ESL Program Specialist

What is the difference between Penn State’s ESL program certificate and a PDE ESL Program Specialist Certificate?

Effective as of the 2004-2005 school year, all ESL teachers must complete a state-mandated and approved training program. Penn State’s ESL certificate program is a training program that has been approved by the PDE. Upon successful completion of Penn State’s ESL post-baccalaureate certificate program, you can then apply to the PDE for your ESL Program Specialist Certificate.

What does the PDE ESL Program Specialist Certificate mean to me as a teacher?

ESL teachers who provide direct instruction in one or more core content areas must satisfy the definition of a “Highly Qualified Teacher.”

An elementary teacher with certification for all areas, and an ESL Program Specialist Certificate, may be the teacher of record for an ESL class.

A middle or high school teacher with the PDE ESL Certificate may teach in an ESL friendly classroom in their certification area.  It is up to your school or district to decide how they want to best utilize subject area teachers who have the ESL endorsement.  To be an ESL teacher in an English classroom, the teacher must have certification in English or successfully pass the Praxis test in English.

For additional information about Highly Qualified Teacher requirements for both Elementary and Middle/High School teachers go to the PDE website.

What if I have a Master’s degree in TESOL?

You must have a PDE ESL Program Specialist Certificate if you wish to teach in an ESL classroom (i.e., complete an approved program and apply to the PDE).  You may also need additional certification to be considered Highly Qualified.

Can I teach English as a subject area to ELLs once I receive my ESL Program Specialist Certificate?

An ESL teacher must have certification in the subject area they are teaching to ELLs.  If you are teaching at the Elementary level, you must have certification in Elementary Education.  If you are teaching in middle or high school level you must be certified in English.  

Teachers may add English certification via the Praxis test, but they must have certification in another area in order to use the add-on process.

Can I teach English to ELLs if I am certified to teach a foreign language?

You must demonstrate Highly Qualified status to teach another subject.  You may add on the English area by successfully passing the Praxis test, and complete an approved ESL Program Specialist certificate program if you wish to work in ESL.

What are the next steps in obtaining an ESL Program Specialist Certificate in Pennsylvania?

Once you have completed Penn State’s ESL Certificate Program, follow the process outlined below:

  1. Visit the PDE Teacher Information Management System (TIMS) to apply for your PDE ESL certificate. You will create a new application, complete the required information, and make your application fee payment. Carefully follow the instructions provided to you by the ESL program at Penn State.
  2. Rebecca Ort, the Certification Officer for the ESL Program, will receive your program completion information from the ESL Program and will approve your application for PDE to process. Please contact her at (717) 948-6367 [email protected] with questions regarding your TIMS application.

The information above is intended as a general guide. We recommend that you contact the professional development office at your school district for information specific to you and your future teaching assignments.