Stand Out from the Crowd – Professional Development That Makes You Shine 

The language training field spans a variety of teaching sectors from government funded LINC and Adult ESL to College and University EAP and ESL, as well as private sector language schools, career colleges and tutoring agencies.  The job market in this field is vast, immensely competitive and at times difficult to navigate. 

Thousands of new graduates, internationally trained language teachers and experienced educators alike seek employment in the field of English language education each and every day. In this sixth installment of our blog series designed to help educators in our community find success in their career journey, TESL Ontario has reached out to eight (8) Ontario hiring managers across various sectors in our field and asked them to share some insights on what kind of professional development they value. 

Professional Development in the Field of ESL Education 

ESL education is an ever-evolving, and innovative field that is constantly adjusting to emerging trends, teaching practices and methodologies, and learner needs and experience. We can see this exemplified in the recent, and growing discussions surrounding ChatGPT, more inclusive practices, personalized learning, emerging need for critical thinking skills in the digital age, digital literacy, gamification, and blended learning practices, and other hot topics. And so, professional development for educators is especially important in this field to ensure that they stay relevant, adaptable, and connected with student and educating communities. Drawing from their experience and expertise, we asked eight hiring managers to share some insights on what kinds of professional development they value from ESL professionals. Here’s what they have to say: 

Essential Language Training Qualifications and Credentials 

One of the ways of building credibility, expertise, and competency in the field of ESL education is through working towards and attaining certain language training qualifications or credentials. The types of qualifications or credentials that may be essential or beneficial largely vary, depending on the position, institution, or country you want to be involved in. But some general examples include Ontario Certified English Language Teacher (OCELT), Certificate of Teaching English to Speaker of Other Languages (CTESOL), Post TESOL Certificate Training (PTCT), relevant graduate programs and undergraduate programs, certifications or training in Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLB), or Portfolio-Based Language Assessment (PBLA), International English Language Testing System (IELTS), Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program (CELPIP), curriculum, or test development. 

“For some, additional post-secondary qualifications may be helpful depending on their career trajectory but not a requirement of successful ESL teachers.” Manager, Continuing and Community Education (NON-Credit ESL, LINC, EAP, ESP) 

“I like to see professional development related to language training, of course.” Program Administrator (ESL/LINC)   

“For all candidates, TESL accreditation is a must. Depending on the courses for which we are hiring, such as lower level courses, having additional ESL qualifications would be beneficial. For pathway programs, I would look for specific credentials. For example, for Business English, having a background in business would be an asset.” VP Academic (EAP) 

“Any professional development provided by TESL Ontario/ an affiliate, Tutela, or other local organizations; OCELT; PTCT courses; graduate programs related to the field.” Coordinator (ESL/LINC)  

“OCELT is crucial, and other types of training or certifications would be considered an asset: PBLA, CLB Assessment, IELTS or CELPIP or other standardized tests, curriculum development, test development,  being a reviewer on any type of LINC, ESL, OSLT, ELT or bridging projects funded by IRCC or the provinces, etc. Those with Bachelor of Education or similar post-secondary training are also considered for teaching in our Academic Upgrading LBS program.” Program Manager (LINC, ESL, LBS) 

Evidence of Dedication to Student Learning and Success 

Many of the hiring managers valued evidence of lifelong learning, growth, and self-development in areas of student learning and success. While language training experience and education are certainly included in this, this speaks to the potential for those with diverse professional backgrounds, and the importance of additional involvement and process of building knowledge that can convey dedication, commitment, passion, and motivation for students and education. Some examples include involvement in in-service professional development opportunities (ie., conferences, seminars, workshops, events, mentoring/coaching programs, research involvements), feedback and reflective practices, volunteering, related professional backgrounds, which may/may not build on your lived experiences. This goes to show that while it is important to meet the essential needs of the position, your qualifications, potential, and fit for the team are also perceived and evaluated in a comprehensive and holistic way. It is incredibly important to engage in these opportunities, and ensure that these aspects are presented effectively in your application. 

“I like seeing evidence of a different perspective in professional development. For example, when someone has experience as, say, a curriculum designer, even if it is only education, it suggests that the candidate may have a different perspective on curriculum than others. Seeing evidence of continuous learning is also a good sign as it shows an openness to learning more in the future.” Associate Director (EAP) 

“Ongoing self-development, participation in TESL and in-service PD, curiosity about andragogy, interested in sharing their expertise and mentoring TESL Students…  DEI [are] also key and should be ongoing…” Manager, Continuing and Community Education (NON-Credit ESL, LINC, EAP, ESP) 

“… I also value someone who is a lifelong learner in any area because it demonstrates curiosity.  It also means lived experience as a student who has been through trying something and failing, and trying again and succeeding which takes patience, dedication, resilience and respect for the process of learning” Program Administrator (ESL/LINC) 

Technological Proficiency and Adaptability 

The increasing demand for technological proficiency and adaptability in today’s digital age is indisputable. In the field of ESL education, it is important for educators to leverage technology in a way that creates dynamic and effective learning environments for different learning contexts, and to meet different learner needs. Some technological tools used by ESL educators in their classes may include learning management systems (LMS), assessment and grading tools, collaboration and engagement tools, language-learning and language conversation apps/sites, video conferencing tools, online resources, virtual reality, and most recently, artificial intelligence. Learning technological methods is a process, and continuing to remain curious, updated, and engaged through in-service professional development opportunities, and seeking support can allow ESL educators to grow in their digital teaching practice. 

“Of course, good to excellent digital literacy and use of learning technologies.” Manager, Continuing and Community Education (NON-Credit ESL, LINC, EAP, ESP) 

“…proficiency or “pioneering spirit” with various digital tools.” Coordinator (ESL/LINC) 

“Keeping up with technology has been valuable ever since I started teaching over 25 years ago. It is still important today as we keep evolving.” Associate Chair (LINC, OSLT, EAP, ESP) 

Concluding Thoughts

Investing in professional development is crucial in any profession to build knowledge and skills, expand networks, and learn of new opportunities. As the field continues to evolve, seeking professional development opportunities will stay essential for educators to navigate the complexities of language education, make lasting impact on their students, and ultimately grow in their career.  

 Visit the TESL Career Centre for essential resources designed to help you navigate the English language education employment landscape.   

The Career Connections: 2023 Career Fair, and a Career Booster forum will take place as part of the 2023 TESL Ontario Annual Virtual Conference this November. Please see the links for more information and updates on the events. 

Career Series

Part 1: Get the offer – Qualities of a Successful Job Applicant

Part 2: Climbing the Ladder – Career Advancement Tips

Part 3 Getting Started in the TESL Field – Advice for New Graduates  

Part 4: Put Your Best Foot Forward – Resume and Cover Letter Essentials 

Part 5: Making a Good Impression Interview Essentials 


Kiara Kim is the Resource Development Assistant at TESL Ontario for summer 2023. She is a recent graduate from the University of Toronto Mississauga with an HBSc in Anthropology. Throughout her undergrad, she worked actively within university programming, and various community research projects in fields of anthropology of health, historical archaeology, and English language education. She is looking forward to furthering her intersecting interests in research and education. 

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