Training Teachers to Teach English Language Learners

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As the population along the South Carolina coast continues to explode, so does the number of students who require specialized instruction to learn the English language. Are there enough experienced teachers to provide this critical aspect of integrating them into the Lowcountry community? Absolutely not, according to the Zucker Family School of Education at The Citadel, which is stepping up its efforts to train the teachers who will be responsible for carrying out this important task.

On June 28, at least 18 teachers will begin working online to complete The Citadel’s streamlined Master of Education in Literacy Education program, which has been reduced to a year-and-a-half program including 10 courses.

“We have refocused the coursework on teaching literacy and also ESOL (English to speakers of other languages),” said Program Coordinator Dr. Britnie Kane. “Recent research suggests that teachers are getting four to five hours in professional development over five years in ESOL. The take-home message is that there is simply not enough support on how to teach English language learners.”

“We know how busy teachers are,” she added. “If we can be more efficient, that would be better for everyone involved. We want to focus on ideas that are extremely important.”

Dr. Kane pointed out that from 2018 to 2020, the number of English language learners in Charleston and Berkeley counties increased by 22% and 18%, respectively. She added that in Beaufort County, 28% of students are in the ELL category. Nationwide, an estimated 2 out of 5 public school students will be considered multi-language learners by the year 2030.

Dr. Evan Ortlieb, Dean of the Zucker Family School of Education, said the streamlined program was in part a collective response to requests from area school districts.

“We took a deep dive into our curriculum to improve it and make adjustments for teaching ESOL students,” Dr. Ortlieb said.

He explained that the program will be offered either online, in-person or a combination of both and that it also will be available in schools, district offices and community centers across the Lowcountry. A cohort of teachers from Beaufort county are set to begin coursework online on June 28. Dr. Ortlieb said there’s still time for others to participate and that The Citadel is offering a 25% discount on tuition for students who enroll in a cohort in their district.

“We strive to be the flexible provider of graduate education programs in the Lowcountry,” he commented.

Prerequisites to enter the Master of Education in Literacy Education program include a valid South Carolina teaching license and a grade point average of at least 2.5. Dr. Kane pointed out that three new classes being offered as part of the program are Cultural and Linguistic Diversity in Education; Principles and Strategies for Supporting K-12 ELLs; and Linguistics for Educators. In addition to a master’s degree, participants will be able to earn ESOL teaching certification and the Read to Succeed endorsement from the South Carolina Department of Education.

Dr. Kane explained that in addition to helping teachers learn to teach English language learners, the program also is aimed at encouraging them to become leaders at their schools.

“Once they leave us, they know a lot about literacy and how to use what they’ve learned to better support their colleagues,” Dr. Kane said.

“Ours is the only program in the state where you can get all of this in a 30-credit-hour program,” Dr. Ortlieb concluded.

To learn more about participating in The Citadel’s Master of Education in Literacy Education program, visit