December's Featured Alumna: Song Hong '12

After earning her B.A. in Fine Arts from UC Berkeley in 1994, Song Hong taught art at a private school in Garden Grove to students from kindergarten to 12th grade. “The high school started to accept international students,” said Hong, “and I taught them a Sculpture and Ceramics class. However, the school did not provide ESL classes, and I realized they needed ESL support and instructions.”

“As an immigrant who needed to learn English,” recalled Hong, “I appreciated my ESL instructors. They planted seeds in me to believe I could learn a second language and achieve my goals in life.” That encouragement never left Hong and, though she was already well-versed in teaching, she soon understood she needed the pedagogy and strategies to support her students in language learning, and for that, she needed to head back to school:“I wanted to give back to the immigrant community and share the joy of learning a second language…I felt my professional calling to join the M.A. TESOL program at APU.”

APU’s marriage of scholarship and faith proved beneficial for Hong. “The most meaningful experience I had at APU was working with my cohort from all over the world,” she said. Though she conducted her studies mainly online, she found a rich community in her classmates and professors. “We shared our lives through discussions and readings that opened my eyes to experience the world community,” she noted. “Meeting my professors and classmates in person for the first time at the graduation ceremony was a real treat.”

Hong graduated from APU’s M.A. TESOL program in 2012 and has seen her career thrive and change in many exciting ways since. “APU has impacted my community professionally and relationally,” noted Hong. “The TESOL program equipped me with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in the field. Moreover, APU’s annual TESOL conferences helped me to reconnect with my professors and fellow educators.”

Today, Hong works as the part-time Citizenship Coordinator of Santa Ana College School of Continuing Education as well as Adjunct ESL faculty at Saddleback College Extended Learning, and Adjunct ESL./Citizenship Faculty at North Orange Continuing Education. She is also a member of CATESOL, has presented at CATESOL’s regional and state conferences, and in the spring of 2021, Hong co-chaired the CATESOL’s spring conference, Riding the T.I.D.E., and served as an Adult Ed Level Chair in 2021-2022. Starting October 2022, Hong began serving CATESOL and its members as the President-Elect.

“My teaching career has evolved immensely,” she shared. “I started as an adjunct ESL instructor and taught at multiple community colleges, teaching various courses and levels while putting learning and teaching pedagogy into practice. During the pandemic, my experience in the online M.A. TESOL program at APU enabled me to transform the teaching modality swiftly. The classes and lessons on online teaching strategies and methods at APU played a critical role during the past few years.” Hong has been well-equipped to aid students who have a similar education journey and experience to her own. As an immigrant herself, Hong has a deep understanding of teaching and learning ESL because she’s lived it—and she understands the struggles of receiving an education in a foreign country as well. “Over my nine years of TESOL career,” said Hong, “I have taught ESL and Citizenship classes, coordinated a Citizenship program, received a federal grant, and written contextualized curriculums to bridge courses between ESL and Career Education.” Her passion, in short, is not to just teach ESL, but to help international students thrive as scholars and people in their new surroundings. APU was instrumental in cultivating a community for Hong, and so she urges current and future students to get involved where they can: “Network with peers, mentors, and your professors. I learned tremendously from my classmates, professors, and professional colleagues while teaching. Surround yourself with people who are eager to learn and grow and your professional career and opportunities will thrive and expand.”

Speaking of expansion, Hong holds a number of online teaching certifications that allow her to teach both inside and outside of the classroom. She’s also contributed to a publication with the Christian English Language Learners Association (CELEA), and was awarded the School of Continuing Education Adjunct Faculty Award at Santa Ana College School of Continuing Education in 2021.

It is clear that both as an educator and person, Hong is compassionate and driven, and she thanks her faith and APU’s encouragement of it. “My faith has been the backbone of my career,” said Hong. “Whenever life gets tough emotionally or spiritually, my faith and APU’s education keeps me in tune with my beliefs.”

As a last word of advice, Hong reminds current and future students to always keep moving: “Learning may be challenging at times, but do not give up. Keep learning and ask for support. Sometimes, try stepping out of your comfort zone. There may be challenges, but they may turn into opportunities.”

If you’d like to connect with Song Hong, visit her profile on LinkedIn.

Song Hong (MA TESOL '12)
Song Hong (MA TESOL '12)

Note: This information is current for the 2023-24 academic year; however, all stated academic information is subject to change. Please refer to the current Academic Catalog for more information.