What is a TESOL certificate?

Ever thought about teaching English to travel the world, to earn income, or to volunteer in your community?

The TESOL Certificate is your first stop on your path to becoming a professional in the field of teaching ESOL (English as a Second or Other Language).

A TESOL certificate stands for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. It is a certification that qualifies individuals to teach English as a second or foreign language to non-native English speakers. TESOL certificates are often required or preferred by language schools, educational institutions, and language programs around the world.

The TESOL certificate typically covers various aspects of language teaching, including language acquisition theories, lesson planning, classroom management, and practical teaching experience. Both in-person and online TESOL certificates are 100% valid. TESOL certificates are beneficial for those looking to pursue a career in English language teaching, whether it’s in a traditional classroom setting or through online platforms.

Celebrating the Journeys of Three TESOL Graduates 

No matter your background, you can enter the ESOL teaching field by taking a TESOL Certificate course. Whether you’re coming from business, academia, or the arts, your first step on the journey begins with a TESOL program.

Let’s meet three folks who took ILI’s TESOL Certificate program and went on to great professional accomplishments teaching ESOL, supporting immigrants and refugees, and making an impact in the Northampton and Massachusetts region.

Jeanne Barron Shifting Gears from Business to Education

A woman with shoulder length dark hair smiling.

Before taking ILI’s TESOL Certificate Course, Jeanne had spent her career in marketing and development communications, working in publishing, online financial services, finance education, and academia, including work with the UMass Amherst campaign. Her focus was on strategic direction for organizations to promote their work via all avenues – direct mail, email marketing, social media, event management, and more. 

The TESOL Certificate program was a significant departure for her.  Having done some work with other immigrant services in a volunteer capacity, she wanted to get more involved with the local community. Getting a TESOL Certificate was a great way to learn how to help individuals new to the country acclimate, find employment, and succeed. “As a manager in my profession,” says Jeanne, “I had always loved mentoring and helping people do their best work.” 

Within a few months of finishing the TESOL program, Jeanne started tutoring students with ILI to cultivate a better understanding of how exactly she could be useful. She immediately loved volunteering. After gaining experience as a volunteer tutor, Jeanne in January 2024 took on the part-time Volunteer Coordinator position at ILI. She uses her communication skills to coordinate the volunteer program. Her new job allows her to get more involved with ILI by matching volunteers with students and connecting them with resources. She also volunteers with the Northampton Survival Center and Northampton Neighbors, which she hopes to continue.

Andrea Chase Walks the Walk as an English teacher

Andrea was an English teacher at an independent high school for 16 years. “I’d always felt like a little bit of a fraud as an English teacher who could teach only students who already spoke English,” she says. 

A smiling young woman with dark hair.

Her mother and mother’s immediate family were refugees who didn’t speak the language of the country to which the Red Cross assigned them. Appreciating how language acquisition is critical for refugees who are trying to build a new life for themselves, Andrea wanted to be able to support their efforts. Given her love of teaching, getting certified in TESOL seemed the best way to do that. 

“The TESOL course was amazing,” says Andrea. “It built on my previous teaching experience while also helping me to think about teaching in a whole new way.” She adds that while nothing can fully prepare a teacher for that first time standing alone in front of a class of students, she was able to take a deep breath and rely on the array of skills she had learned in the course. 

Today Andrea designs ESOL curricula for the Adult Education division of Catholic Charities Boston. She also has a small tutoring company that specializes in working with students who have learning differences. She says her TESOL course experiences continue to be invaluable, whether she’s serving as a classroom teacher or designing curricula for larger programs.

Sami Keats Balances Books and Teaching

A woman smiling with short light hair and glasses on her head.

In August of 2022 Sami was running an online bookstore, Detour Books: Found in Translation, which focuses on world literature in English translation and curated children’s books. Initially, Sami was looking for meaningful work she could do remotely to supplement the income from her bookstore.

Having a Master’s Degree in education, she felt like it was a good time to explore the field of teaching English, which fit well with her interests in learning about different cultures around the world and supporting people in need.  In fact, in 2012, Sami had volunteered with the Center for New Americans in Northampton to teach ESOL with a new immigrant from Venezuela, which was a rewarding experience.

With her background in photography, books, and graphic arts, the TESOL course immediately tapped into her interest in teaching with images and words in creative ways. She has been able to use much of the training from her education courses while learning something new about how to teach every day with people from all over the world. “The TESOL teaching techniques tap into my ingenuity,” she says, “which is endlessly satisfying.” 

In December of 2022 Sami accepted a staff instructor position with the Center for New Americans, teaching a night class teaching on Zoom with 13 students. Now she is teaching two morning classes with CNAM and hopes to continue as long as there is a need. “While I love my bookstore,” she says, “I have begun to transition out of being a bookseller so I can devote all my energy to teaching ESOL.”

Related articles about language study

English language instructors and TESOL participants may be interested in studying other languages such as French, Spanish, and Portuguese, here in the U.S. or abroad.