New bachelor’s degree available in TESL

Steve Opalko

Students at Kent State are now able to earn a bachelor’s degree in Teaching English as a Second Language.

Sarah Rilling, associate professor in the TESL program, has been working on this project for five years and is excited to see it all come together.

“It’s designed to help students who want to teach overseas,” Rilling said. “Most people who enter the program plan on working in adult education or teaching overseas.”

The university has offered a master’s in TESL since 1991, which is also being upgraded, Rilling said. Pending approval from the Ohio Board of Regents, the master’s program will also offer students their teaching licenses. For those who intend to work in the adult education field, or teach overseas, the teaching license is not necessary; however, in order to teach in the state of Ohio, it is required.

Rilling said the teaching license would allow students to pursue jobs within the state, mainly working with minority children.

“A lot of adults come here from all over the world to get their education,” Rilling said. “Many of them have families that don’t speak English very well so there is a need for the program.”

According to the U.S. Department of Education’s Survey of the States’ Limited English Proficient Students, there are more than 19,000 non-English speaking students in grades K-12 in Ohio. Forty percent of students consider Spanish their native language; however, Arabic and Somali are also becoming more prevalent.

“The new program will prepare teachers to work in public schools,” Rilling said.

Since 1994, there has been a 108 percent increase in limited English-speaking student enrollment in public schools in Ohio. There is a definite need for trained teachers, Rilling said.

Kent State is also offering an undergraduate certificate program requiring only 18 credit hours, six of which need to be filled by teaching in Dresden, Germany. The certificate program is a quick way to educate students for teaching overseas. Once in the program, students take some upper division linguistic courses along with one of two writing intensive programs.

Karl Uhrig, a new faculty member from Indiana University, just joined the program as the faculty contact for the bachelor’s degree in TESL.

“We are really excited to have him here,” Rilling said. “He is excited about the program and has a lot to offer.”

Contact Graduate and Undergraduate Offices reporter Steve Opalko at [email protected].