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Teaching English as a second language (ESL) is a challenging but rewarding position. While ESL teachers carry out many of the responsibilities of other teachers, they also must work to bridge communication and cultural gaps in their classroom. They should not only have a good grasp of language and culture but also be able to teach effectively with patience and care. As our world becomes increasingly diverse and culturally rich, ESL teachers are more important now than ever.

What is an ESL teacher?

ESL teachers work with non-native English speakers — students whose first language is not English — to help them speak, read, write and understand English. These teachers work with students at all grade levels or even adults who are hoping to get a better grasp of the language. They teach basic language lessons but also work to provide cultural context to their students. ESL teachers may act as mentors and liaisons for students who are just getting established in an English-speaking environment.

ESL teachers often work with a smaller group of students. Sometimes they’ll teach a whole class, and other times they work one-on-one with a student who needs extra help. Like teachers of other subjects, they write lesson plans, give and grade assignments and conduct classroom activities. Often, ESL teachers will use technology in the classroom to help bring their lessons to life and provide more context. Every ESL student will require different assistance in learning the language, so being flexible and capable of using many classroom tools is always a bonus.

How do you become an ESL teacher?

To become an ESL teacher, you must have a bachelor’s degree and obtain a teaching license. You don’t need a master’s degree, but you do need a bachelor’s degree in a relevant subject. After graduating, ESL teachers must take the state tests for licensure in their desired area and then apply for their license.

Once you’re ready to become an ESL teacher, the next step is applying to jobs. Yet you can’t simply whip out an old resume and submit it to every open position. An ESL teacher resume must show off not only your language skills but also your passion for teaching and experience.

How to write an ESL teacher resume.

1. Start with a summary of your experience.

The best way to start off your resume is with a summary. This gives your employer a quick way to understand your experience and skill set. It should include how many years of experience you have and the most important attributes you bring to the table. Overall, the summary should be no more than three sentences. Aim to be concise and precise.

A summary is a great alternative to an objective statement because it focuses on your qualifications, not your goals. While you can include your future plans in your resume — and even your summary statement  —you should frame your resume to focus on the skills you already have, not what you’re looking for.

2. Quantify and qualify your experience. 

Like any resume, you should list your relevant work experience. However, you’ll want to be as specific and descriptive as possible when describing your teaching experiences. Simply noting that you were a teacher or teaching assistant doesn’t help distinguish you from other applicants. Instead, quantify your experience. This can include how often you taught and wrote lesson plans, how many students you taught or even examples of their measured success, like state test grades or certifications. You should also focus on qualifying your experience powerfully. Use strong action verbs to describe your responsibilities in each role; words like “led,” “managed” and “organized” will be on everyone else’s resume. Go for words like “programmed,” “administered” or “developed.”

If you have international experience, make sure to include this in your experience section! Noting that you’ve worked abroad will help demonstrate your ability to work with students of other cultures.

3. Include your certifications and skills. 

In this section of your resume, you’ll want to list all relevant teaching and language certifications and your hard and soft skills. From one job to the next, you’ll probably list similar certifications; however, you should change what skills you decide to list depending on each job description. Look closely at what the description says and include your skills that align with what the employer’s looking for. These can be hard skills, like certain computer abilities, or soft skills, like leadership and management. Just as you were in the previous sections, you should be descriptive but concise.

4. Include your education.

Your education should include any education beyond high school. If you studied a subject close to ESL teaching, include that major or course of study. If you studied internationally, make sure to include that too. The education section can also list non-college training or professional development you might have done outside the classroom.    

Example.

What skills do ESL teachers need?

Don’t know what skills to include on your ESL teacher resume? Here are some critical skills that all ESL teachers will need to succeed, regardless of their job placement.

  • Interpersonal communication skills
  • Patience
  • Encouragement
  • Cultural awareness and sensitivity
  • Leadership
  • Problem-solving
  • Basic computer skills

Your skills, experience, certification and education are the basic tools you’ll need to construct a great ESL teacher resume. However, unlike other positions, you’ll have to stress two very important aspects of the job: your language abilities and your teaching skills. In every section of your resume, make sure you’re being descriptive but concise, specifically outlining your experiences and the qualifications you’re bringing to the table. In no time, you’ll be connecting with non-native speakers and educating them in their second language.

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Zoë Kaplan is an English major at Wesleyan University in the class of 2020. She writes about women, theater, sports, and everything in between. Read more of Zoë’s work at www.zoeakaplan.com.