Teaching English Language Learners
Teaching English Language Learners

Summer 2021 Virtual Teaching Experience

Penn State offers an exciting alternative to the ESL certificate program offered on campus. The ESL certificate can now be completed with a field teaching experience abroad. The immersion program includes courses at Penn State University Park and at the Universidad de Cuenca, Ecuador for a summer intensive study experience. Typically, the program is completed in one calendar year, beginning in January and ending in August. So that teachers can participate from a distance, courses on the Penn State University Park campus are scheduled during weekend sessions and complemented by online learning. In late June, the group travels to Ecuador's Andean highlands for an intensive five-week culture and language immersion and practice teaching experience.

For Summer 2021, we offer a virtual teaching practicum and modified course sequence. Go here for more information. 

How to Apply

For Summer 2021 virtual program, the application process is simple. Just go to the Application page and complete it. You should also be in touch with Elizabeth Smolcic to learn about course registration and program dates and opportunities to support you financially in this program.

For Summer 2022, to apply, please complete the application form and submit the necessary documents as instructed on the How to Apply page during Fall 2021.

About the Program

  • Mentored teaching practicum with Ecuadorian learners of English
  • Second-language study (Spanish or Kichwa, a Native American language that was adopted by the Incas and, in its various dialects, is widely spoken today)
  • Homestay with an Ecuadorian family and ethnographic culture exploration
  • Network with mentors and other participants, and sharing best ESL teaching practices
  • Explore the Andes — a subtropical cloud forest, volcanic peaks, indigenous cultures, and handcraft markets


All the certificate courses conducted in Ecuador are taught in English. They include a review of current best practices for teaching English language learners in the public school classroom.


The weekend courses at University Park establish a structure for future collaboration among teachers as they implement ESL teaching strategies in their classrooms and school districts.

Beginning in the spring semester (January), the first course (APLNG 484) is offered as 'blended' online instruction with both online and face-to-face  weekend sessions on the University Park campus.  Additionally, the first course incorporates a field experience tutoring an English language learner. During the summer semester there are weekend class sessions at University Park prior to departing for Ecuador. Participants will also complete assignments and course activities before departing for the Immersion experience.


The intensive five-week Immersion experience in Ecuador begins in late June and includes an observed teaching practicum with Ecuadorian English language learners and courses on ESL teaching methods, second language acquisition, and culture in the classroom. Students will also participate in cultural exploration activities and language classes (in Spanish or Kichwa).


After returning from Ecuador, there is one final weekend class session on the University Park campus.

The ESL program specialist certificate at Penn State may be completed in two ways: 1) through a traditional program with all classes held on campus, or 2) by enrolling in this Teaching ESL with Immersion option which offers weekend and online courses and an international field experience in Ecuador.


Penn State's ESL certificate program has been approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Education's Bureau of Teacher Certification and Preparation. The program includes five courses and covers the competencies in key domains that the state has outlined for the ESL program specialist certificate:


  • Language
  • Culture
  • Observing, Planning, Implementing, and Managing Instruction
  • Assessment
  • Professionalism
  • Field experience (60 hours)


After successfully completing the Penn State Teaching ESL program, certified teachers may apply to the Pennsylvania Department of Education for the ESL Program Specialist Endorsement.  At the successful completion of the program, each participant will receive acknowledgment that they have completed "Teaching English as a Second/Foreign Language" program from Penn State.


Note: Our participants normally include both in-service teachers and pre-service education majors. So that we can offer intensive mentoring during the practice teaching in Ecuador, we limit the number of participants each year.

Fee and Registration

The Pennsylvania ESL Program Specialist certificate is awarded, given successful completion of the program and teaching certification as outlined by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. In addition to the instructional fees, there is a program abroad fee of $2,000 related to your stay in Ecuador. The total fee includes instructional costs and all expenses during the five weeks in Ecuador, including living expenses, transportation in Ecuador, and an orientation in Quito before you travel to your site and classes begin.


Airfare to and from Ecuador, lodging for weekend courses at Penn State, and books for the courses are not included in the program abroad fee. All participants must arrive in Quito, Ecuador, on a specific date which will be determines early in the spring semester. Our staff will meet you at the airport and assist you in getting to the hotel. Participants will purchase airline tickets on their own; however, Penn State can recommend a travel agent, and more information will be provided in the spring classes regarding traveling with other class participants. The estimated round-trip airfare from a major East Coast city to Quito, Ecuador, is approximately $1,200. Specific immunizations are required to travel to Ecuador.

In-state/out-of-state tuition rates apply to this program. Tuition for 15 credits will be charged for the program (3 credits in the spring, 12 credits in the summer). Tuition rates are set by Penn State.

Scholarship Funding is now Available!

Thanks to the generosity of the College of Education's alumni and friends, travel support is available for students with financial need who intend to participate in the Summer Ecuador Teaching ESL and Immersion Experience. 

This scholarship is open to students who are majoring in a College of Education program only. 

To apply for scholarship assistance, email your name, 9-digit PSU ID number, and a brief, 1-page essay discussing what you hope to gain from the experience to [email protected] 

DEADLINE: December 9 (Recipients will be notified by December 18.) 

NOTE: This application is separate from the College of Education's general Scholarship Application. We encourage all students to complete the College's general scholarship application to be considered for additional scholarship support.

Financial aid may be available for both degree and non-degree program participants. The Penn State Outreach Financial Aid office can help participants identify financial aid options for summer study. They can be reached at [email protected] or at 814-867-4244.

Once you have been notified of your acceptance, you must submit the $1,000 nonrefundable deposit (a portion of the program abroad fee) in order to reserve your place in the program.  The remainder of the program abroad fee will be billed in March and must be paid before students begin the summer session courses.


The 3 credits you complete in the spring semester will be calculated and charged according to the Penn State spring rate schedule. The remaining 12 credits that you complete during the summer will be charged to a student account in April. The balance of the program abroad fee will be charged at the same time as summer tuition. The total program fee must be paid by May 15.

The initial $1,000 deposit paid on acceptance is not refundable. In the event of withdrawal, your tuition will be refunded according to the Penn State tuition schedule, depending on the date of withdrawal. After April 15, the full program abroad fee is nonrefundable.


All requests for withdrawal must be submitted in writing to Penn State Outreach.

You will need a valid passport to travel to Ecuador. Please be aware of the expiration date of your existing passport or, if you do not yet have one, please apply. For U.S. citizens, no visa is required for tourist or study travel up to 90 days.


If you will require lodging at Penn State to attend weekend classes in the spring, please check the Central Pennsylvania Convention and Visitors Bureau for information.

Penn State Cancellation or Changes:


You will be notified of any cancellations or changes. If some unforeseen event forces Penn State to cancel or postpone the program, you will receive a full refund of your registration fee; however, the University cannot be held responsible for any related costs, including cancellation fees assessed by airlines or travel agencies.


Due to the international nature of this field-based experience, Penn State must have a minimum number of participants for the program. If enrollment is not sufficient by mid-January, the program will be canceled and participants will be notified and refunded accordingly.


Withdrawal Policy:


See above.

Penn State encourages persons with disabilities to participate in its programs and activities. If you anticipate needing any type of special accommodation or have questions about the physical access provided, please contact the program manager at 814-865-3443 before your participation.