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Arabic Initiative

CMENAS has embarked on a new partnership with the World Languages Teacher Program at the School of Education. Funded by CMENAS' Title VI grant from the U.S. Department of Education, the multi-year partnership plans to increase the number of certified teachers of Arabic in the state of Michigan by increasing the number of U-M students enrolled in the World Languages Teacher Program.

1. What is teacher certification? How does one become a certified teacher in the State of Michigan?

Teacher certification is the process of becoming legally certified to teach certain subjects in public schools in the State of Michigan.* One can pursue elementary certification and be qualified to teach grades K-8, or secondary education, and be qualified to teach grades 6-12. It’s also possible to pursue K-12, that is, elementary and secondary certification.

The requirements that teacher candidates must fulfill can be found here (for undergraduates) or here for candidates interested in pursuing a Master’s degree.

*(Universities can only offer certification programs for the state that they are located in, but most teachers find that transferring their certifications from state-to-state is a relatively effortless process).

2. What languages does the University of Michigan certify in?

The University of Michigan offers certification in French, German, Latin, Spanish, and Arabic. The School of Education is excited to now offer certification in Mandarin Chinese as of this, the 2019-20 school year. 

3.  What pathways exist to certify teachers to teach Arabic?

There are three pathways that interested candidates can pursue:

  1. A Bachelor’s degree with certification. Information about that program, its requirements, and how to apply can be found here
  2. A 3-semester certification program. This program is ideal for candidates who already have a Bachelor’s degree (ideally in Arabic), would like to obtain a teaching certification, but are not interested in pursuing a Master’s degree in Secondary Education. This pathway would essentially confer a 2nd Bachelor’s degree and a certification to teach Arabic. Note: This pathway is essentially the same as the one above, so information about the program, its requirements, and how to apply can be found at the same link as above. 
  3. A year-long Master’s degree with certification. Information about that program, its requirements, and how to apply can be found here.

4. Why should I consider becoming a certified Arabic teacher?

The need for certified teachers of Arabic is fast-growing in schools throughout the U.S., with schools hiring increasing numbers of Arabic teachers to teach students of all ages and levels. Many communities demand Arabic classes in their schools as a way of maintaining ties to their children’s heritage language or creating future work opportunities for students. Thus, there is an ever-increasing number of professional opportunities for certified Arabic teachers throughout Michigan and the rest of the country. Being an Arabic teacher can be an exciting, rewarding, and lucrative career. And teaching Arabic presents an opportunity to share language and culture and make a positive impact on the lives of young people. 

5. I’ve read that candidates interested in teaching a language are required to take the OPI exam. What is the OPI and how can teacher candidates prepare for it?

The OPI, or Oral Proficiency Interview, is an approximately 30-minute, unscripted interview that all World Languages teaching candidates are required to take in order to receive their certification. As its name would suggest, the interview is designed to measure the candidate’s oral proficiency in the language that they intend to teach. In order to receive certification in Arabic, candidates must receive a minimum score of Intermediate High. The exam is usually taken at the end of the student’s academic program and is scheduled with the help of World Languages Faculty Director, Dr. Maria Coolican.

6. What study abroad opportunities exist for students interested in increasing their proficiency in Arabic?

Study abroad opportunities exist for all eligible students. Non-native or non-heritage speakers  in particular are encouraged to study abroad in order to help increase their proficiency in the language and immerse themselves in the culture. Information about opportunities to study abroad can be found here; scholarship and financial aid information can be found here.

7. Where can interested candidates reach out if they have additional questions about becoming certified to teach Arabic?

Interested candidates should reach out to Dr. Maria Coolican at

Batol Alizairij, Arabic Teacher at Fordson High School in Dearborn, Michigan

Shaima Basuni, Arabic Language Teacher at Huron High School in Ann Arbor, MIchigan