UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Adison Godfrey never knew she wanted to be a teacher. In fact, she really wasn’t sure what she wanted to pursue after she graduated from Penn State. All she knew was that she liked to travel and meet people from different cultures. It wasn’t until her internship coordinator suggested teaching English as a second language that she considered a career in education.
“I had tutoring experience but I didn’t have experience being in a classroom as the head teacher and I didn’t know how the two would compare,” Godfrey said. “Since I was an English and Spanish major and I wanted to travel abroad again, Elizabeth Jenkins in the College of the Liberal Arts suggested the ESL (English as a Second Language) program in the College of Education because I would be able to travel but also come out of it with something concrete.”
A 15-credit, state-approved certificate program, the Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) program housed in the College of Education and offered in partnership with the College of the Liberal Arts, attracts students from all majors across the University as well as current teachers throughout the state. Upon completion of the program, teachers can add the Teaching ESL Program Specialist endorsement to their professional teaching credential.
“As part of the program, we traveled to Ecuador for five weeks and we had a full language and culture immersion experience,” said Godfrey, who completed the program in 2015.
As part of the immersion component of the program, Penn State students co-teach the English language to elementary, high school and college-aged students at a local Ecuadorian university. They also live with Spanish-speaking host families for the duration of the five-week program.
“We took our pedagogy classes for the TESL program in the morning and then we would teach Ecuadorians in the evenings at a local university,” she said. “It was very intense but also an amazing experience.”
Penn State has offered a TESL certificate program for many years but it wasn’t until Elizabeth Smolcic joined the faculty in 2009 that an immersion experience was added.
“I started the program 13 years ago and brought it with me when I came to Penn State,” said Smolcic, an associate professor of education. “When I joined the faculty and developed this program for the Penn State curriculum, we were able to offer students and current teachers an alternative pathway that offers a direct experience in another linguistic and cultural environment that provides the critical hands-on teaching skills necessary to work with emergent bilingual English learners.”