ESL Certifications: Where to Begin

by Caroline Hazelton

The world of English as a Second/Foreign Language teachers is a delightful one, whether we are teaching it where it’s the dominant language to non-native speakers (English as a Second Language) or in another part of the world where it is a non-native language (English as a Foreign Language). There are literally so many situations you can find yourself in if you love other cultures and languages. You can:

  • build an American dream in an immigrant child or adult learning ESL
  • teach brilliant international students in English for Academic Purposes programs
  • teach English online in dozens of countries from your own office
  • go abroad… and have a “Dream Abroad!” 

However, every dream has a road, and every road has a starting point. How do you get to all of these places above? After all, you’re going to need some formal training to explain such cases like “I have eaten,” which means “I previously ate, my previous eating still affects me now, and will continue to affect me into the future” kind of grammatical teaching and understanding. 

Where to Begin with ESL Certifications

English as a Foreign Language ESL Certifications

Here are a few steps to gaining ESL/EFL credentials in specific situations.

  1. Earn a Bachelor’s or higher. This is true in nearly every English teaching case. I suggest majoring in ESL Education or in a related field. 
  2. Gain cross-cultural experiences as a volunteer, either abroad or both.
  3. (Recommended but not required) Study a second language. 

Foreign Language teachersSteps 1-3 are your “launch pad.” Once you’ve done these things, you have three other options to figure out where you wish to be:

Option A: Earn your ESOL certificate or endorsement to teach English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) in public K-12 schools.

Option B: The universally-accepted TEFL certificate lets you teach abroad or in many online English teaching platforms. In my case at EF, my degree credentials substituted this requirement.

Option C: If you wish to teach ESL in a university or in a college, a Master’s is usually necessary. Again, you can either major in ESL Education or a different field such as linguistics, English, Education, etc. Note that teaching English as a Second Language or English for Academic Purposes is usually for non-credit courses. If you wish to train future English as a Second Language teachers, a PhD in one of the fields mentioned above might be necessary.

My ESL Journey

I want to end this on a personal note, as I realize this article has been on the technical side thus far. Teaching English as a Second AND Foreign Language in my case has been a delightful experience, but figuring out how to get where I wanted to go was overwhelming in my early days of undergrad.

I come from a tiny community in the rural southern United States. There were no opportunities in my hometown that would prepare me to be an ESL teacher. Instead, I had to leave. I had to volunteer in Texas, travel overseas multiple times, and volunteer with international students at my university. This was all in addition to learning Spanish and getting both degrees before I was even truly qualified to teach ESL. I’ve held several positions in different cities and states as my personal life changes. While this field requires a unique set of skills, it also allows flexibility. 

ESL Certifications

Start Seeking Opportunities with ESL Certifications

This guide is coming from someone who knew in the very beginning of undergrad that I wanted to teach both Spanish and ESL. For some of you, you may not have even considered ESL/EFL until recently. Oftentimes, there are many interests, goals, and dreams that might not happen the way we imagine. In other cases, we don’t realize a passion that we have for a cause until later in life. If that sounds like you, figure out the skills and education that you already have and start seeking opportunities to add to your repertoire. For example, a former colleague wanted to teach English as a Foreign Language overseas for the Peace Corps. Despite her education, she was rejected for lack of ESL experience. She made up for this volunteering at one of the last schools I taught at, and I hope she’s gotten where she wanted to go.

Teaching English as a Second Language is both satisfying on the intellectual and humanitarian level, not to mention, quite fun! I hope to see many of our Dreams Abroad readers join me in obtaining their ESL certifications!

Where to Begin with ESL Certifications

Teaching English in Thailand

 

Eric HaegEric Haeg is from Minneapolis, Minnesota. If you have questions about teaching English in Thailand, he would be the person to ask. Besides his current role as Course Director of TEFL Campus Phuket, he is one of the trainers as well.

TEFL Campus offers two-course formats: One is a four-week, on-site TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course that is validated by Fairmont State University, with certificates issued by TEFL International, which means it has worldwide recognition. The other format is a hybrid (online and on-site) course offered in conjunction with TeacherLink. Students study fundamentals online before attending the course for two weeks of observed teaching practice. This format is also recognized by employers worldwide.

Who are you and where are you located?

“I’m the Course Director of TEFL Campus Phuket. Originally from the United States, I’ve been living abroad since 2004. I’m a husband to my wonderful wife of 10 years, and a father to two of the best kids a guy could ask for. All in all, I guess you could say I’m one heck of a lucky guy. I am located in Phuket, Thailand–specifically, Phuket Town.”

Phuket

Why are you there?

“After trying to leave Phuket no fewer than four times since 2004, I suppose you could say Phuket has sunk its claws into me and won’t let go.

