Five courses from two academic departments (Applied Linguistics, and Curriculum and Instruction) make up the ESL specialist certificate program at Penn State. The courses were specifically designed to meet the guidelines set by the Pennsylvania Department of Education for instruction of English language learners in public school classrooms. The ESL certificate program with immersion offers the additional benefit of intensive second language and culture learning and a mentored practice teaching experience with English language learners in an international setting.Two students hugging each other


To make it possible for teachers from outside of the local area to participate, the program is offered during weekend course sessions on the University Park campus, online instruction, and a five-week immersion experience in Otavalo, Ecuador. The first course, APLNG 484, is the only course that takes place in the spring semester; all other courses are offered in the summer sessions.

Summer 2021 Virtual Program

Travel restrictions due to COVID-19 have led us to modify the program for Summer 2021.  During May and June, we offer two courses of the five courses that make up the Teaching ESL certificate (WLED 483 & APLNG 493). 

  • No prior teaching experience necessary
  • Design lessons for English learners with your mentor and co-student teacher
  • Apply teaching strategies in a virtual classroom with a group of English learners
  • Open to all students in all majors
  • For the teaching practicum in APLNG 493, we ask that you take (or have already taken) one prior ESL certificate course (WLED 483 will be offered in May)
  • For those working toward teaching certification the experience and courses lead to completion of the Teaching ESL certificate (approved by PA Dept of Education)

Please contact Elizabeth Smolcic ([email protected]) for questions and how to apply for the virtual program in Summer 2021. 

Courses at Penn State University Park for Spring and Summer 2022 Program

APLNG 484 - Discourse-Functional Grammar

Jan. 19 – April 19 (12 weeks including 7-week field experience)

Feb. 8 & 9 Weekend Sessions, Sat. 9:00-5:00pm, Sun. 9:00-1:00pm

April 4 & 5 Weekend Sessions, Sat. 9:00-5:00pm, Sun. 9:00-1:00pm

WL ED 483 - Evaluation & Assessment in Schools & Programs for English Language Learners

May 16 & 17 Weekend Sessions, Sat. 9:00-5:00pm, Sun. 9:00-1:00pm

Aug. 14 & 15 Weekend Sessions, Fri. 5:00-9:00pm, Sat. 9:00-5:00pm

WL ED 444 - Language, Culture and the Classroom

June 6 & 7 Weekend Sessions, Sat. 9:00-5:00pm, Sun. 9:00-1:00pm

Course sessions continue in Ecuador

Courses in Ecuador (6 weeks, end of June – beginning of August)

Ecuador Immersion

– Arrive to Quito, June 19 or June 20 

– Departure from Ecuador - July 26

During the six weeks in Ecuador, key learning experiences include a teaching practicum, Spanish or Kichwa language instruction, cultural interaction with a host family, and excursions to explore other cultural groups in the region. The courses listed below are offered daily (in English) in an intensive study format. Students will also have access to an online learning space for the courses offered in Ecuador before departure.

Course Daily Class Sessions and Practical Experience
WL ED 400 Foundations of Language in Second Language Teaching Second language and culture learning
APLNG 493 Teaching English as a Second Language Mentored practice teaching
WL ED 444 Language, Culture and the Classroom Intercultural learning and global conversations module with Ecuadorian students

Please note that attendance in all weekend course meetings (and full participation during the Ecuador experience) is required for successful completion of the certificate.  Weekend sessions cannot be made up, so please make sure well in advance that you make arrangements to attend all course meetings.

Completing the Program on Penn State’s University Park Campus

  • A final Weekend Course (WL ED 483) completes the program upon your return from Ecuador: August 14 and 15