Two SIT faculty are among 30 honored as top U.S. TESOL specialists

Announcement Date: July 20, 2021

Dr. Diane Larsen-Freeman and Dr. Mary Scholl in a composite image.
Dr. Diane Larsen-Freeman, SIT professor emerita, (left) and Dr. Mary Scholl, SIT alum and adjunct professor (right).

Two SIT faculty members are among 30 U.S. specialists being honored by the US Department of State for their expertise in English language learning as part of a celebration of 30 years of the U.S. English Language Specialists program.

Diane Larsen-Freeman and Mary Scholl, both experts in the field of teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL), together have been affiliated with SIT’s MA in TESOL program for more than 50 years.

They are among at least 57 SIT faculty and alumni who have been selected by the U.S. State Department since 2006 to serve as specialists or fellows. In 2019, the State Department announced that SIT has produced the highest number of specialists and fellows for the U.S. government’s prestigious teaching programs.

Dr. Larsen-Freeman, today a professor emerita, taught TESOL at SIT for more than two decades and has gone on to become one of the most prominent educators in the field. Her work on Complex Dynamic Systems Theory is credited with transforming the way we understand how languages are learned and used.

Scholl, an adjunct professor, completed her MA in TESOL at SIT 30 years ago and has become a leading practitioner in the field of teacher training in Central and South America. She is also a trainer with the SIT TESOL Certificate program offered by World Learning, SIT’s parent organization, in partnership with institutions worldwide.

The State Department this year is celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the English Language Specialist Program by honoring a select group of 30 specialists who have made a lasting impact on the program and on the TESOL field. This group is called [email protected]

Specialists are highly trained and qualified U.S. English language teaching professionals. They must have significant experience in a specific specialization and extensive experience conducting English language teacher training workshops and a demonstrated commitment to the field of English language teaching.

“We were thrilled to learn of this honor bestowed on two of our most beloved and treasured colleagues,” SIT TESOL program Chair Leslie Turpin and Professor Elka Todeva said in a statement. “Our continued contact with Diane and Mary helps to keep our community of learners growing and expanding.”

As one of the oldest TESOL degrees in the country, SIT’s MA in TESOL program is constantly changing and adapting to cutting-edge research in the field. The degree is currently offered as a two-year part-time hybrid program with summer residencies on the SIT campus in Brattleboro, Vermont.  

“It is an honor to serve, along with many other MAT graduates and faculty, as an English language specialist and it was a surprise to be invited to join others in receiving the [email protected] award,” said Scholl. “The humanistic experiences I had as a student at SIT continue to inform my work as a specialist as well as in other capacities. Learning to see and be with people where they are in their learning, to cherish mistakes and challenges as learning opportunities, to promote joy and spontaneity in learning and to engage with each other with mindfulness and empathy are a few things that come to mind.” 

"It is indeed an honor, but I should acknowledge that other MAT colleagues have served as Department of State Specialists, too,” said Dr. Larsen-Freeman. “This is not at all surprising, given SIT’s commitment to supporting equitable education around the world."