Teaching English Language Learners
Teaching English Language Learners

Teaching English Language Learners with a cultural and language immersion in Ecuador!

Penn State offers an exciting alternative to the ESL certificate program courses 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. There are five courses that make up the ESL certificate program and the summer experience in Ecuador includes one course in the Spring semester (offered online with two weekend in-person sessions) and two courses (6 credits) which integrate a teaching practicum and language and cultural learning at the Universidad de Cuenca in Ecuador. Each year, in late June, the group travels with Penn State faculty to Ecuador's Andean highlands for an intensive five-week culture and language immersion and practice teaching experience. 

How to Apply

The application process is simple. Just go to the How to Apply page located under About the Program, complete the online application form and send us your unofficial transcript. We accept applications from late September through late November each year to participate during the next Spring and Summer. You should also plan with your academic advisor because many of the ESL certificate courses can satisfy major requirements.

Scholarship Funding Now Available!

Read Penn State's newswire articles about the TESL program:

About the Program

  • Mentored teaching practicum with Ecuadorian learners of English
  • Second-language study (Spanish or Kichwa, an indigenous language that was adopted by the Incas and, in its various dialects, is widely spoken today in the Andes)
  • Homestay with an Ecuadorian family and culture exploration and learning
  • 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. You will learn current best practices for teaching English language learners in public school classrooms.

The ESL certificate includes 5 courses (15 credits). You are not required to complete them all in the same year, but if you are interested in the Ecuador abroad experience you should try to follow this sequence. Beginning in the Spring semester (January), the first course (WLED 483) is offered as 'blended' online instruction with online and in-person weekend (Saturday) sessions on the University Park campus. Additionally, that course incorporates a virtual teaching practice with English language learners.

Next, there is an optional course (WLED 400) offered during Maymester. You are not required to take this course at this time (it is offered in Fall/Spring sessions too), but you will need it for completing the certificate.

The Immersion experience in Ecuador begins in late June and includes an observed teaching practicum with Ecuadorian English language learners and two courses on ESL teaching methods, and culture in the classroom. (APLNG 493 & WLED 444). Students will also participate in cultural exploration activities and language classes (in Spanish or Kichwa). We take these classes at the Universidad de Cuenca and you are taught by Penn State instructors who are with you the entire time in Ecuador. We return at the end of July (5 weeks in Ecuador)

After returning from Ecuador, there is one final weekend class session on the University Park campus that is a part of the WLED 444 course. To complete the certificate courses you will need to complete APLNG 484 during another Fall or Spring semester.

Spring Semester

  • WLED 483 - Evaluation & Assessment in Schools & Programs for English Language Learners - Once you are accepted to the program, we will register you for this course.  The course will be offered in a blended format with instruction online and two weekend sessions (Feb. 5 and March 26)


  • APLNG 484 – Discourse-Functional Grammar (You may take this course during any semester.)


Summer Sessions


  • WL ED 400 Foundations of Second Language Learning offered in WEB format (May 9 to June 6) (Optional during Maymester, you can complete during Fall or Spring semesters too)

Summer Sessions I and II

Immersion experience in Ecuador - June 25 - July 30, 2022 (5 weeks)

You will complete two courses in Ecuador:

  • APLNG 493 Methods of Teaching English as a Second Language
  • WLED 444 Teaching Language and Culture in the Classroom


During the stay 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 and rural areas in the region. The course sessions are offered daily (in English) in an intensive study format.  In order to complete the full 15-credit ESL certificate, you will need to complete APLNG 484 during another semester. It is offered both Fall and Spring.


 Visit this link to read a short course description of the five Teaching ESL certificate courses.



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, explained on this website, which offers weekend and online courses and an international field teaching 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.

Applicants: Click here for the online application.

Recommendations: Click here for online recommendation form.

How to Apply

To apply you need to take these steps:

  • Read the Guidelines for Participation document
  • You will be prompted to attest to your agreement with those guidelines as part of the online application
  • Complete the online application form by clicking the link above.
  • Ask two people to give you a recommendation for participation in this study abroad program that involves a teaching practicum and immersion experience.
  • Send us an unofficial transcript.

Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, beginning in October. After we receive the information above, we will contact you for an individual interview.

