Graduate Degrees in Teaching ESL

At UAB we offer two graduate degrees for the teaching of ESL: a Master of Arts in Education (MAEd) and an Educational Specialist (EdS). These degrees and their corresponding certifications are described in this website. Also featured are the program’s innovative design, student testimonials, hall of fame, alumni showcase, and Peace Corps partnership. A brief history of our ESL teacher education program is provided below. Immediately following are highlights about program impact, student achievement, federal grants, and national classification.

In addition to providing program-specific information, our website also hosts an extensive teacher resource section for ESL and mainstream teachers. Such resources include information about professional conferences and other career-related opportunities. We hope that you enjoy our ESL teacher education website and look forward to hearing from you.


Susan Spezzini, Ph.D.
Program Director and Associate Professor
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.   (205) 934-8357

Brief History

In 1999, UAB offered its first ESL methods course. Committed to serving the region's growing international workforce, UAB systematically proceeded in developing a curriculum for the training of ESL teachers. When this curriculum reached full cycle in 2001, the first three UAB students obtained ESL teacher certification from the Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE). Shortly thereafter, an unprecedented surge of ELLs in the public schools was mirrored by a corresponding surge of graduate students in ESL teacher education. Untrained in the teaching of linguistically diverse students, teachers at all grade levels were eager to learn how to incorporate ESL best practices into their content classes in order to more effectively support ELLs' linguistic and academic development. By May 2014, a total of 438 UAB students had obtained ESL certification and/or a Master of Arts in Education (MAEd) for teaching ESL. Currently averaging 35 graduates a year, UAB leads the state in the preparation of ESL-certified teachers.

Program Impact
During this past decade, UAB has made a difference in the teaching of ESL throughout the state. UAB students and alumni, albeit concentrated in central Alabama, currently teach ESL in 31% of the state’s school systems—from Mobile County in the southwest to DeKalb County in the northeast. They represent 78% of the 18 ESL teachers in Baldwin County, 84% of the 56 ESL teachers in Shelby County, and 100% of the 5 ESL teachers in Oxford City. Other UAB students and alumni, those who specialize in adult learners, teach ESL in a variety of post-secondary programs ranging from rural community outreach to post-doctoral academic writing.

Student Achievement

In 2005, the Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE) began requiring national examinations for teacher certification. From 2005 until 2011, 240 UAB students in the MAEd/ESL program took the Praxis II #0360 Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. Averaging 690 on this Praxis, these students far exceeded the 540 score required by the ALSDE for ESL certification. UAB's average of 690 in ESL was also substantially higher than the national average of 640. Since 2012, UAB students have been taking the new ESOL Praxis #0361.

Federal Grants
Eight grants from the U.S. Department of Education's Office of English Language Acquisition have served to enhance ESL teacher education at UAB. In addition to promoting UAB's unique distance-delivery model—with the most distant site at 250 miles from Birmingham, these grants have also served in fostering ESL partnerships with targeted school systems such as Shelby County, Jefferson County, Etowah County, Baldwin County, Enterprise City, and Homewood City, as well as others around the state. Furthermore, by supporting the development of ESL workshops for K-12 educators and university faculty, these grants have also been instrumental in situating UAB as one of the ALSDE's premiere partners in the delivery of ESL professional development to mainstream teachers.

National Classification
Within the national Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP), UAB's MAEd/ESL program is classified with the 13.1401 code, which is for Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language. This CIP code defines programs that focus on the principles 
and practice of teaching English to students who are not proficient in English or who do not speak, read or write English, and that may prepare individuals to function as teachers and administrators in such programs.