ESL Specialist Certificate

ESL teacher at board

Learn to teach English in the classroom to students from diverse backgrounds.

Program Info

The number of English Language Learners has increased by 110% in the last decade in the state of Pennsylvania alone, creating a high need for highly qualified, well-prepared specialists in Pennsylvania and across the country. PDE has identified ESL as high-needs area with a shortage of qualified ESL teachers.

Achieve your goals with this flexible program

  • The 16-credit curriculum in this program is designed for teachers who hold Instructional I certification and would like to become a certified ESL teacher in a K-12 setting
  • Classes are offered in the evenings, which allows students to hold a full or part time job
  • Admission is offered on a rolling basis
  • Become an instructor, advocate, or leader for English learners
  • Special focus on critical language and pedagogy.

Continue to advance your career here or abroad...

Students who are pursuing the Pennsylvania ESL Specialist Certificate have the option to further advance in their studies through the M.S.Ed. ESL program by taking 5 additional courses, which can provide additional financial aid opportunities!

Students can also earn a TESOL Certificate, which enables you to teach abroad.

Want more information?

Visit our ESL Specialist Certificate FAQs page.

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Admission Requirements

  • 3.0 GPA*
  • Instructional I Certification

*Applicants are customarily expected to have a 3.0 grade point average, based on a four-point scale, in their undergraduate work. However, exceptions may be granted on a limited basis, in which there is substantial additional evidence of a student's academic competency. 

Admission Materials

Duquesne University Online Application

Please submit all admission materials to:

School of Education
Duquesne University
214 Canevin Hall
600 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15282


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Tuition and Aid

A Duquesne degree is an investment in your future and increases in value over time. Join one of the nation's top-tier universities with the best value, considering cost and academic quality, as ranked by U.S. News & World Report. By making this investment in yourself, you will receive the highest level of academic quality from our highly regarded, diverse faculty who are at the forefront of the field of education. At Duquesne, you'll become part of a community of nearly 9,500 students studying at the undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral levels.

In addition to graduate tuition rates, students may also incur fees for administrative services, room, and meals, if applicable. At Duquesne University, we believe that financing your education is a partnership between the student and the university. As part of that partnership, the School of Education offers financial assistance.

University-offered graduate assistantships are available for competitive application. For graduate assistantships offered by the School of Education, please contact the Program Director or Chair of the Department for your desired program.

For further assistance, please contact the Duquesne University Office of Financial Aid.

Federal government financial aid options:

In addition to awards and scholarships, you may be eligible for financial aid with the federal government. The federal government has loan options that can cover education and living costs. Loan forgiveness options are also available for those working inside and outside of the classroom, these include:

  • Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program
  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF).

For further assistance, please contact FedLoan Servicing.

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Nihat Polat

Nihat Polat, Ph.D.

Program Director
Department of Instruction and Leadership in Education

106C Canevin Hall
Phone: 412.396.4464
Curriculum Vitae
Full Profile

Nihat Polat (Ph.D., Foreign Language and Applied Linguistics, University of Texas at Austin, 2007) is a professor and serves as the Director of the M.S.Ed. ESL program as well as the ESL and TESOL certificate programs. He has worked as an English teacher (ESL/EFL/ELA) and teacher educator in different countries. Currently, he serves as the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Research. His research focuses on (1) L2 learning, teaching, and assessment, (2) teacher education, and (3) the education of immigrant populations and English learners. He has published two books, over 22 peer-reviewed journal articles, and numerous other scholarly works. In addition to his book “L2 Learning, Teaching, and Assessment: A Comprehensible Input Perspective”, his work has appeared in many journals such as Applied Linguistics, TESOL Quarterly, Modern Language Journal, etc. Currently, he serves as the consulting editor for the Journal of Educational Research and is an editorial board member for TESOL Quarterly.

Xia Chao

Xia Chao, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor
Department of Instruction and Leadership in Education

110A Canevin Hall
Phone: 412.396.2329
Curriculum Vitae
Full Profile

Xia Chao (Ph.D., Second Language Acquisition and Teaching, University of Alabama, 2013) teaches courses in culturally and linguistically diverse learners, second language literacy, TESOL methods, and issues related to English language learners education. Her research focuses on the complex relationship between language, literacy, pedagogy, identity, and power in the settings of home, community, and school. Her work has been published in several journals including: Journal of Literacy Research, Anthropology and Education Quarterly, Linguistics and Education, Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, Critical Inquiry in Language Studies, Urban Education, etc. Dr. Chao’s research contributions have been recognized through awards, including the 2015 J. Michael Parker Award of the Literacy Research Association and the 2016 Outstanding Early Career Scholar Award of the American Educational Research Association’s Adult Literacy and Adult Education SIG.

Laura Mahalingappa

Laura Mahalingappa, Ph.D.

Associate Professor
Department of Instruction and Leadership in Education

101A Canevin Hall
Phone: 412.396.6111
Curriculum Vitae
Full Profile

Laura Mahalingappa (Ph.D., Linguistics, University of Texas at Austin, 2009) is an associate professor. Her research on learning and teaching in marginalized communities has included: grammatical and sociocultural aspects of bilingual language acquisition; teachers’ beliefs about teaching linguistically and culturally diverse populations; using virtual field experiences to prepare preservice teachers to work with English learners; notions of race, ethnicity and language in ESL teacher preparation programs; and supporting Muslim refugee students through community-based organization. Her research has been published in Teaching Education, Language, Identity, and Education; Language Learning & Technology; and the European Journal of Higher Education. She received the School of Education Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2014 and Duquesne’s Creative Teaching Award in 2015.

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