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Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL), K-12

About the Program

As classrooms continue to diversify, teacher candidates must be prepared to meet the needs of all students. To help meet this need, SMSU offers the TESL program. Although the name varies across the nation and internationally, the focus of the program is the same, ultimately to help prepare teachers to support English learners learn English. SMSU has adopted the TESL abbreviation and course prefix to match the Minnesota Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board (PELSB) language, ESL, and to distinguish between programs for ELs and programs for teachers of ELs. This K-12 Teaching ESL degree and licensure program at the undergraduate level provides the foundations in teaching with the Standards of Effective Practice and the core content courses and methods for teaching K-12 English as a Second Language. Graduates will be able to obtain a Tier 3 licensure in K-12 Teaching English as a Second Language. The TESL program is offered in a hybrid format with a combination of online collaboration and on-campus community building.

Since licensure to teach is a professional program, formal application for admission to the Teacher Preparation Program is required during the sophomore year. There is a minimum GPA requirement of 2.8 in entry level professional education coursework from all colleges and universities attended. Other information on requirements and applying to the Teacher Preparation Program can be found on the School of Education website. Persons with previous degrees and/or current licensure interested in adding a licensure field or endorsement may apply to SMSU and have their transcripts sent (if not from a Minnesota State school) to have a  transcript review of what courses they would still need.

Teacher candidates may choose to take TESL courses before formally being accepted into the Teacher Preparation Program. Teacher candidates wishing to pursue licensure must have two years of studying foreign language at the high school level or one year of foreign language at the collegiate level to meet the PELSB requirements. TESL 431 Foundations of TESL & Lab is the prerequisite course for the other TESL courses.


Each year the School of Education awards several scholarships to students who have demonstrated excellent potential as teachers, including the Winston Gittens Diversity Scholarship in Education. Other scholarships are the Carr Properties Scholarship, Geneva Emblem Scholarship, Keigh Hubel Rural Education Scholarship, Golden Rule Scholarship, the Doug Sweetland Memorial Scholarship, and the Robert Schwerin Memorial Scholarship. Incoming students may be eligible for a number of academic and leadership scholarships through the Office of Admission. The scholarships are awarded based on a student’s past academic record including the ACT, class rank, GPA, and leadership potential.

Career Opportunities

Graduates with the K-12 TESL licensure may pursue teaching in an ESL classroom, working with English learners. Teachers of ESL collaborate with content area teachers to deliver content to English learners with specific, research-based teaching strategies to enhance the understanding and performance of ELs. Graduates with an emphasis or minor in the field of TESL may apply their knowledge of ELs and appropriate teaching strategies in the general classroom and aim to build rapport with the EL community, building partnerships to enrich the learning experience.

Assessment of Student Performance

Assessment of teaching skills begins when applicants are reviewed for admission to the Teacher Preparation Program. Ability to work with children and/or adolescents, strong scholastic achievement, and solid communication skills are examples of characteristics that students entering teacher education must have. During the program, teacher candidates receive specific feedback from professors and classroom teachers. At the time of student teaching, each candidate receives a comprehensive assessment by the classroom teacher and the university supervisor. Mastery at the appropriate level for a beginning teacher must be demonstrated in the Standards of Effective Practice. Collaborative skills and attitudes are emphasized. Candidates are also required to complete the edTPA (Teacher Performance Assessment). A portfolio is required in the TESL Program.


The Education Minnesota Aspiring Educators (EMAE) is an active student organization that develops a variety of projects each year. Other leadership opportunities are also provided, such as serving as a student representative on the Teacher Preparation Advisory Council. Professors also encourage candidates to attend professional conferences when available.Teacher Candidates participate in university-wide activities including music, theatre, marching band, student government, athletics, and much more. The Global Studies Program and other special projects provide additional opportunities for education majors.


A unique aspect of the Teacher Preparation Program at Southwest Minnesota State University is the open-space resource center. This Academic Commons serves as a workroom, resource center, classroom, and laboratory. The open-concept facility houses reading materials, technology stations, a media lab, and numerous places in which education students learn in a comfortable, personal, and friendly atmosphere. Students have wireless access to e-mail and the Internet via SMSU and PC labs, as well as through the library’s on-line computer system.

Clubs & Organizations  

  • Education Minnesota Aspiring Educators (EMAE)
  • American Sign Language Club

The profession originally known as ESL (English as a Second Language) has gone through many changes in name. TESL (Teaching of English as a Second Language) became TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) and TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) because English might not literally be the student's second language. Though the names differ from one certification program to the next, TESL techniques are well established and all aim to support teachers and their K-12 English Learners. Possible names: TESL, TESOL, ESL, EFL, or ESOL.

Retrieved from

As the Minnesota Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board (PELSB) continues to use "ESL" language, SMSU offers licensure and studies in the area of K-12 Teachers of English as a Second Language (TESL).

Last Modified: 5/30/23 4:03 PM | Website Feedback