English as a second language (ESL) teachers have the opportunity to help
students of any age learn English and leap over language barriers.
ESL teachers teach English, including reading, writing, listening and speaking
skills, to people whose first language is not English.
Their students may not know English at all, or may not speak, understand
and write English with the same ability as a native English speaker.
ESL teacher is the most common term in the U.S., Canada and Australia.
The term "English to speakers of other languages" (ESOL) teacher also refers
to this career. In the United Kingdom, Ireland and New Zealand, the term
ESL has been replaced by ESOL
ESL teachers come from a variety of backgrounds. Some are school teachers
who have the extra skills to teach students who speak limited English. Sometimes
having certification to teach ESL can create job opportunities for teachers.
For example, school teachers with ESL certification are able to teach English
language learners (ELL) and limited English proficient (LEP) students. The
numbers of students in these categories keep growing.
ELL students are learning English. They take English language assistance
classes in the school system. These classes can include ESL, high intensity
language training and bilingual education classes.
In the 2003-04 school year, 3.8 million American students used ELL services
(11 percent of all students), according to the U.S. Department of Education.
LEP students have a first language that is not English and have difficulty
speaking, reading, writing or understanding the English language.
In the 2003-04 school year, 63 percent of public schools had students who
were designated as LEP (11 percent of all students), says the U.S. Department
The volume of students needing help to improve their English language skills
can only mean one thing: opportunities for ESL teachers.
There are also opportunities in government-sponsored programs for non-English
speaking immigrants or migrant workers.
Kate Goodspeed is an ESL teacher for the Colorado Refugee ESL Program at
Emily Griffith Opportunity School. "There is such a large population in Denver
needing ESL instruction that there are many schools in churches and community
agencies that start up programs," says Goodspeed. "They sometimes just operate
with volunteers. This is a good way to see if you'd like to teach ESL."
Community colleges also have classes set up for ESL programs. Some private
schools have intensive English programs for international students who come
to the U.S. to improve their English skills.
Sashwat Koirala is an ESL teacher a private school that welcomes students
from over 100 countries worldwide.
"My favorite thing about teaching is that my classes have so many people
from different cultures," he says. "Students are often really grateful that
you're teaching them English."
The main responsibilities of ESL teachers include lesson planning, creating
the syllabus, teaching, marking, designing tests and final exams. Although
students and schools want ESL teachers to be native English speakers, and
many schools will not hire applicants with a foreign accent, there are opportunities
for those who did not learn English as their first language
"Bilingual programs here desperately need folks who speak English well
and are fluent in Spanish," says Goodspeed.
Branka Jankovic is a teacher at a college. She has succeeded in the field
despite the fact that English is not her first language. And she's glad she
has. "It is an active and dynamic job which requires a fair amount of standing
and moving around the classroom," says Jankovic.