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Utah ESL Teacher Job Description and ESOL Certification Requirements

ESL teachers in Utah have an important job to do. Over 32,000 students – nearly six percent of the entire public school student body in the state – participated in programs for English language learners during the 2012 school year. It is the duty of ESL teachers to provide these students with language instruction that will help ensure a future that includes every possible chance to succeed.

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The Utah State Board of Education is responsible for developing the requirements for teacher licensure in the state. As you complete the licensure process you will be working with the Utah State Office of Education, the agency responsible for issuing teaching credentials. The path towards what can be a successful and rewarding career as an ESL teacher proceeds through the following steps:

#1 ButtonEarn a Degree in TESOL and Qualify for Certification
#2 ButtonApply for a Teaching License with TESOL Certification
#3 ButtonRenew and Upgrade Your License and Certification



Step 1. Earn a Degree in TESOL and Qualify for Certification

One of the principle TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certification requirements in Utah is having at least a bachelor’s degree in TESOL.

You will also need to participate in a teacher preparation program – another important licensing requirement – as part of your bachelor’s degree. Teacher preparation programs are organized first into grade levels and then into subject areas. The grade level organizations are:

  • Early childhood grades K-3
  • Grades K-6
  • Elementary grades 1-8
  • Middle level grades
  • Secondary grades 6-12

Within this structure you will find teacher preparation programs that offer ESL as an elementary or secondary/high school area of concentration.

Traditional prep programs will culminate with a student teaching/practicum experience where you will be placed in a classroom with an experienced ESL teacher.

There are eight universities across Utah that offer traditional ESL teacher preparation programs; six of these offer an ESL teacher preparation program that can be combined with a bachelor’s degree, and two additional universities offer an ESL program that can be combined with a master’s degree, such as an M.A.T., M.Ed. or MATL.

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Earning a master’s degree that incorporates an ESL teacher preparation program is the route to licensure that is often the choice of candidates who already have a bachelor’s degree. Another route taken by these candidates is completing an alternative teacher preparation program for ESL. These programs place new teachers directly in the classroom after they have completed an educational segment that focuses extensively on pedagogy.

Qualifying for Initial Certification or to Add an ESL Endorsement

If you are becoming an ESL instructor as a first-time teacher you will complete the ESL academic course requirements as part of your ESL teacher preparation program. If you are already a licensed Utah teacher and want to add an ESL endorsement to your existing license you will need to complete these ESL academic course requirements as part of a post-bachelor’s program.

To become an ESL teacher in Utah you must complete these courses from schools that have been approved by the Utah State Office of Education. The courses will incorporate the following six standards and accompanying credits:

  • Language and linguistics – 4 credits
    • Second language cognition and acquisition
    • Literacy development and acquisition
    • English syntax and phonology for ESL teachers
    • Instructional language acquisition and strategies
    • Language acquisition, theory, and production
  • Cultural diversity – 2 credits
    • State-approved Respecting Cultural and Ethnic Heritage (REACH) training
    • ESL instructional foundations
    • Cultural and linguistic diversity and responsive teaching
  • ESL instruction – 4 credits
    • Classroom content and the integration of second language acquisition
    • Materials and methods for the ESL classroom
    • Literary strategies for teaching ESL students
    • Managing, implementing, and planning instruction
    • Application of strategies and research in ESL instruction
    • Materials and curriculum for ESL instruction
    • Methodology and strategy for ESL teaching
  • ESL assessments – 3 credits
    • Assessments for diverse populations who speak a variety of languages
    • Practices, methods, and theory for ESL assessments
  • Community and family involvement – 2 credits
    • The professional role of an ESL teacher
    • The creation of school partnerships with ESL families
    • Empowering the families of ESL students
    • Community, parent, and family involvement of ESL students
  • ESL instructional practice – 3 credits
    • Teacher practicum of at least 45 hours or pre-service teaching of at least 60 hours

Completing this curriculum will ensure you are qualified to fulfill the duties detailed in the Utah ESL teacher job description. Many ESL teachers will also pursue a bilingual endorsement while simultaneously studying to be an ESL teacher. This can be a useful skill and help in your understanding of what it is like to learn a language, as well as being a more effective communicator with your students who also speak the same language. The five most common native languages spoken by students who are English language learners in Utah are:

  • Spanish
  • Korean
  • Navajo
  • French
  • Vietnamese

You may also find that programs offering TESOL certification in Utah will also contain some of these courses.



