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Job Description for an ESL Teacher

by Teagan Smith, studioD

English learners are the fastest growing student population in the United States. A 2007-2008 report by the U.S. Department of Education found that nearly 10 percent of the nation's K-12 students came from families in which English is the second language. According to the Pew Hispanic Center and the U.S. Census Bureau, by 2050 the Hispanic school-age population will outnumber the non-Hispanic, white school-age school population. Because of these projections, opportunities exist for people looking to teach English as a second language.

Skills and Qualifications

You do not need to know another language to become an ESL teacher, but you do need to understand how language is acquired. ESL teachers work with students on the fundamentals of grammar, vocabulary, writing, reading, speaking and listening. ESL teachers may hold an elementary or secondary teaching degree with ESL certification, or a Masters of Education in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, or TESOL.

Primary Responsibilities

The job of an ESL educator is as diverse as the students they serve. Unlike classroom teachers, these teachers help students from different grade levels, sometimes spanning grades from kindergarten through 12th grade. Because students come from many backgrounds, ESL teachers must possess keen observation skills and the ability to tailor their instruction to meet each student's individual needs. Lessons focus on vocabulary development, fluency, articulation and comprehension. Students often bring books, problems, and reports from their other classes to the ESL teacher so they learn to develop language skills in context.

Secondary Tasks

In addition to helping students with daily lessons, the ESL teacher acts as a liason between the student, family, school and community. The ESL teacher is responsible for administering standardized tests and tracking their students' progress against state standards. The ESL teacher also helps the student and family understand U.S. culture and social norms. The ESL teacher may work with interpreters to communicate information to the family about student progress, school programs or district events.

Professional Development

ESL instructors can expand their duties by seeking professional development and advanced certifications. The Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol Model, or SIOP, is an instructional method for ESL learners. Workshops, seminars, and conferences all provide SIOP courses that help ESL teachers learn to become more effective in their classrooms.

About the Author

Teagan Smith has been writing about careers and education for more than 15 years. She has worked for leading academic publishers such as Pearson Education, Highlights for Children and West Educational Publishing. Smith holds a Bachelor of Arts in marketing communications from The Ohio State University and has visited more than 100 college campuses throughout the U.S.

Photo Credits

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