Becoming an ESL Teacher – Beth Garner

“My pathway to Meredith’s Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) program was not a traditional one. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree and then a master’s in linguistics from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1992. Shortly after that, I got married and began a family. I stayed at home with my children until my youngest sons (twins) began kindergarten. At that point, I began tutoring with Lee County Schools.

Over the years, I had decided that I wanted to apply my linguistics degree by teaching English as a Second Language (ESL). I spoke with the human resources director of our school system and also the ESL director to make sure the need would be sustainable, and we formulated a seven-year plan.

I found Meredith’s program while searching online. It appealed to me for various reasons, among them not having to retake the GRE as I already had a master’s degree. I must also confess that I wanted the additional master’s degree rather than a certificate or another bachelor’s degree.

While searching for ways to pay for this degree, I came across the FELS grant. They offer loans in return for service in areas where the need is greater. The great thing about the loans is that you repay them by working a year for each year you get a loan.

I applied to Meredith’s M.A.T. program very late – I believe it was in May. I also realized that I could begin teaching ESL as a lateral entry teacher with my M.A. in Linguistics. I was offered a part-time position at the school where I was tutoring and entered Meredith’s program in August. The deadline for the FELS program was in March, so I was unable to apply for it the first year. Prior to my second year, I applied for and received the loan. The application process for the FELS loan was very simple. It was even simpler to have the loan forgiven after my first year of service.

Meredith’s ESL M.A.T. program was amazing. As a lateral entry teacher, I really did not want to piecemeal courses together to meet the requirements for the pedagogy aspect of my license. I liked the layout of the program, as well as the additional education courses that were offered.

Dr. George, who is the director of Meredith’s graduate education programs, provided supplemental information to me because I was required by my county to take the PRAXIS for ESL before I had even completed a single course. She worked with me to be able to complete many of my course field assignments at my current school. Finally, my director was able to work with the Education Department at Meredith to allow me to student teach in the afternoons at my school, thus allowing me to continue my job and move into a full-time position upon the retirement of one of the ESL teachers.

I love the fact that Meredith was flexible and extremely helpful in working with me to complete a goal that I had set for myself many years before.”

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