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ESL grads find openings in job market

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Photo of Jim Robinson, director of the Teaching English as a Second Language program

Jim Robinson directs St. Cloud State's Teaching English as a Second Language program.

English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) students take heart -- certified teachers are on the way.

As many as 50 of St. Cloud State’s 200 Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) students could receive their degrees this year, helping close the gap between the national student-to-teacher ratio of 19-to-1 and the Minnesota ratio of 49-to-1.

ESL is one of three areas in which demand for teachers is up, the others being special education, math and sciences, according to TESL Director Jim Robinson.

Education Week reports 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.

St. Cloud public school is among the districts reaping the benefits of the strong St. Cloud State program: of the 30 ESL teachers in District 742, all but one is from St. Cloud State. 

TESL should continue 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. 

St. Cloud State is the largest producer of TESL teachers in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, based on current students and graduates. Of the 200 students in the St. Cloud State program, about 160 are graduate students. People tend to pursue an ESL degree after working in programs such as the Peace Corps or after doing missionary work, according to Robinson. 

"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."

- Marge Proell

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