K-12 ESL Frequently Asked Questions

1: I hear people talking about ESL, ELL, EFL, TESL, TEFL, and TESOL? Do these things have any thing to do with one another? What do these letters stand for?
These acronyms can be confusing. Here are their typical meanings:

  • ESL= English as a Second Language
  • ELL=English Language Learner
  • EFL= English as a Foreign Language
  • TESL=Teaching English as a Second Language
  • TEFL=Teaching English as a Foreign Language
  • TESOL= Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (The name of the international professional organization for teachers. While ESL/TESL often get used in the United States, EFL/TEFL are more frequently used in overseas, e.g. She teaches ESL in Des Moines vs. She teaches EFL in Romania).

2: What’s required to get an ESL endorsement in the state of Iowa?
The ESL endorsement is at least 18 hours of specified coursework in areas related to the teaching of English as a second language in addition to meeting the other requirements for basic education and professional educational courses. Iowa State University requires 21 credit hours in ESL. See Requirements

3: I only want to teach ESL. Can I get certified to teach ESL without getting certified in something else?
No. We treat ESL as an add-on endorsement, which means that students add the ESL endorsement to certification. They may have certification at either the elementary or the secondary level and certification at the secondary level may be in any number of areas.

4: I’m interested in teaching in the US, but I’ll probably leave Iowa. Will my ESL endorsement in Iowa transfer to other states?
Many states enthusiastically accept Iowa’s certification; in fact, other states often come to campus to recruit our teachers for their schools. Still, it’s best to check with the school system where you are considering employment.

5: Are there opportunities to teach ESL in Iowa?
The demand for ESL teachers in Iowa is greater than the supply. ESL has been on the shortage list for several years now, and opportunities in ESL are likely to grow.

6: I want to go overseas. I hear there are lots of ESL jobs. Should I still get an ESL endorsement?
Only if you want to teach in public schools upon your return. Overseas, better jobs usually require a major in English, an ESL certificate, or a Master’s degree in TESL. A Master’s degree is typically 30-36 hours, depending upon the background of the student. Undergraduate students at Iowa State University can also do the TESL Minor.

7: Do I need to know a foreign language?
Though we highly recommend studying a foreign language, this is not a current requirement.

8: The endorsement in Iowa is K-12, but I only want to teach older children. Will my endorsement still say K-12?
Yes. However, if you do not feel comfortable teaching students of a certain age, you should not accept a job in that area. Note, though, that you will need to complete a practicum with students outside of your normal grade preference.

9: How do I know when classes will be held; how can I plan ahead?
Classes are listed and updated two to three times yearly on our web site. You can check on class listings on the ISU web site under the class schedule listing.

10: Is there a practice-teaching (student-teaching) requirement for ESL? If so, what is it like?
You will participate in two practicum placements during your training. The first is a one-credit practicum (CI 280S) and the second is a more in-depth, supervised practicum (CI 480S), during which you will be observed and evaluated as you teach at least two lessons. Both these courses will typically be completed prior to your major student-teaching experience. Because the ESL endorsement is a K-12 endorsement, the state requires you to do some of your practicum experience at grade levels different from your main teaching area. See the requirements for more information or contact Jaime Boeckman.

11: Are there opportunities for me to gain additional ESL experiences at ISU, beyond simply taking courses?
Yes. ISU has a large number of international students on campus and many of them still need assistance and/or conversational practice in English. There is a “Coffee, Tea, and English” program offered through the International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO: see programs at http://www.isso.iastate.edu) that students can attend. There is also a conversation club that meets regularly during ISU’s regular sessions through the Intensive English and Orientation Program (IEOP: see student resources at http://www.ieop.iastate.edu). Outside of ISU but within Ames, there are various church-run programs that welcome volunteers, and the Ames Public Library hosts conversation sessions for ESL speakers.

12: Where do I begin?
If you have not had any coursework in linguistics, begin with English 219 (Introduction to Linguistics) or English 511 (Introduction to Linguistic Analysis for graduate students). Another basic course, English 220 (Descriptive English Grammar) can be taken simultaneously. Completing these two courses prepares you for the more applied courses that follow and puts you 1/4 of the way toward completion of your ESL endorsement. .

13: How much will courses cost?
This depends on whether you take courses as a full time undergraduate, graduate or a part-time non-degree student. Visit the Iowa State Registrar’s Office for details.

The next four questions apply to those who already have a Bachelor’s degree:

14: I have a Bachelor’s degree, but I am not certified to teach. How long will it take to meet the requirements?
Since everyone’s transcript is different, it is impossible to answer this question. You would need to talk with advisors in the teaching area that you are interested in pursuing.

15: Can I get graduate credit or even a Master’s degree relevant to teaching ESL and fulfill the state requirements for an endorsement?
ISU offers both programs and they can be done simultaneously. Because of the overlap in the programs, it is often possible to do a Master’s degree and an ESL endorsement without taking at least two additional courses. If a student is not currently certified to teach in the state of Iowa, other additional courses will be necessary for initial teaching certification.

16: How do I find out more about the graduate program in TESL/Applied Linguistics?
Visit the TESL/AL website. If you have additional questions about the ESL endorsement, email Samantha Robinson-Adams.

17: I’m working full-time and can’t always come to the ISU when the classes I need meet. Are there online classes for the K-12 endorsement?
No. It is not currently possible to do the K-12 ESL endorsement or an MA without coming to campus.