It's not only teaching language, it's creating a space for a community to be built,

    a community where all participants have something to teach and something to learn.

  • About

    Discover the What, Why, Who, and How of the Community TESOL Programs

    ESL refugee students talking in class

    What is a Community TESOL Program?

    A Community TESOL Program is a framework to provide ESL training teachers a practical teaching experience while fulfilling a need in the local community by teaching ESL classes to adult immigrants and refugees.


    The program is built upon the themes of community and reciprocity.


    Nun teaching English to immigrants

    Who Can Create a Community TESOL Program?

    A program can be started by universities, educational institutions, and TEFL certificate programs to extend the community outreach and create opportunities for ESL training teachers to gain valuable teaching experience.


    Even churches and non-profits can start a community outreach ESL program with or without the teacher development element.

    Immigrants smiling during English class

    Why Launch a Community TESOL Program?

    Research indicates that participating in community-based teaching during TESOL training can promote critical reflection, community engagement, and intercultural communication in future teachers (Yang, 2014).


    Adult immigrant and refugee language learners cite language development, friendships, and community as the top reasons for continued participation.

    Student asking question in ESL class

    How Can I Launch a Community TESOL Program?

    Justifying the program creation to administration and establishing a program can be difficult.


    This website provides information on the program benefits and the standards of a successful program gathered from research and personal experience. Use this framework as inspiration and as a guide in establishing a program at your institution.


    Contact Sarah for consulting, workshops, or speaking about teacher development through service-learning and community-based ESL

  • See it for yourself

    Gonzaga E.S.L. Community Outreach: G.E.C.O.: A Community-Based E.S.L. Teacher Development Program

    Master TESOL graduate students at Gonzaga University
  • What are the benefits of the program?

    A community-based E.S.L. teacher development program benefits E.S.L. training teachers and immigrant and refugee adult students

    Benefits of Community outreach ESL

    This program is not viewed as "serving the community." The college students are not considered the knowledge holders, instead, all participants have something to teach and learn.


    I believe it's important to establish a collective learning environment from the beginning. When determining the benefits of this program, I approached it as one collective group, asking: What are the benefits to all participants?


    The above visual was created after conducting action research on the G.E.C.O. program including observations, interviews, collecting of classroom assignments, and a qualitative survey.


    The core of this type of program is teaching and learning English. All participants contribute to the classroom learning through instruction, group work, and pairs. It is my recommendation that a new program starts there, and let the layers develop organically.

  • In their own words...

    Read what some teachers and students have to say:

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  • What's the structure of a program?

    Using research from multiple participant perspectives, this is a guide for the

    Standards for a Community-based ESL Teacher Development Program

    Standards to create a community outreach ESL program

    Want more details? Scroll down to read about each element

  • Find out More

    Here is a closer look at a breakdown of the Standards and Elements

    This structure is successful for Gonzaga E.S.L. Community Outreach. Use it to inspire the structure of your program

    Remember to assess the needs of your participants and adapt as required

    communicative teaching esl adults

    1. Program Structure and Administration

    Student-run: University students-teachers are the leaders

    Coordinator: Graduate student paid position

    External Funding: Student-teachers apply for grants

    Networking & Promotions: Build relationships with relevant organizations, social media marketing

    Class Schedule: Saturday morning

    Class Levels: Multiple levels based on students language levels

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    2. Curriculum and Instruction

    Curriculum & Lesson Planning: Thematic 2-week units, topics are chosen from student preferences, all lessons are created by student-teachers teams

    Co-teaching teams: Plan and teach one level class together




    immigrants writing in ESL class

    3. Learner Intake and Retention

    Assess Needs: Use an intake for to student contact information and assess student needs and language level

    Absentee Policy: Call or Facebook message absent students



    co-teaching in ESL class

    4. Teacher Recruitment and Support

    Recruitment & Requirement: Require graduate students to teach 8 hours a year and invite undergraduate TEFL certificate students to gain real teaching practice

    Mentor Program: 2nd-year graduate students mentor new teachers

    community building in class

    5. Community Building

    Socializing & Friends: Multi-level warm-up and snack time, private Facebook group

    Cultural Bonds: Place a sticker on the class map for your "home" city and introduce yourself (students and teachers)

    Celebration & Certificates: End of session party and a certificate with student name and total hours earned


    young children learning English

    6. Student Support Services

    Pre-K Class: Free class for children age 3-6 years old





  • Documents to get started

    Here are a few documents to use in your program

    These documents were created and adapted over the six years G.E.C.O. has been in action

    All documents are word.doc so you can adapt based on your program and participant needs

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    Gather important student information and determine students' language level

    ESL adult students

    Give students the power to choose which topics are taught

    Masters in TESOL graduate students talking

    Invent your own mentor program empowering 2nd-year graduate students to become mentors to 1st-year graduate students

  • Connect

    Sarah Griffith, Sarah "CeCe" Griffith

    Sarah Griffith

    G.E.C.O. Coordinator 2017-2018

    MA/TESL Graduate Student, Gonzaga University

    I am passionate about teacher training and working with immigrant and refugee adults. During my tenure as Coordinator of the community-based teacher development program G.E.C.O., I worked to bridge the gap between these groups and co-construct one community. I believe these actions are what made G.E.C.O grow successfully.


    To see my about me and my other teaching experience visit my CV website

    Gonzaga University ESL Community Outreach


    2012 to Present

    The G.E.C.O. was developed in 2012 by a group of graduate students at Gonzaga University's Master of Arts in Teaching English as a Second Language. They were seeking more teaching opportunities in addition to the required practicum. For five years it remained a relatively small program. Under my direction, the program was re-invented and grew exponentially thanks in part to the community approach, encouraging all student-teachers to contribute ideas that contributed to the program vision and direction.


    From 2017 to 2018 student-teachers applied for grants, designed and led workshops, and developed mentoring relationships in the new mentor program. Additionally:

    • Average student attendance increased from 5 students to 20 students
    • Total student enrollment increased from 5 students to 50 students in one year
    • Volunteer teachers increased from 8 teachers to 27 teachers
    • Two additional positions created, "Assistant Coordinator", to train the next leadership team
    • A Pre-K class was established to offer free education childcare for students who are parents
    • Classes expanded from one multi-level class to three leveled classes with a placement assessment
    • $1150 of grants and sponsorships were applied for and awarded, and another $1000 applied for and are pending announcement
    Gonzaga University TESOL Masters Program

    Gonzaga University

    Master of Arts in Teaching English as a Second Langauge Program


    Get more information Gonzaga TESOL programs, home of G.E.C.O.