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ESL grads find opening in job market

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

ST. CLOUD, Minn. ‒ Per a 2009 report by Education Week magazine, Minnesota has 49 English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) students for every ESL-certified teacher in the state, which compares poorly with the national 2006-07 ratio of 19 to 1.

St. Cloud State is working to close the gap.  The university’s Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) program is the largest producer of TESL teachers in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system in number of current students and in number of graduates.

St. Cloud State currently has 200 students in the program, of whom as many as 50 will receive their degrees this year.

Those graduates can enter the job market with confidence.  ESL is one of only three areas in which demand for teachers is up, the others being special education teachers and teachers in math and the sciences, according to TESL Director Jim Robinson.  Education Week reported that Minnesota must increase its hiring of ESL teachers by 45 percent between the 2006-07 and 2011-12 school years to meet the growing need.

The St. Cloud School District is among the schools reaping the benefits of the strong St. Cloud State program: of the 30 ESL teachers in the district, all but one is from St. Cloud State. 

It should be easy to attract students, if the experience of Mary Walker, who teaches sixth grade ESL at Oak Hill Elementary School, St. Cloud, is any guide.  "I loved it from the minute I started," she said. 

Of the 200 students in the St. Cloud State program, about 160 are graduate students.  People tend to come to the program not as undergraduates but after experiences with people of other cultures, e.g., the Peace Corps or missionary work, Robinson said.  "If you’re tired of the corporate environment, are looking for a career in a field that is not characterized by burnout, are looking for job security and enjoy working with people from other cultures," said Robinson, "this is the program for you."

For more information, contact TESL Director Jim Robinson at 320-308-4956, jhrobinson@stcloudstate.edu .

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