Beginning this fall, Lee University’s Department of Language and Literature will offer two new tracks in its TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) program. Previously offered as a minor only, students can now opt between a BAT or a BA in TESOL.
“There is an increasing demand for teachers that can teach English as a second language, and Lee is responding to that need,” said program director Dr. Chris Blake, assistant professor of TESOL and Linguistics.
English learners constitute the fastest growing segment of the school-age population. According to the U.S. Department of Education, one in nine public school students in K-12 comes from a home where a language other than English is spoken. In 1990 the figure was only one in 20. By 2025, it will be one in four.
Blake added, “Our TESOL program will prepare our students to be leaders in public schools with English-language learners (ELLs) as schools face this huge influx of international students.”
Lee’s current program has grown from 30 TESOL minors in 2011 to 70 minors this past year, and 16 students have already been accepted into one of the two TESOL major tracks for this fall.
The bachelor of arts in TESOL with teacher certification (BAT) prepares students for a career in teaching English as a second language in grades PK-12. The bachelor of arts in TESOL (BA) prepares students for a career in teaching English as a second or foreign language in a context outside of U.S. public schools.
“The course requirements are actually designed in a way to allow TESOL majors interested in doing missions to feasibly double major,” said Blake. He added that students will be able to earn a degree in intercultural studies (Lee’s traditional missions track) along with a TESOL degree, which will be useful overseas and upon return to the U.S. The TESOL BA is also well suited with other majors such as communication, foreign language, or anthropology.
According to Blake, one of the factors that distinguishes Lee’s TESOL program from others is the strong preparation in linguistics. “Preparing students to understand how language works provides them with a greater understanding of the language systems of the students they will be teaching, whether inside or outside the U.S.”
Another distinction is the hands-on experience Lee’s TESOL students acquire working with ELL in the community through the university’s English Language Center. Students graduate with up to two years of experience, often only found in master’s level programs. They will also have the opportunity to teach overseas as part of their cross-cultural experience.
English is the world’s lingua franca – the language of the wider community. Knowing English provides economic mobility as it is the stepping stone for many to succeed around the world, enabling them to rise above poverty. Because of this emphasis on learning English, programs to prepare teachers of English to non-English speakers are also in great demand.
According to The Center for the Study of Global Christianity, the United States tops the chart by far in terms of total missionaries, sending 127,000 in 2010. Blake feels that this new program will better equip many of the missionaries who get their training at Lee. “TESOL is such a good fit for Lee,” he said, “because so many Lee students want to make a difference in this world.”
So whether one wishes to travel abroad for mission work, overseas teaching, business, or graduate school, or plans to stay stateside and help develop English speakers in the U.S., Lee has moved into a better position to provide excellent preparation for those plans.
For more information about TESOL at Lee, visit http://www.leeuniversity.edu/academics/arts-sciences/language-literature/ or contact Blake at firstname.lastname@example.org or (423) 614-8223.
PHOTO: TESOL students, staff and faculty gather for a group photo at Lee's ESL summer camp in July. (Photo taken by Whitney Caylor).