SHU to Debut Graduate Certificate in TESOL Program in January

News Story: December 1, 2010

In the spring 2011 semester, Sacred Heart University is launching a Graduate Certificate in Adult TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) program.

The program was designed by Madeleine Monaghan, director of the English Language Institute at SHU, along with adjunct professors Carla Fontes-Alers and Alla Schlate, who will teach the courses in the program.

“You can get an education in teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) for K-through-12 at a lot of universities, but it’s very difficult to find a program that will teach you to teach English to foreigners who are adults,” Monaghan says. “Teaching adults involves a completely different set of methodologies than what you would use with ESL children, and it really helps to have these tools under your belt.”

The program is comprised of four three-credit courses held during the spring and summer terms. The courses are “Linguistics and the Theory of Bilingualism,” “Adult TESOL Methodologies and Materials,” “Evaluation and Assessment” and “Teaching the Adult Learner with Learning Disabilities.”

Monaghan considers the latter course to be particularly important. “The tricky part of teaching adult ESL students is you have to be able to determine if the student has a learning disability or if a speech issue or writing issue is actually just an ESL challenge,” she says. “It’s a fine line. It’s a very under-researched, under-documented and under-funded area of ESL.”

In addition to the coursework, the program’s students will be required to develop a portfolio of ten hours of teaching lessons covering at least four different areas of adult ESL instruction. All students will additionally be required to perform observation and practicum hours in an adult ESL program. Students have the option to perform their observation and practicum at SHU’s Fairfield or Stamford campuses, both of which host adult ESL classes. That’s a key advantage to the program, Monaghan says.

“You can take adult ESL courses online, but they don’t offer that practical experience that we offer at Sacred Heart, because we have ESL classes on site,” she says. “We offer them 30 hours a week, morning and night, so we have great flexibility to allow our TESOL students to do their observations and practicum right here.”

SHU has also developed relationships with local Literacy Volunteers centers, the Mercy Learning Center and Bullard Technical High School’s adult bilingual program. “One of the things we’d like to encourage our TESOL students to do is to visit these other centers and really get a feel for what the community surrounding Sacred Heart is all about when it comes to teaching adults,” she says. “These relationships are invaluable to students who want to take this program.”

Monaghan says that adult ESL instruction is particularly important in Connecticut, the nation’s worst state in terms of the academic achievement gap between minority students and others (according to the Connecticut Commission on Educational Achievement). “One of the solutions to this is reaching out to parents and educating them in English and getting them more involved in their children’s education,” she says. “Adult ESL is a natural remedy to help alleviate the academic achievement gap in the state. And there’s no shortage of people who are looking for work right now, there’s no shortage of people who would love to have a couple of hours of extra income once a week — so it’s a wonderful fit for everybody.”

Moreover, Monaghan says that teaching ESL to adults is a rewarding avocation. “Every single ESL teacher I have met tells me that the rewards from teaching this community of learners is second to none,” she says. “Learning English helps take this population out of survival mode and makes them think that education is an option for them. And for your part, you get to experience the wonderful diversity and culture that is organic in an adult ESL classroom.”
Admission to SHU’s Graduate Certificate in Adult TESOL program requires a bachelor’s degree, but no experience with speaking a foreign language or teaching is necessary. Enrollment is open until December 21. For information, call 203-365-7528 or visit