UAB's ESL teacher education program, which is the largest in Alabama, features an innovative design. Courses are delivered via totally online platforms, one week summer institutes, professional learning communities (PLCs), Saturday instruction, evening classes, and blended instruction (alternating online with on-ground). This program also features integrated practicum experiences interwoven throughout the courses starting with the first semester.

UAB's ESL program uses different program designs to meet different needs. For the MAEd/ESL's Traditional and Alternative Tracks and the EdS-TESOL's Certification Track, certification-seeking students take on-ground courses, PLC-based courses, and online courses. To earn P-12 ESOL certification from the Alabama State Department of Education, these students must live and work in Alabama.

In the MAEd/ESL's TESOL Track and the EdS-TESOL Non-Certification, students can follow a blended approach (with both online courses and a 2-week summer residency on campus). These students are not eligible for state-issued ESOL certification.

Innovative course delivery includes virtual attendance of long distance students via electronic means. To participate in pair work during class on UAB's campus, Gwyneth Dean-Witte is interacting by video chat with Peg Lawrence. Other students drove to class from within a three-hour radius of campus, including the towns of Enterprise, Fort Payne, and Livingston.


With the tablet being held by a classmate, Gwyneth Dean-Witte from Wessington Springs, South Dakota is interacting with Tricia Merritt from Birmingham, Alabama in a Parallel Lines activity during their ESL graduate course on applied phonology and pronunciation teaching.

Group project

Long distance students also use virtual attendance for project implementation and presentations. To culminate their joint project in EESL 625 Phonology for Second Language Teachers, Gwyneth Dean-Witte presented in class via live video link from her home in South Dakota while her project partner Peg Lawrence presented from the podium.

  • 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
  • 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)
  • Internationally renowned professor and scholar: Dr. Rebecca L. Oxford, author of many ESL/EFL books and articles
  • $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

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.

  • 6 of the last 8 Alabama Teachers of the Year were SOE alumni
  • 1,821 students enrolled within education programs in Fall 2017
  • 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.