Graduate Certificate in Spanish Heritage Language Education

An innovative online program emphasizing social justice and critical approaches to teaching Spanish

Designed for educators and affiliated professionals, the graduate certificate in Spanish Heritage Language Education (SHLE) will provide you with expertise on the linguistic and sociolinguistic profiles of heritage speakers of Spanish, as well as the ways that their needs differ from traditional second language (L2) learners. In addition, you'll explore key issues in heritage language education as well as receive training in critical pedagogy and the design and implementation of social justice-oriented curricula for both separate SHL and mixed SHL/L2 courses. You'll also learn about current Latinx and Latin American literature, culture, film, and television, and how to effectively incorporate them in your Spanish curriculum. The program can be completed fully online.

Why earn the graduate certificate in SHLE?

Given the growing percentage of K-12 and college students who come from Spanish-speaking homes, professional associations like the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese and the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages recommend that all Spanish language educators receive pre-service training and ongoing professional development in teaching Spanish as a heritage language (SHL). Qualified SHL educators are needed in K-12 schools and universities across the US.

Despite the demand for SHL educators, training in Spanish heritage language education is rarely included in teacher preparation and licensure programs. The online graduate certificate in SHLE not only provides you with the training you need to confidently meet the needs of heritage speakers of Spanish, it is a valuable credential that sets you apart from other applicants on the job market.

Why choose Mason's SHLE certificate program?

Mason's graduate certificate in SHLE can be completed fully online, allowing you to complete the certificate no matter where you are located. The small classes and primarily synchronous format provide invaluable opportunities to interact with professors and fellow students.

Mason is the only university in Virginia that offers a graduate certificate in SHLE, and it is one of just a handful of such programs nationwide. The Mason program is unique in its emphasis on social justice, antiracism, linguistic inclusion, and critical pedagogy.

Faculty in the graduate certificate in SHLE are renowned experts in heritage language education, critical and social justice-oriented approaches to teaching Spanish, sociolinguistics, Latin American and Latinx cultural production, and teaching with technology. The certificate requirements allow students flexibility to choose an elective according to their interests and career goals.

How many credits are required?

When completed as a stand-alone program, the SHLE certificate requires 15 credits. However, it can also be 'added on' to another degree, sometimes with no additional credits required:

  • For students enrolled in the MA in Foreign Languages with a concentration in Spanish (any of the 3 options), all certificate courses can be shared across both programs, so you can earn the certificate AND an MA with just 30 credits!
  • Students enrolled in the MA in interdisciplinary studies program may apply 3 credits of relevant coursework to the SHLE certificate, as well as an additional 3-12 credits of SHLE coursework toward the MAIS degree (approval required; consult an advisor in advance). In other words, it may be possible to add on the certificate without needing to complete any additional credits.
  • Students also can take the certificate together with a graduate degree program in the College of Education and Human Development. In most cases, 3 CEHD credits can be applied to the SHLE certificate, meaning that students will only need 12 additional credits beyond their degree (consult with an advisor to plan your coursework).
  • Students who wish to add the certificate on to another graduate degree should consult with their primary advisor to determine how many courses can be shared across programs.

When can I begin the certificate program? How long does it take to complete?

The SHLE program accepts new students year-round so you can begin the certificate in Fall, Spring or Summer. Classes can be taken in any order and it’s up to you how many you take per semester, as well as whether or not you enroll over the summer. Typically, two core courses are offered every semester, electives also available. The flexibility of Mason's SHLE program allows you to complete the certificate in a way that aligns with your schedule and individual needs.

What kinds of financial aid are available?

Students enrolled in an MA program in the Department of Modern and Classical Languages at George Mason are eligible for MCL graduate assistantships as well as federal financial aid and University Scholarships. If you currently teach at a public or private school in the state of Virginia, you also may be eligible to receive an educator tuition discount (to be applied to a maximum of 18 credits total). 

Can I take individual courses without enrolling in the certificate program?

In-service teachers, counselors, and others seeking professional development coursework are welcome as non-degree students in the SHLE courses. In most cases, students may apply up to 6 credits of non-degree coursework to the certificate program, but they must apply for admission. Completion of coursework is not in itself a guarantee of admission to the certificate program.

Graduate students from other universities are also welcome to enroll as non-degree students.

Current and prospective students interested in applying should contact Dr. Ellen Serafini, Director of Graduate Studies and/or

For answers to other frequently asked questions, please see the FAQ page.


SHLE Online Lecture Series








Multiculturalism Education Linguistics Teaching Social Justice Spanish Latinx