Tarrah Sargeant in APSU´ s Writing Center, Wed. March 15. Photo by Blake Parker I The All State.

Tarrah Sargeant, an Austin Peay State University graduate twice over, currently serves the Austin Peay community as an English as a Second Language (ESL) professor and Writing Center tutor.  

Sargeant was in ESL classes herself as a child, and this background impacts her even today. Her background is also integral to her views on ESL education, her goals for her students, and her interpretation of language.  

When posed with a question about how she came to be an ESL professor, Sargeant said, “When you are constantly reminded that you are not pronouncing English correctly, you want to do it … better than all the people who said your English is wrong.” 

She continues, “I wanted to help other people who struggled the same way I did and in other similar but different ways.” 

Sargeant is a second-generation American with her father’s side being Afro-Panamanian and her mother’s side being Filipino. Additionally, Sargeant is a third-generation Disc Jockey (DJ).  

On ESL education and using students’ native languages in the classroom, Sargeant voices, “ESL has a hard history with assimilation, and when I teach my students, I want them to feel comfortable by using something that they already know. Then, from there, we can build on top of that.” She also states that instructing in English only is not the correct way to teach ESL students. 

Sargeant combines the knowledge that she has of language with the knowledge that she has accumulated from being a DJ and coming from a family of DJs.  

Sargeant explains how she brings her interesting and unique knowledge into the classroom by saying, “It’s all about observing and orchestrating a vibe. So, when I’m watching my students, I know when to switch it up.”  

She adds, “When they look tired or like they’re not getting it, I know I need to change the song or change the tempo to a different activity or a different way of communicating the concept that we’re to learn.” 

Sargeant wants her students to “pursue education as a lifelong process” because “there is always more to learn.” She says, “Language is always changing, but culture is also changing.” 

Finally, Sargeant emphasizes, “We need to want to learn more outside of our own experiences in order to grow.”