K-12 ESL Endorsement


Our mission is to provide a top quality program for students preparing to teach Our mission is to provide a top quality program for students preparing to teach English as a Second Language (ESL) in the public schools of Iowa. The growing number of English learners in our public schools nationwide makes the ESL a useful addition to an endorsement in elementary education, or middle and high school content areas (e.g., English, Spanish, science). This program is also suitable for students who wish to teach English abroad in programs such as the Peace Corps.

At Iowa State University, ESL is an add-on endorsement, which means that students need to be certified in another area and to take all basic teacher preparation courses. Courses, in accordance with state requirements and the professional standards of TESOL, are designed to give students a framework in linguistics applied to second language education with appropriate methods and practice teaching. For further information, contact Greta Muller Levis, ESL Endorsement Coordinator.

Find out more about:

The requirements to get an ESL endorsement

The Department of English together with Curriculum & Instruction offers courses that lead to a K-12 ESL teacher endorsement. To add a K-12 teaching endorsement in English as a Second Language, students must earn credits in the following courses. With prior approval from the ESL Endorsement Coordinator, relevant special topics courses or experimental courses may be substituted. Some courses have prerequisites)

  1. English/Linguistics 219: Introduction to Linguistics
  2. English/Linguistics 220: Applied English Grammar  (Or test out)
  3. English/Linguistics 425: Second Language Learning and Teaching
  4. English/Linguistics 322: Language and Society
    Curriculum and Instruction 420/520: Bilingualism, Bilingual Education, and US Mexican Youth
  5. English/Linguistics 518: Methods and Materials in ESL
    AND English/Linguistics 324*: Introduction to Teaching ESL Literacy
    English/Linguistics 324*: Introduction to Teaching ESL Literacy
    AND English/Linguistics 325: Teaching oral communication skills to ESL learners
    *Appropriate curriculum and instruction substitutes (e.g., CI 378) will be considered.
  6. Practicum courses taken through the School of Education at ISU:
    CI 280S
    CI 480S

NOTE: If you are considering doing an ESL endorsement, please contact the ESL Endorsement Coordinator, Greta Muller Levis, to discuss the timeline of your program. Please contact Jaime Boeckman regarding the CI practicum courses.

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Where our graduates are working:

Ames Public Schools:
Shaeley Santiago (98): Ames K-12 ESL Instructional Coach
Kathleen Ary (04): Ames Middle School
Jill Gale (04): Sawyer/Fellows Elementary
Nicole Coronado (12): Sawyer Elementary

Ankeny Public Schools:
Jane Kennedy (12): Ankeny School District

Des Moines Public Schools:
Stephaney Jones-Vo (97): AEA11, ESL Consultant
Caitlin Pritchard (11): Hoover High School

Marshalltown Public Schools:
Jessica Cakrasenjaya (10): Ames High School
Caitlin Toppler (11): Southwest Middle School

South Winneshiek Public Schools:
Jodi Cardo (09): South Winneshiek Community Schools

Urbandale Public Schools:
Mary “Annie” Jordan (10): Jensen Elementary
Maggie Peterson (13): Olmstead Elementary

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Practicum in ESL at Iowa State University

Students in the K-12 ESL Endorsement program do two practicum placements prior to completing their main area student teaching semester. The first is CI 280S, a one-credit course which typically offers an experience in a grade level other than the target grades of the main teaching area. The second, CI 480S, is a two-credit course that allows ESL Endorsement program students to experience teaching in an ESL context that fits within the grade levels of their main teaching area. The two practicum courses together provide experience that reflects the broad K-12 endorsement in ESL contexts in public schools. These courses should be taken together with methods courses. Contact Jaime Boeckman for further information about the practicum courses.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

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 state has recently revised its ESL endorsement to be 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, as noted above. See Requirements

3: I only want to teach ESL. Can I get certified to teach ESL without getting certified in something else?
While this may be possible elsewhere, it is not the case at ISU. 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. Spanish or English are the most popular choices. When students complete our program they leave with credentials that give them maximum flexibility, and this is very appealing to school districts.

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 state or the local 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 projections indicate that 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?
While it is true that it is possible for a native-speaker of English to teach English in some countries with a minimum of preparation, better positions usually require a major in English and/or ESL certification. For top positions, a Master’s degree in TESL/Applied Linguistics is often required. A Master’s degree is typically 30-36 hours, depending upon the background of the student. Iowa State University offers a Master’s in TESL/Applied Linguistics that can be done in conjunction with the ESL endorsement for students who have a teacher certification. 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, if not learning 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, it will. However, if you do not feel comfortable teaching students of a certain age, you should not accept a job in the 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 a student has not had any coursework in linguistics, English 219 (Introduction to Linguistics) or English 511 (Introduction to Linguistic Analysis for graduate students) is the place to begin. Another basic course, English 220 (Applied 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. They are also prerequisites for study in the graduate program in TESL/Applied Linguistics.

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.

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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 Greta Muller Levis. For information about applying to the MA TESL program, go to http://www.engl.iastate.edu/graduate-students/how-to-apply-2.

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?
It is not currently possible to get K-12 ESL endorsement or an MA without coming to campus.