Graduate Profile

Elizabeth Hayes

Lifelong Language Learner Chooses WGU's Master's in ELL to Teach

Elizabeth Hayes has been immersed in languages other than English her entire life. As a child she spent three years in France learning the language and culture while intending to serve as a missionary with her family in Africa. After receiving her bachelor's degree from Western Oregon University in 2000, she spent two years immersed in German language and culture while teaching at a college level.

"As a teacher in southern California I had some students who were clearly language learners," Hayes said. "Having been a language learner myself, I can empathize with the unique cultural and linguistic challenges English language learners face."

Hayes enrolled in the Master of Arts in English Language Learning program at Western Governors University in January 2006. Having recently graduated from the program, she feels the unique capstone project was a great benefit. She described the experience as a "privilege," adding that her years of experience gave her a unique perspective on how to improve English language learner staff training and resources in private and public schools.

"In my experience, most mainstream teachers have a very heavy workload," Hayes said. "Attempting to meet the needs of language learners without training or tools such as modified curricula and assessments is an immense challenge often unmet. I chose to pursue the master's in ELL at WGU because the capstone project enabled me to put my years of experience to use in creating methods for improvement of access to TEFL training and resources."

WGU's unique competency-based model allowed Hayes the freedom and the focus she was looking for in a degree program. She also enjoyed the fact that she could use her lifelong experience of language learner to her advantage as she accelerated her program, earning her degree in just one year.

"WGU was affordable, offered the program I wanted, and was largely self-paced," Hayes continued. "It also appeared to be an excellent program with high expectations. All of these factors made it the ideal program for me."

Hayes' master's degree has opened many doors for teaching English as a second language. During her research for her capstone, Hayes said that a Christian high school and a local Christian university she surveyed as part of her project invited her to apply for job openings. Also, opportunities to teach foreign languages have come her way both before and after she finished WGU's ELL program.

The advantages of earning a master's degree can mean enhanced job security, promotions and increased pay. Holders of master's degrees in ELL enable movement into ELL specialist positions or the ability to teach in higher education, especially at the community college level. In Hayes' case, the doors have been opened to teach abroad.