Energy, Enthusiasm, and English: the TESOL Certificate Program

Teaching English as a Second Language (ESL), particularly to students with whom you do not share a first language, may seem like a daunting task. However, the Teaching English to Students of Other Languages Program (TESOL) has developed a program that not only helps students overcome this anxiety but also become confident, proficient ESL teachers. The TESOL Certificate Program began in 1999, growing out of the “exploding” worldwide demand for English and need for English teachers. Dr. Linda Wine, TESOL Certificate Program Director and Adjunct Instructor of Sociolinguistics, says that TC wanted to “create a program that could meet that need in a competent way.” According to Dr. Wine, many people lured to teach abroad with no formal preparation find they love teaching and love their students, but are letting their students down. It’s not enough to have grown up speaking English to be a good English teacher. Not enough to love your students. As Wine says, teaching is both an “art and a science.” You need both to give your students the best possible learning experience – which is what the TESOL Certificate Program was created to provide.

To date, over 250 students have qualified for TC TESOL Certificates. The Program is a rigorous, seven-week experience. Each summer, a cohort of around 45 students, ranging from 22 to 72 and from all over the world, attend class Monday through Thursday, receiving an introduction to how language is acquired, as well as some understanding of how English grammar works and the relationship of language to culture. On Fridays, the students have an opportunity to team teach their own ESL class in TC’s Community English Program (CEP). To prepare for their class, teams work on lesson plans with mentors such as Monika Ekiert –a doctoral student in Applied Linguistics who also co-coordinates the CEP. After each teaching session, mentors give student teachers feedback on how the lesson went and how best to prepare for the following week. Thus, by the end of the program, student teachers gain the confidence and skill needed to begin to teach ESL.

Both Linda and Monika remarked that the TESOL Certificate students are some of the most supportive students they have ever met. The cohort quickly bonds, and many students continue their relationship beyond the summer’s end. They are also highly motivated. Inspired by the program, many later decide to go on for a TESOL MA. However, as Linda points out, the TESOL Certificate Program has something to offer TC students from across the disciplines because it expands everyone’s job prospects – making it easier to find part-time work teaching English during the regular academic year, as well as more opportunities in the summer to live and work abroad.

It is clear that the TESOL Certificate Program is meeting a growing educational need with a high quality summer offering designed to deliver the skills and knowledge novice TESOL professionals require. People with questions are encouraged to visit the Program’s website (www.tc.edu/tesolcertificate) and to contact Linda at wine@tc.edu (212-678-3459). TESOL Certificate Program alumni are available to speak with prospective students as well.