Step 2. Apply for a Teaching License with TESOL Certification

If it is your first time applying for a teaching license you can submit your application online. This is a two-step process that first requires you to create an account on the Utah Education Network (UEN). You will have most likely already done this while you were enrolled in your teacher preparation program. Using your UEN you will then create a Comprehensive Administration of Credentials for Teachers in Utah Schools (CACTUS) account. You can submit your ESL teaching application through your CACTUS account.

You can also fill out an application to add an ESL endorsement to an existing license if you already hold a license in elementary education or a secondary education field.

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Whichever option you choose, you must arrange to include your official transcripts from your ESL teacher preparation program and degree to be sent to the Utah State Office of Education. You will also need to have your fingerprints taken and complete a background investigation before you will be issued a teaching license.

Once you receive your license you will be able to start searching for ESL jobs in Utah on websites like Teach Utah.

First-Time ESL Teachers for Grades K-8

You will need to complete an additional test if you are a first-time educator who is gaining an ESL endorsement by completing a teacher preparation program that focuses on grades included in the spread from K-8. If you are in this group of prospective ESL teachers you will need to pass the Elementary Education test that is administered by Education Testing Service (ETS).



Step 3. Renew and Upgrade Your ESL License

The first credential you earn will be a Level 1 License. From the time you are awarded this license you will have three years to complete the two requirements to upgrade to a Level 2 License. The first of these is an ethics review. The second renewal requirement is the completion of what is known as the Entry Years Enhancement (EYE) program.

The EYE program is designed to help you transition to a new career as an ESL teacher and requires an extensive commitment to complete. As part of your EYE program you will:

  • Work with a mentor who will observe your teaching, provide you with support, and offer suggestions for improvement
  • Make a professional portfolio that includes evidence of your teaching development and skills
  • Take a two-hour course on the prevention of suicide
  • Achieve a passing score on the Principles of Learning and Teaching Exam according to the grades you teach:
  • Each year you will receive a final professional evaluation, and you will need achieve at least a satisfactory ranking on two of these to be eligible to upgrade your license

The Level 2 License is valid for five years and can be renewed and upgraded. Throughout your career as an ESL teacher you are expected to continuously pursue opportunities and activities that will improve your professional abilities. One way of doing this is through the pursuit of a master’s degree. In addition to opening up future career prospects, having a master’s degree also puts you one step closer to earning a Level 3 License.

To upgrade to a Level 3 License you will need to earn either:

  • A doctorate in education or a related field
  • National Board certification

National Board Certification is offered through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) in two versions for ESL teachers:

The NBPTS is an independent national non-profit organization. To earn its certification you will need to develop a portfolio that demonstrates your students’ achievement as a result of your effective teaching. You will also need to complete a series of assessments.

You may also consider joining professional ESL organizations where you can find curriculum ideas, professional training information, and employment opportunities such as Intermountain TESOL.

Utah ESL Endorsement Salary Bonus Incentives

Utah has become a “mini-melting pot” in the last decade, thanks largely to the Mormon Church’s philosophy of outreach. In 1990, for example, Hispanics comprised just 8.8 percent of the population in Utah; ten years later, the number had increased to nearly 17 percent.

According to the 2012 Utah Quick Facts from the U.S. Census Bureau, Hispanic/Latinos represent the largest ethnic group in Utah. It also revealed that Utah schools served 51,249 K-12 English learners, as of January 2014. The need for English language instruction has increased the need for qualified English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers in this state.

The National Center on Immigration Policy found that the Limited English Proficient (LEP) population in Utah totaled 136,837 in 2010, or 5.4 percent of the population. Of those, Spanish speakers made up the large majority of LEPs, at 73.1 percent, followed by Chinese speakers at 4.1 percent and Vietnamese at 2.3 percent.

ESL teachers must meet specific educational goals as set forth by the Utah State Office of Education. Specifically, they must possess a current educator license with an elementary, secondary or special education area of concentration, as well as an ESL endorsement, which is earned upon the completion of 18 credit hours in the following areas:

  • Language/Linguistics – 4 credits
  • Cultural Diversity – 2 credits
  • ESL Instruction – 4 credits
  • Assessment for ESL Education – 3 credits
  • Family and Community Involvement – 2 credits
  • Instructional Practice – 3 credits

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, as of 2012-13, the average salary of a Utah teacher was $49,383, which is representative of the average salary of ESL teachers in the state.

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The following table, provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, further details salary statistics for ESL teachers, who fall under the broader category of Adult, Basic and Secondary Education and Literacy Teachers:

Area name
Annual Median Salary
Provo-Orem UT
Salt Lake City UT

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