Mary Martha Savage, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Teacher Education

My career has been filled with cross cultural experiences. As a new teacher, I walked into a bilingual school in California as the bilingual Speech and Language Specialist. Later, after a period of time of living in China, my family and I moved back to...

Dr. Mary Martha Savage

Contact Information

Education & Curriculum Vitae

Ph.D., Leadership, Gonzaga University

M.A., Speech Pathology, San Jose State University

B.A., Communicative Disorders, Fresno State University

Courses Taught

ELCT 049: Academic Seminar (with a practicum)

ELCT 059/ELCT 109: Global Bridge One/Academic Seminar

MA/TESL 600: Research Perspectives in Second Language Education

MTSL 508: Second Language Acquisition

MTSL 610: Supervision of Practicum students out in the field

MTSL 680: Professional Seminar


My career has been filled with cross cultural experiences. As a new teacher, I walked into a bilingual school in California as the bilingual Speech and Language Specialist. Later, after a period of time of living in China, my family and I moved back to California and I began my career working with immigrants and refugees. This was a turning point for me. I fell in love with that community. My classes were filled with students from Viet Nam (the boat people), Cambodia, Laos, Mexico, China and Iran.  In 2001 my family moved to Spokane, WA. In this setting, my range of expertise was again enlarged. I teach academic ESL to prospective international students and teaching methods in the MA/TESL program. Amazingly, the student body within the MA/TESL program has been as diverse as my ESL classes. I have had graduate students from Taiwan, China, Korea, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Libya, Zambia, Russia, Peru, Colombia, Japan, and more.

I have found that these experiences have added to my approach to teaching. I have moved to covering less material and begun to deepen the material I teach. Does that make sense? I want to foster within my students (ESL and graduate) to the habit of looking deeply at what they are learning. I want them to be curious and seek alternative perspectives. This takes time but the rewards are great. Students become active learners and more engaged in their thinking.  I combine a experiential component to complement the theoretical. People learn differently. Sometimes a crucial experience can account for more learning than taking notes on a chapter.

My area of research is in promoting academic thinking and writing for English language learners. This seems a reasonable task and yet it encompasses layers of understandings.  Facilitating critical thinking is one task and then teaching the skill of expressing that thinking represents another layer to reach an acceptable outcome. Often this happens within a writing/composition setting. Combining this with academic language is my area of great passion and interest.

If I had to summarize my thoughts about teaching, I would describe it as an act of care. To be effective, students need to be convinced that you care about what they are learning, what they have to say and, probably most importantly, that you care about them. 

Publications - Refereed 

Savage, M.M. (2016). Using the academic word list to promote academic writing. In J. Dobson, & M. M. Savage (Eds.), Tri-TESOL 2015 – Transcending boundaries and interweaving perspectives (pp. 59 - 67). Des Moines: Tri-TESOL 2015. doi:ISBN: 978-0-692-74488-8. http://waesol.org/2015-tri-tesol-conference-proceedings/

Savage, M. (2014). Content-based lessons: Academic writing. In A. Coxhead (Ed.), New ways in teaching vocabulary, revised. (pp. 269 - 271). Alexandria, VA: TESOL International Association.

Savage, M. & Cox, J. (2013). Fostering cultural competency in pre-service teachers. Syllabus, vol. 2, no. 1. Retrieved from syllabusjournal.org/syllabus/article/download/138/pdf