakota schools, ELS teachers are likely part of this program in many schools throughout the state.

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More information on ELS teacher salaries can be gleaned from the following Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) table, which details salary statistics for Adult, Basic, and Secondary Education and Literacy teachers in South Dakota:

Area name
Annual Median Salary
Rapid City SD
Sioux Falls SD
Eastern South Dakota nonmetropolitan area
Western South Dakota nonmetropolitan area

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