Educators who provide the ability to understand and speak English have a rewarding career that is in high demand. Teaching immigrant or migrant students the English language gives students a bright future. Commonly referred to as English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers or Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) teachers, the primary goal is to teach students English so they can successfully communicate in an English dominated society.

In comparison, Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) or English as Foreign Language (EFL) teachers are instructing students to learn English as a secondary language. These programs are often used overseas where English will not be the child’s primary language in society.

Besides working in the k-12 setting, there is a wealth of other venues that seek to fill ESL teacher jobs galore. Community centers, adult learning programs, churches, and tutoring options are all available.

Education requirements for TESOL teachers vary depending upon the state. While rare, some schools do offer undergraduate degrees in ESL. Generally, one has a bachelor’s degree in a related field: English, education, linguistics, or literacy is a good match. It is essential for an ESL teacher to have a strong command of the English language.

In addition, certification must be earned. Various types exist. One way to earn certification is through a master’s degree program in ESL. Many states have specific requirements and exams for ESL certification. Otherwise, national standards exist. Typically, 12 to 24 credit hours are needed for certification through an accredited college or university. An internship may also be required. Online certification programs are also widely available.

While salaries vary depending upon location and experience, the average ESL teacher earns US$42,300 as of 2015 according to SimplyHired.com. Demand for TESOL teachers is expected to grow faster than most professions.

Fluency in another language is beneficial but is not required. Rather, one must have the desire to help people from other cultures. Respect for diversity is important.

TESOL teachers must be flexible, patient, and able to use a variety of teaching methods. Effective nonverbal communication skills are necessary. Visual aids are a helpful teaching tool ESL teachers provide for their students. The first task is to instruct students in the basic English skills needed to function well in the school and community. Instruction of the alphabet and basic grammar follow. Then the ESL teacher will progressively advance the lessons when the learner is reading.

Inclusion and pull-out programs are both used by TESOL teachers. Lesson plans and records of progress must be kept. In addition, TESOL teachers provide regular education teachers with the resources and knowledge to successfully integrate students who are not fluent in English into the classroom setting.

Communication with the students’ family members is required. Parents or guardians usually have limited English and the ESL teacher should provide the parents with contact information and resources for learning English themselves. Additionally, home extension activities for students should be provided to increase the learning process.

The very nature of ESL teaching can be challenging to some. Communicating with students from a variety of languages can be frustrating at times. However, the breakthrough moments when true learning is witnessed are abundant in TESOL education. Each teacher knows he is significantly impacting the life of his students.

Consult the following resources for additional information.

Teacher of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc.

ESL Teacher Association

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