The number of students who qualify as ELL students (English Language Learners) has increased rapidly in the past 20 years. Between 1997 and 2009 alone, the number jumped by 51 percent, making graduates with a Master’s Degree in ESL highly valuable.

In Massachusetts, the number of ELL students has increased to more than 62,000. The most common first languages for these students are Spanish, Portuguese, Vietnamese and Chinese.

This increase in ELL students has led to a need for more teachers qualified in teaching English as a Second Language (ESL). That’s why Merrimack College now has a specialty within its Master of Education program that focuses on ESL, preparing teachers for the top jobs in this important field.

The program is aligned with the Massachusetts Professional Standards for Teachers and Subject Matter Knowledge and approved by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Why Choose A Master’s Degree in ESL?

The job of teaching English as a Second Language presents more challenges and complexities than most teaching jobs.

ELL students are defined by the U.S. Department of Education as elementary and secondary school students who were not born in the U.S. and whose native language is not English. Also, their inability to use the English language is denying them the chance to succeed on state tests and in classrooms where English is the primary language used.

Their lack of English could also prevent them from fully participating in society.

Teaching these students requires educators with a great deal of compassion, empathy and patience. They must also understand cultural differences in students. There are many successful strategies and theories for best practices in this field. A master’s degree educates graduate students in them all.

ESL Teachers in Massachusetts

Massachusetts, known for its focus on quality education, has a stringent set of requirements for educators to become ESL teachers.

All teachers in Massachusetts must first earn a bachelor’s degree. They then must pass sections of the Massachusetts Test for Educator Licensure (MTEL). To earn an initial license, teachers must then go through a teacher preparation program and a further MTEL test that focuses on ESL educators.

The master’s degree in ESL prepares teachers to earn that license and to serve as educators of linguistically and culturally diverse students.

Some topics covered in the program include:

  • Teaching and learning in an inclusive classroom
  • Teaching reading and writing skills to ELL students
  • Literature in the culturally and linguistically diverse classroom
  • Current issues and trends in teaching ELL students

Earning a master’s degree in ESL prepares graduates for this challenging and rewarding field. With more children joining the ranks of ELL students, it’s a critical job that can make a significant impact on the success of these students’ lives.