Program Description

The Graduate Certificate in Spanish Heritage Language Education (SHLE) is an innovative interdisciplinary program that prepares educators and affiliated professionals to advocate for heritage speakers of Spanish as well as to design and implement teaching materials and curricula for heritage speakers of Spanish. The SHLE certificate, which can be completed fully online, will provide you with expertise on the educational needs of heritage speakers of Spanish as well as antiracist, social justice-oriented approaches to teaching Spanish. You’ll also learn about current Latinx and Latin American literature, culture, film, and television, and how to effectively incorporate them into Spanish curricula.

Please visit the program page on the Spanish Department website for more information on the program.

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Program Summary

80-100 Percent Online

Program: Spanish Heritage Language Education (Graduate Certificate)

Degree: Graduate Certificate

College/School: College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Credits: 15 total

Why George Mason?

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. Mason’s program is unique in its emphasis on social justice, antiracism, linguistic inclusion, and critical pedagogy. Further, 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.

Flexible Enrollment Options

Students may obtain this certificate as either a stand-alone credential or in conjunction with several degree programs offered by the Department of Modern & Classical Languages and the College of Education and Human Development. All coursework included in the SHLE certificate may be applied toward the MA in Spanish; Spanish/Bilingual and Multicultural Education; or Spanish and French. Students in other departments should consult with the SHLE Director and/or the graduate advisor in their home department.

Students may begin the SHLE certificate any semester (e.g., Fall, Spring, or Summer terms) and take courses at their own pace.

Graduate students at other universities and educators who are seeking professional development opportunities or to fulfill Continuing Education Units (CEU’s) are also welcome to enroll in individual courses as non-degree students.

Requirements: 15 total

This 15-credit certificate consists of three core courses, one restricted elective, and an additional elective. Course offerings vary by semester, and one core course is typically offered in summer.

Core Courses

  • FRLN 575: Heritage Language Education
  • SPAN 575: Teaching Spanish for Social Justice
  • SPAN 574: Critical Approaches to Teaching Spanish-Language Culture

Restricted Elective (Choose one)

  • SPAN 502: Hispanic Sociolinguistics
  • SPAN 503: Spanish Linguistics for Educators

Additional Elective

Students choose one elective in bilingual education, language pedagogy, Latinx studies, Latin American culture or literature, sociolinguistics, etc.  Electives may be chosen from a pre-approved list or approval must be obtained in advance.

Please visit the SHLE program page for more information.

Tuition (2021 – 2022)

Tuition rates and related fees by term can be found on the Student Accounts page. Please note that regular CHSS graduate tuition rates apply, including both in-state and out-of-state rates.

Financial Aid

Students enrolled in the SHLE certificate as a stand-alone program are not eligible for federal financial aid. However, students who enroll in the certificate as an add-on to another graduate degree are eligible. For information regarding student loans and scholarships, visit the Office of Student Financial Aid:

Career Opportunities

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). However, despite the demand for SHL educators, training in Spanish heritage language education is rarely included in teacher preparation programs.

The online graduate certificate in SHLE not only prepares you to confidently meet the needs of heritage speakers of Spanish, it also provides training in critical pedagogical approaches to teaching language and culture that you can incorporate in Spanish courses for second language learners, as well as bilingual or dual immersion classes.  Moreover, the expertise in heritage language education and knowledge of  heritage speakers of Spanish provided by this certificate will also be invaluable to school counselors, administrators and other educational professionals.

George Mason’s graduate certificate in SHLE is ideal for both aspiring and current educators and affiliated professionals. Whatever your specific educational career focus, the SHLE certificate is a valuable credential that sets you apart from other applicants on the job market.

Program DirectorEllen Johnson Serafini
Program Website

Application Deadlines

Fall Deadline: August 01

Spring Deadline: November 15

Summer Deadline: April 15

Please visit the program page for specific information and instructions on applying.

“Contact the SHLE certificate program at for information regarding the online application, with interest for enrollment or general questions.”