Sarah Hodge

What is your current position?

I’ve been an ESL / EFL specialist with the United States Air Force / Defense Language Institute English Language Center since July 2006. I recently returned from five years stationed at DLI’s language detachment in Yokosuka, Japan and am currently teaching methodology to international military officers who will teach English in their home countries.

During my 15 years at Defense Language Institute, I’ve taught in all three sections (General English, English for Specific Purposes, and international instructor training) as well as five years in curriculum development writing and publishing our in-house American Language Course series. I’ve mentored a number of new ESL / EFL instructors in the United States and Japan, and I’ll be mentoring aspiring teachers from Shimane University through the Practicum in International Leadership in Online Teaching program in partnership with the Hinoki Foundation.

As a speaker of French, Spanish, and some elementary Japanese, I’ve been a member of the National Language Service Corps since 2014 and give training on free language acquisition and maintenance tools available through the Department of Defense. I’m also passionate about integrating educational technology into the ESL / ESP classroom. I’m a SMART Technologies Certified Trainer, Exemplary Educator and Ambassador and frequently give hands-on ed tech training to Department of Defense organizations.

When did you complete your MA TESOL degree?

I completed my MA TESOL degree in May 2006.

Tell us about a story, class, or person, from during your time in the MA TESOL program that had an impact on you or your career?

My entire experience at MSU from 2004 – 2006 was fantastic; my fellow classmates were amazing and I was blessed to have extremely knowledgeable (and approachable!) instructors and mentors, including Charlene Polio, Debra Hardison and Susan Gass. I was a research assistant during my second year and had the chance to assist Dr. Polio and Eve Zyzik with their research for Don Quixote Meets “Ser” and “Estar”: Multiple Perspectives on Language Learning in Spanish Literature Classes published in the Modern Language Journal, which we then had the opportunity to present as a poster session at AAAL in Montreal. My background in Spanish came in handy for transcribing and translating classroom exchanges from nearly 30 hours of video. In the summer of 2005 between semesters at MSU, I had the opportunity to do an internship as a consular intern at the United States Embassy in Madrid, Spain, which again allowed me to use my language background, as well as research English teaching opportunities in Europe.

How did the MA TESOL program help influence your career path?

I had studied French, Spanish, and Japanese concurrently throughout high school and college with a BA in French and Spanish with a Japanese minor, but hadn’t really given much thought at the time to teaching these languages. An MA TESOL degree allowed me to harness my own experiences as a language learner (including study abroad experiences) and to use these to connect with my students.

During my time in the MA TESOL program, I learned about the Defense Language Institute English Language Center ( from my advisor Dr. Polio (another MA TESOL alumni was teaching there at the time). The MA TESOL program provided me with the necessary theory as well as hands-on experience in methodology, lesson planning, material creation and classroom management that allowed me to walk into my first professional ESL/EFL job and thrive.

What was your favorite class in the MA TESOL program, and why?

As a fledgling teacher, probably the most useful class for me was the practicum combined with LLT 807 Language Teaching Methods, but I also greatly enjoyed my linguistics and phonology courses as well as being able to write papers on bilingualism and neurolinguistics. I would love to go back and earn my PhD on aphasias and language processing disorders one day!

What advice do you have for current MA students?

A great teacher never stops learning! Keep up on current research and advances in the field, including educational technology. Challenge yourself to pick up new skills. Use this time to network and research and take advantage of the many clubs and additional experiences MSU has to offer (my hobby is photography, and I’ve been blessed to have won several awards through MSU’s Global Focus photography contest.) If you are interested in teaching English in Japan, consider applying for the JET Program and positions through the Japan Center for Michigan Universities in Shiga. Good luck, and most importantly, have fun teaching!