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APSU's TESOL program prepares teachers for diverse careers

Dr. Ling Wang, Teaching English as a Second Language (TESOL) coordinator and professor with Austin Peay State University's Eriksson College of Education.

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – In the 2019-20 academic year, about 7.7% of students enrolled in Tennessee schools were classified as English Language Learners (ELL), according to the state Comptroller of the Treasury’s Office of Research and Education Accountability. In addition, Clarksville and the state continue attract more international industries, such as Hankook Tire, LG Electronics and others.

With these facts in mind, both school-age children and adult learners throughout Tennessee will need experienced and knowledgeable English as a Second Language instructors in the coming years. Austin Peay State University is helping to meet these needs through the Eriksson College of Education’s Teaching English as a Second Language (TESOL) degree and certificate programs.

Austin Peay’s TESOL program provides several options for students, with an undergraduate certificate and minor, as well as a Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T) degree and graduate certificate. Classes are fully online and can be completed in one year for the master’s program. M.A.T. graduates are qualified to teach undergraduate ELL courses, and the graduate program accepts both domestic and international students.

A TESOL degree or certificate prepares students to teach non-native English speakers online, abroad and in private school settings. Graduates from the program have gone to work in multiple U.S. states, as well as internationally.

“Our TESOL graduates are now teaching English in England, Egypt, Sweden, Quebec in Canada, Korea and China,” Dr. Ling Wang, TESOL coordinator and professor, said.

With many TESOL programs available from universities, adult learning centers and private companies, Wang said Austin Peay’s offerings are a leading choice for interested candidates. Several TESOL courses are certified by Quality Matters, which is an international organization that certifies online courses for their design and instruction, and the Eriksson College of Education is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.

Those interested in TESOL do not have to have a background in English, foreign language or education to be successful. Courses are flexible with eight-week terms, and only 10 courses are required to obtain an M.A.T. degree. The graduate certificate includes several courses also required for the M.A.T. program. Each of Austin Peay’s TESOL programs include field experience, where students will hone their instructional skills. With the English Language Institute located on campus, it is easy for students to arrange this hands-on learning opportunity. Students will complete assessments with the ELL students and teach multiple lessons throughout the program.

“You will have the opportunity to teach real, authentic ELL students,” Wang said. “In all of our TESOL programs, students take practicum courses. You are going to see yourself growing so much from teaching lesson one to the last lesson.”

Elizabeth Harrison, International Student Services Coordinator for Austin Peay’s Office of International Student Services, is a graduate of the TESOL master’s degree program. In this role, Harrison assists international students at the University through their academic journey. She also teaches in the English Language Institute.

“My family is very international,” Harrison said. “My mom came to the U S. She tried to go to college. She had some trouble because English is not her first language, and she struggled a lot because of that.”

Harrison said the program’s structure and faculty support is what sets it apart from other options.

“You don't have to be an education expert, and you don't really have to know very much about education at all to start it,” she said. “That was important for me because that's not what my bachelor's degree was in, and I had taken a long break. I was worried, what if I don't know the verbiage or the terminology? What if my papers aren't in the right format? But walking in, it was easy to pick up.”

The chance to experience new cultures and travel to more than 30 countries is part of what attracted assistant professor Dr. Andrea Lee to teach in South Korea for several years, and she encourages students interested in traveling the world to consider TESOL as a pathway.

“I benefited immensely from the cultural immersion, learning about Korean culture in-depth,” Lee said. “It’s a wonderful experience to learn about other cultures. I developed international friendships and professional relationships.”

For more information about Austin Peay’s TESOL programs or the application process, email Wang at wangl@apsu.edu. Information about undergraduate and graduate TESOL programs is available on the APSU website.