Recommendations: You should ask two people to complete a recommendation to support your application to this study abroad program. The recommendation is available on the link on this page. Please send the link to your recommender and ask that they complete it. Your recommendations might be from a faculty member, work supervisor, or work colleague.

Transcript: The transcript can be unofficial. Please email an electronic copy to the program administration listed on the side of this page. Pennsylvania-certified-teachers should also send a photocopy of their Pennsylvania Instructional Certificate. Please note that teaching certification is NOT required for application to this program. The program is open to any individual interested in learning to teach English language learners.

Please read the Guidelines for Participation link above before you submit your application. You will need to electronically sign to confirm that you have read and agree with the guidelines as part of the online application.

Students or Teachers not at Penn State: In order to access the application, you will need a Penn State Web Access account. If you do not have an account, you may create a Friends of Penn State Account.

Once a student has been notified of acceptance, a $1000 nonrefundable deposit must be submitted in order to reserve a place in the program. This deposit is credited to the study abroad program fee. Space in the program cannot be guaranteed until the deposit has been submitted. If you have any questions, please contact Elizabeth Smolcic. If you have any technical problems or problems with the application form, please fill out a Helpdesk Ticket at

Key Dates: Applications are accepted on a rolling basis during Oct.-November of each year for the following year's program. Once your application materials are submitted, you will be contacted for an interview. We will accept students as they apply, saving some openings for later submissions. Participants will receive additional information about the program, course in the spring semester and travel to Ecuador during a group meeting in January.

Final application deadline:  December 8
Acceptance notification: December 23
Final deadline for deposit: January 4

Program Fees

Upon successful program completion, you will receive a verification letter which certified teachers can use to apply for the ESL Program Specialist certificate as outlined by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. For students, note that you must first complete your teaching certification program before the ESL Program Specialist endorsement can be added to your teaching credential.


Program Abroad Fee: There is a program abroad fee of $2000 that will cover most costs of the stay in Ecuador. The program abroad fee covers transportation and food/lodging related to overnight weekend group excursions, orientation by the University of Cuenca and use of university facilities, language instruction and homestay which includes meals. The fee does NOT cover airfare to and from Ecuador, books for Penn State courses, local bus or taxi services or personal expenses.


Airfare: You will purchase your own flights with the guidance of the program coordinator. We will work with a travel professional to identify sample flight itineraries from several departure cities. You will be encouraged to work with this travel professional to purchase your flight to arrive in Ecuador on a specific day and time (and depart on a specific day) so that the group can travel together to Cuenca. The estimated round-trip airfare from a major East coast city to Quito, Ecuador in the summer, is approximately $1000.


Tuition: You will be registered for two courses (6 credits) during the Summer Session. Tuition rates are set by Penn State and vary by individual. In-state/out-of-state tuition rates apply to this program.


Financial Aid: 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.


Payment Schedule: Once you have been notified of your acceptance, you must submit the $1000 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 normal Penn State spring rate schedule. The six credits that you complete during the summer will be charged to your student account in April. The Maymester course is optional but you are also billed during the summer if you opt for this course.


Scholarship Funding is now Available!

Thanks to the generosity of the College of Education's alumni and friends, financial support is available for students with financial need who are accepted to participate in the Teaching ESL with Immersion in Ecuador . This scholarship is open to students who are majoring in a College of Education program only. For students who are not in the College of Education please check with your College financial aid person or the Office of Fellowships and Research.

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

DEADLINE: December 15 (Recipients will be notified by December 21.) 

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.

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.


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.


If travel to Ecuador is not possible due to COVID-19, plans will be put into place to offer the summer courses remotely, including the teaching practicum. Due to the international nature of this 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 cancelled and participants will be notified and refunded accordingly.


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.

COVID-19 health and safety protocols have been developed in collaboration with the Ecuadorian university and Penn State's Office of Global Programs. Any student participating in University affiliated travel, including study abroad, must digitally sign an attestation that they will be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by their departure/program start date. You can check vaccination rates and comparisons with the U.S. and other countries on this site.


Note that other specific immunizations are required to travel to Ecuador and the program coordinators will offer detailed information on when and what is need during the orientation with plenty of time before departure to obtain them. The Penn State Travel Health Center is very helpful to students who will travel.