Honestly though, I absolutely love Phuket. I’m far enough away from the tourist scene, and Phuket Town has seen so many changes that it never gets old. The local community is a wonderful mix of Eastern and Western culture, which brings diverse food, entertainment and fun events/activities. Plus, I’m an active outdoor enthusiast and Phuket has no shortage of things to do. The food here is enough to keep me here, but then again, there’s the beaches, the weather, Thai culture, etc. Honestly, the only legitimate complaint I have is the chaotic traffic. So long as I’m not driving, I’m happy.”

How did you get to Phuket, Thailand?

“I took a TEFL certification course in Phuket in 2004. Shortly after that, I taught in South Korea for a bit before returning to Thailand. I found a job just outside of Bangkok in a coastal city called Sriracha, where I taught science full-time at a prestigious boarding school, while teaching EFL at a local language center in my spare time. In 2007, I decided to move back to the States to research TEFL job opportunities in Africa. That’s when the director of the TEFL center where I got certified asked if I’d like a job as a TEFL/TESOL course trainer. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity so I moved back to Phuket in 2007 and haven’t left…though I’ll get over to Africa one of these days. Teaching English in Thailand is amazing.”

TEFL Campus Phuket Thailand logo

Where are you going? 

“For now, I’m staying put. I’ve got two young kids and they’re happy at school. They live a wonderful life, full of natural beauty and opportunities to travel. I love my job, and I’ve got certain things I’d like to accomplish professionally before I move on. “

Why did you decide to teach teachers and not continue teaching English Language Learners?

“I decided to train teachers because I saw what a positive impact my TEFL course had on my life and I wanted to be part of that. I remember finishing my course and feeling as if the world was my oyster. It felt as if the Teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL) cert was my ticket to live and work around the globe. Working with others who’d already been teaching in multiple countries only confirmed that for me. I still get to teach English as a Foreign Language (EFL) classes as part of my job, so it’s a wonderful compromise between teaching English Language Learners (ELLs) and training new English Language Teaching (ELT) professionals.”

Phuket beach

What’s an important story from your work (something that has helped you)?

“There isn’t one story that stands out. What’s helped me the most is the collection of experiences I’ve gained by virtue of having trained such a diverse group of people.

Our trainees come from dozens of countries. Some are young, some are old; some are natural teachers and some have to work hard to understand what it means to effectively teach EFL; maybe some are academically gifted, while others struggle. Each person brings their own perspective, and the further away theirs is from mine, the more I have to adapt. Those adaptations challenge my own assumptions in meaningful ways and help me see things I wouldn’t have seen without them. Basically, my horizons have been broadened with the help of the people I’ve trained, and I hope that’s helped to make me a more effective educator.”

Passionate About Teaching English in Thailand

Eric will be writing for us. He will focus on topics such as Thai culture, classroom management, lesson plans, life as a teacher in Thailand, and Thai students. For those who are interested in learning more about Asia, or Phuket, Thailand, specifically, please read more about Eric and TEFL campus Phuket Thailand.

Thailand map Teaching English in Thailand

by Dreams Abroad

 

Teaching and Learning Abroad in Spain

In the upcoming weeks, I am going to post a series of interviews titled Teach Abroad. Each week, I will introduce a new teacher and the area of Madrid where he or she will work. I will be asking each teacher a set of questions. I am starting the series with information about myself. Throughout the year, I will follow up with the teachers updating their information and experiences.

Here is My Story Teaching and Learning Abroad in Spain:

My name is Leesa Truesdell. I am from Coral Springs, Florida and recently graduated from Florida State University with a Masters in Education. I have always wanted to work assisting others to fulfill their dreams.

Why did you choose to come to Spain/Europe?

“My family is of Hispanic heritage. I have wanted to live abroad since my undergraduate studies. After getting my Masters, I realized that I wanted to come to Spain to learn more about the culture because my ancestors were from Mallorca. Generations ago, they traveled to Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, which is where my grandparents were born.”

What are your goals while you are here?

“While living in Spain, I have several goals for myself. It is my intention to continue this work throughout my life. I have a professional toolkit and in my kit, I consider my tools my skills. I am always up for learning more and adopting new ideas about teaching from others. While in Spain, I would like to immerse myself in the Spanish culture to practice my Spanish conversation skills, understand more about where my family is from and, most importantly, continue to learn. I thrive on learning from others in all aspects of my life, both social and professional. The greatest skill I can work on is the art of listening; my number one priority, while I am living in Spain, is getting better at communication.”

Washington Monument selfie

Have you ever taught before? If not, what was your career field?

“Yes, I recently taught English as Second Language (ESOL) at Florida Agriculture and Mechanical University with their Continuing Education Department. Before that, I taught English as a Foreign Language (EFL) in Colombia while doing my summer internship. Before earning my Masters, I was a substitute teacher where I learned different teaching methods and classroom management. I chose to substitute over having my own classroom because I wanted to better understand how different classrooms in Florida public schools operated. I also wanted to better understand what skills each student was learning and at what age.”

