After Beth Cote completed a mentorship program through a high school Spanish class, she immediately set her sights on becoming an English Language Learner (ELL) teacher.
“There were no ELL students at my first teaching job in Maine,” she said. “When I moved to southern Maine, it opened things a little more.
“Then, the University of Southern Maine started this master’s degree program specifically for what I wanted to teach. I hopped into a cohort offered at my district for certification. Then, I continued on to USM.”
Cote graduated from the hybrid Master of Science in Education in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) program at USM in 2017. She is an ELL teacher at Oxford-Cumberland Canal School in Westbrook, Maine and has been an educator for six years.
“When I finished my master’s degree program, an ELL job opened up at my school,” she said. “I was teaching third grade at the time. I applied for the job right away and got it. This is what I’ve been doing ever since.”
While taking some courses on campus and some online, Cote worked full time while she completed the master’s degree program at USM.
“The online courses worked out well — especially considering I was a third-grade teacher at the time,” she said. “I could do my work when I wanted to do it. It was pace it yourself, which was helpful. I got great value out of the MSEd program, for sure.”
The Maine Attraction
Cote grew up in Schenectady, New York, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education with a concentration in human development from the University of Maine in 2002.
“I chose USM primarily because of the TESOL program, but my family vacationed in York, Maine, when I was in high school,” she said. “I fell in love with New England. That’s another reason I chose to come here.”
Once Cote graduated with a bachelor’s degree, she embarked on her career and gained valuable classroom experience while she worked toward becoming an ELL instructor. She enrolled in the MSEd program in 2014.
“I knew you had to start teaching in a classroom, so I decided to do elementary first and build up from there,” she said. “I grew up taking Spanish and took it into college, although I am quite rusty now.”
As an ELL teacher, Cote finds different ways to teach English to her students at Oxford-Cumberland Canal School. They speak Arabic, Portuguese and French, among other languages.
“There are some challenges, but it’s the nature of the job,” she said. “You figure out how to communicate with good strategies and try to make a connection with a student that’s not necessarily language-based. You try to be a friendly face right at the start and build it from there.”
Cote’s favorite course in the MSEd in TESOL curriculum was EDU 562: Linguistic and Cultural Diversity in the Classroom, but she still applies what she learned throughout the whole program on a regular basis.
“It was one of the first courses I took and opened up my mind to my way of thinking and any biases I had in my head,” she said. “It was a self-awareness course and eye-opening, which I liked.”
Not Lost in Translation
With several years of experience to go along with her master’s degree, Cote is keeping her career options open.
For now, she is happy doing what she loves and making a difference in her students’ lives. She is even a former Teacher of the Year at her school.
“I knew that TESOL was what I always wanted to do, so it’s satisfying to have achieved that goal,” she said. She has her sights set on administration and is considering her options.
Cote is appreciative of the encouragement she received throughout her three years in the MSEd in TESOL program from her family and friends and the USM faculty.
In fact, she co-wrote a paper with her advisor and associate dean, Dr. Andrea Stairs-Davenport. The Teaching English as a Second Language or Foreign Language Electronic Journal published it in 2019.
“Sometimes I was stressed, but my family and friends knew why I was doing it and were very supportive,” she said. “The professors were also helpful. I had a very good experience at USM, and I would recommend the MSEd in TESOL program to other teachers.”
Lean more about USM’s online MSEd in TESOL program.