UAB's MAEd/ESL and EdS/TESOL can be completed by taking all online courses. International students who need Face-to-Face course can opt to meet weekly with course instructors. Many courses include professional learning communities (PLCs) and practicum experiences.

Virtual Attendance

Before we converted almost all of our courses to online, some distance students took on-ground courses by attending virtually. Pictured below, Gwyneth Dean-Fastnacht from Wessington Springs, South Dakota participated in pair work by interacting virtually with Peg Lawrence in Birmingham, Alabama.

Before our ESL graduate courses went fully online, distance students would interact with local students in several different ways. With a tablet being held by a classmate, Gwyneth Dean-Fastnacht from South Dakota interacted with Tricia Merritt from Alabama in a Parallel Lines activity during their ESL graduate course on applied phonology and pronunciation teaching.

Group project

Distance students also used virtual attendance for project implementation and presentations during on-ground classes. To culminate their joint project in EESL 625 Phonology for Second Language Teachers, Gwyneth Dean-Fastnacht presented in class via live video link from her home in South Dakota while her project partner Peg Lawrence presented from the podium.

Students and Alumni

  • ESL education alumni testimonials
  • Oscar Garcia (MA '12) was selected to give a TED talk, Let's Build Bridges, not Walls, in Birmingham, Alabama
  • Frankie Perez (MA '12) was selected to give UAB's graduation speech
  • Sarah Hicks (MA '13) was honored as a Grosvenor Teacher Fellow
  • Several alumni are employed by the Title III division of the Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE)
    • Cheryl Michele Lee (MA '06; EdS '17) is the ALSDE's ESL specialist for all P-12 schools in Alabama, and
    • All five of the ALSDE's ESL coaches for P-12 schools are UAB alumni 


  • Fulbright Scholar: Dr. Susan Spezzini (2020-2023)
  • UAB President's Award for Excellence in Teaching: Dr. Susan Spezzini (2009) and Dr. Josephine Prado (2018)
  • UAB's campus-wide Diversity Award for Faculty: Dr. Susan Spezzini (2013)
  • $15 million in federal grants since 2002 for training P-12 teachers to provide effective instruction for English language learners in Alabama P-12 schools
  • Workshops presented to Fulbright fellows from Colombia (2015) and Egypt (2016)
  • Joint research project with professors at the Nayarit State University in Tepic, Mexico
  • Leadership roles in the Alabama-Mississippi TESOL affiliate, the regional Southeast TESOL Council, and the TESOL International Association

ESL Grant Projects

Eight grants from the U.S. Department of Education's Office of 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, Homewood City, Gadsden City, Attalla City, and Enterprise City, as well as others around the state. Furthermore, by supporting the development of ESL workshops for P-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.

Other Programs in UAB's School of Education (SOE)

  • 6 out of 8 previous Alabama Teachers of the Year were SOE alumni
  • About 1,800 students are currently enrolled in education programs
  • Over 22,000 alumni have earned their education degrees at UAB
  • UAB's teacher education process is illustrated in this video: Growing a Teacher 

spezzini highlights

Based on the contents and learning objectives of each course, the most appropriate delivery format is selected. For example, in order to learn hands-on techniques for teaching pronunciation to their ELLs, students attend class on Saturdays. The 24 students in this course, EESL 625 Phonology for ESL Teachers, came from Mobile, Foley, Loxley, Auburn, Muscle Shoals, Decatur, Anniston, Moody, Vincent, Chelsea, Montevallo, Pelham, Hoover, Homewood, Irondale, Trussville, Tarrant, Fultondale, and Birmingham. This class also included visiting scholars from Japan and Brazil. After our ESL courses began converting online, course instructors and students learned to do these same kinesthetic activities but in a virtual classroom.