Martha Savage

WAESOL President-Elect

Martha teaches at Gonzaga University in the ESL and MA/TESL programs. Her research agenda involves examining critical writing for ELs and the role that academic language plays in that process. She has also done collaborative teaching and research with the School of Education  with pre-service teacher training.

How did you get interested in TESOL?

My entire career has involved the world beyond the English-speaking setting. I entered the field of TESOL through the backdoor. After earning an MA in Speech Pathology with an emphasis in bilingual settings, I entered the job force. My teaching has encompassed the k-12 classroom as a language specialist working with children with languages other than English, private practice with language development for international elementary children, and the immigrant and refugee setting teaching ESL, GED, ABE, and citizenship. Currently I teach at Gonzaga University in the intensive English language program and the MA/TESL program. I could easily describe my career as a daily practice of entering a variety of linguistic and cultural environments and finding connections of understandings.


Why do you serve on the board?

Teaching is a paradox. A teacher is surrounded by humanity all day, but in many ways is isolated from others. Conferences and workshops can act as conduits for encouragement, insights, and professional connections. I serve on the WAESOL board to promote those kinds of opportunities for teachers in all areas of English learner settings. At this time of my life, I have the time and experience to give back to the discipline.


If you could go back in time, what would you tell your younger teacher self?

If I could go back in time, I would push myself to learn more languages. Although I don’t usually use other languages in my classroom teaching, my knowledge of the structures of languages assists me to guide and direct students. Also, knowing languages creates a connection with students’ prior knowledge in ways that being mono-lingual cannot. Knowledge of language is embedded in cultural knowledge. This combination is deeply enriching and cannot be separated.


What do you think is a major challenge for the field today?

The field of English language learning is in a constant state of change. I would not have it any other way. The challenge is to keep up with it all. Language and culture are concepts that reach into other disciplines. What we can contribute is significant, but we can also learn from one another. We might find that within collaboration, areas of specialization may surface. It is going to be exciting. People need to strap in and get ready!


Tell me something unexpected about you.

Although I have had the opportunities for many other aspects of leadership during my career, I still find that my greatest joy comes from the day-in and day-out experience of being in a classroom with students and teaching. Recently that teaching has centered on critical writing. Working with students’’ ability to express their deeper thinking is a task I find new every time I read a paper. Other surprising facts about me include the facts that I love exercise, I watch action movies, and I planted a garden last May and did not buy ANY vegetables all summer.


Where do you think WAESOL will be in 10 years?

I hope that WAESOL evolves as a result of being represented by different perspectives from new board members. The people who volunteer on the board work hard in their respective jobs. They come to the Board to serve and influence directions and ways of serving the state. I look to the upcoming year and I see new faces and some very talented continuing faces. I will serve as President, but I am humbled by the level of expertise among the members. The level of professionalism in terms of technology, professional development, state policies and wide range of English learner settings represented on the Board goes far beyond my scope and skill level. My job is to try to guide and keep out of the way. When I say I hope it will function differently than it does now, I mean it. Ten years from now will present new challenges and opportunities. WAESOL will need to adjust accordingly. I am confident that it will.