What do you think teaching in Spain will be like? Where are you teaching this year?

“Since I’ve spent the past two years studying Curriculum and Instruction, it will be interesting to see how that applies in Spain, especially, when it comes to English as a foreign language. I did not know what to think when I went into public classrooms in Medellin, Colombia and after that experience, my mind is pretty much open. I learned so much from that experience; it made me better understand how to adapt to whatever situation might arise in a classroom.

I will be teaching in a suburb south of Madrid called Alcorcón. I am looking forward to teaching secondary or high school. This will be a new age for me to teach. I’ve taught adults over the age of 18 and elementary age levels. High school will be a fun challenge.”

Why did you choose to teach abroad and also, why did you choose to teach in Spain over other countries?

“I chose to teach abroad because I want to learn more about immersion for second language learners (SLLs). In Spain, I am the second language learner who is learning Spanish. When I return to the United States, I will have a better understanding of what challenges ESOL students face before and during classes. As a teacher, one of my main goals is to understand the needs of each student. I believe having experienced being an SLL myself, I can be a better teacher. I chose Spain because I wanted to learn Spanish as a second language and because Spain has importance in my family lineage. This was the best place to start my journey on how to be the best teacher I can be.”

What would you like to accomplish while you are in Spain?

“While in Spain, I would like to learn how to communicate in Spanish effectively. Speaking and listening are my priorities while I am here. I can read and write pretty well and with practice, those two communication skills can be done from anywhere. I also would like to get a better understanding of myself while living in the Spanish culture. Self-awareness and improvement are always necessary throughout life because while I am learning- I am growing. Growth requires awareness then change, which in the end requires self-improvement.”

What are your perceptions of Madrid so far?

learning abroad sun rise silhouette travel

“Madrid is a great city. Every time I go out for a walk, I am always finding something new about the city that has it’s own unique charm. My favorite part of the city is Retiro Park—it never gets old. I can walk through the park twice a day and see a plethora of sites along the way: dogs, babies, street performers, people on roller blades, kids playing in the grass during a birthday party, a couple on a first date, or my favorite thing to see—the sunset from the statue at the boat pond—best view in the city.”

What assumptions or expectations did you have before you came here? Have you found them to be accurate or inaccurate?

“Before I came, I thought I was going to have a hard time understanding what people were saying to me. My summer in Colombia definitely helped me with my language skills and getting over the initial language barrier. My first couple of days, I felt a bit rusty. After that, I felt like I could start asking for the things I needed. If I could not remember a word, I just pushed through it. In Colombia, which was my first experience living abroad, I had a harder time pushing past the barrier.”

What has been the most difficult experience since you arrived?

“The most difficult experience for me was the heat and not having air conditioning (AC) to sleep at night. I managed to get past it, and in Colombia I got used to it as well. However, Madrid feels hotter than Florida and Colombia combined. This past August was very hot. In Florida, it’s extremely humid and hot during the summer. However, we jump from AC building to AC car to AC building and so on. I managed to survive the heat and a few sleepless summer nights. It was totally worth it!”

What has been the best experience?

“The best experience so far has been meeting my friends and now, my extended family here in Madrid. We all arrived at the same time in August so it feels like we have morphed into what is now a family. It is hard to imagine that I have been here almost two months. Time is flying by.”

How do you feel about the integration of the culture so far? Are there things that you have embraced or are hoping to embrace?

“The integration into Spanish culture has not been difficult for me. Adapting to other people’s schedules was the hardest part for me. Spanish time is exactly what it means in the States, “Spanish time.” In Spain, things are more laid back, in general. People typically arrive within a 15-30 minute window of the expected time of arrival. Also, normally I am a type A personality, especially with my calendar and planning. However, the old motto “adapt or die” has served me well. There is not much consistency. Therefore, you must go with the flow and adapt to not having control of things that are affecting your life such as appointments, etc. It will happen when it happens and just go with the flow. I have embraced this new concept of go with the flow and quite frankly, it has helped me live in the moment.

The people I meet and the experiences I encounter contribute to my writing of learning abroad. I feel very fortunate to be on this journey and look forward to sharing the experiences of my friends and colleagues in the upcoming weeks. On a personal note, I would like to take a minute to thank the interviewees who have taken the time to meet with me. Also, a special thanks to my editors and photographers. I have learned so much from speaking with each of you. Stay tuned for our second connection.”

“Go with the flow” – Leesa Truesdell

Please check out part two where I describe my experiences teaching abroad in the Community of Madrid, Spain. I discuss challenges and how I manage daily tasks in the classroom!