by Barry Waldman
Attention Lowcountry language teachers – and teachers across America, for that matter: College of Charleston offers a master’s degree in language education, whether your interest is in teaching non-native English learners through English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) or in teaching Spanish.
Maybe best of all, you can take the courses at your speed, on your time from wherever you happen to be. With a completely asynchronous online program, a student can learn the material and interact with classmates and professors while visiting family, on vacation or even at home anywhere on the globe.
Another beauty of the program is that students can dip their toes in it before committing to the entire M.Ed. Students can earn a certificate by completing a portion of the master’s and then decide whether to continue for the full degree.
The ESOL track of the program is aimed at working teachers seeking to expand their understanding of how to teach non-native speakers using adaptive methodologies. The track for Spanish teachers provides them with tools to understand the process of language acquisition to guide English learners in Spanish.
Many students apply their newfound skills in the classroom, armed with a graduate degree and a hefty pay raise. Others leverage their mastery of language education to develop curricula in district offices, lead ESOL schools or train other teachers on making accommodations to students who are learning English.
Wanda Santos recently graduated from the master’s program, taking both ESOL and Spanish tracks. She earned her master’s in teaching Spanish and added a certification in taking ESOL. A Spanish teacher to Spanish-speaking students at R.B. Stall High School in North Charleston, Santos is a native speaker in both English and Spanish who wanted to strengthen her pedagogical skills teaching Spanish while also considering a future that includes teaching ESOL students in English before they can be mainstreamed.
Santos says she loves the asynchronous nature of the course but said it requires excellent time management skills, particularly for working teachers. Despite concerns that online asynchronous eliminates the valuable interactions students and professors can have, she found plenty of community with professors and classmates. “Classmates did discussion posts in each course and some courses divided students into groups to do group projects,” she said. Graduation will be an interesting time when she sees their faces and hears their voices for the first time.
The master’s program involves 12 credit hours of core courses that focus on linguistics, language acquisition, methodologies for teaching language and education research.
Beyond the core courses, students in the ESOL program take four more classes dealing with teaching English as a second language — principles and methods for teaching ESOL, teaching ESOL students, understanding cultural diversity in the classroom and assessing English learners.
The Spanish track entails graduate level coursework in Spanish and linguistics. Spanish teachers take their concentration courses in Spanish.
In both tracks, says program director Dr. Emily Beck, students add two electives from a wide variety of options and can use those to add endorsements to their licenses. In all, the program is 31 credits, which most students finish in two years, which works out to two courses per semester. Most students take the courses on top of their full teaching load.
What awaits graduates? Jobs, jobs and more jobs! From 2011-2017, the number of students entering public schools in South Carolina not proficient in English skyrocketed by 765%. Because accommodation for learners of English is a federally protected right, school districts are scrambling to find ESOL teachers, teach in ways that English learners can understand and create tests with words the children are familiar with. All this has ballooned the demand for teachers with expertise in language, whether in the classroom or at the administrative level.
Both ESOL and world languages are designated critical need areas by thew S.C. Department of Education. “The number of vacancies in ESOL is always near the top of list, Dr. Beck said. “Our students have been particularly successful in leveraging their master’s degree into jobs they love.”