Have you ever thought about becoming an ESL teacher?

Leading Concordia’s ESL program by example

Student needs in the United States are changing. Teachers need the right tools in order to effectively reach all students. Dr. Connie Zucker, the program director for Concordia University Ann Arbor’s ESL Program, understands these shifts quite well.

Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Zucker to learn more about her background and experience within ESL Education. Dr. Zucker is a lifelong learner. It shows both personally and in her professional work as a program director.

Zucker’s résumé includes teaching Spanish at Livonia Public Schools, a Master’s in Second Language Teaching from Wayne State, and a Ph.D. in Curriculum & Instruction for Second Language Learning.


Why you should consider teaching ESL

ESL Teachers are In-Demand

When asked why someone should consider teaching English as a second language, Zucker shot straight to the point. “The need for skilled ESL teachers is obvious. There is a large percentage of students [attending our schools] who do not speak English. [These students] are in everyone’s classroom. Earning the Endorsement in English as a Second Language expands teachers’ tool kits,” she states.

The demand for ESL-trained teachers is growing, with some schools requiring their teachers to become endorsed in ESL. While the majority of ESL students are found in elementary schools, most high schools in the United States have ESL students present. Even if a student isn’t classified as an ESL student, it’s possible that English was their second language, and now they’re considered “proficient” at English.

ESL Program DirectorDr. Connie Zucker is CUAA's ESL Program Director.


The best part about teaching ESL

After chatting with Dr. Zucker about the program, it was obvious that there is more than just changing demographics or new data motivating her to lead and teach at CUAA. Like the best educators, Dr. Zucker has embraced the mission of teaching. The best part about working with ESL students, in Zucker’s opinion, is that the ESL teacher builds a rewarding relationship with students. The ESL teachers become advocates for the children they are working with, and often times, they are working with high-achieving students.


Common misconceptions about ESL students

Dr. Zucker shared with me just a few misconceptions about ESL students. In all student populations, some of the learners will have deficits. Speaking English as a second language is challenging in an American classroom, but it doesn’t have to be a deficit.

Unfortunately, it can be difficult for teachers to identify a student’s strengths if he or she does not speak the same language as the teacher. But, it’s not impossible to do. Learning what an ESL student enjoys and has success in is well worth the effort from an educational and relational perspective.


Modeling Cultural Competency with Confidence

Zucker shared an interesting insight about American classrooms: “Not all American classrooms are prepared to get beyond some of the cultural differences that exist between ESL and English-speaking students.”

We need to do a better job of preparing our English-speaking students to be more understanding of their ESL classmates. If our schools grow more culturally competent, our students will be able to be more compassionate and empathetic toward one another. A teacher trained in ESL has a greater understanding of the unique learning needs ESL students have and can help all of his or her students adjust to a multicultural setting. The benefits of having an ESL endorsement stretch beyond grasping literacy basics.


Teaching ESL is an Adventure

Talking with Dr. Zucker is life-giving. It’s clear that she knows why she does what she does. She has such a calm confidence and cheerful disposition. When I learned that she’s beginning to master video games for the purpose of brain health (Rory McIlroy PGA Tour and civilization games are her purview), part of me was surprised, and part of me wasn’t fazed.

Dr. Zucker showed me that if you despise learning new things, relationship-building, meeting student needs, and exploring other cultures, being an ESL teacher probably isn’t for you. However, if you love standing up for your students, bonding with them, and providing meaningful educational support, earning an endorsement in ESL could be invigorating to your teaching career.


Getting your ESL Endorsement at Concordia University

ESL teachers have the ability to inspire their students to embrace confidence and courage as English learners. If you’re interested in learning how to become an ESL teacher in Michigan, feel free to book a call with one of our Inquiry Support Specialists. They are prepared to answer your questions and connect you to more information.


This post was originally published on March 4, 2020. It has been updated to reflect current information. 

— Vanessa Lane is the Content Marketing Lead at Concordia University and can be reached at vanessa.lane@cuaa.edu. When she's not at work, she can be found playing with her kids or watching NBA basketball with her husband.

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