Sanoma Irons Goodwill, the oldest child of Timothy Hoyt and Doris Warren Bowers-Irons, was born in St. Johns, Arizona. Because her father was a career army officer, Sanoma, her three brothers, and one sister learned to be each other's best friends in Utah, Washington, Oklahoma, California, and Germany. She is the wife of Roger H. Goodwill, the mother of five children, and grandmother of almost three grandchildren. Twenty-six years after graduating from BYU, Sanoma returned to school, earning a master's degree in English from Morehead State University and a PhD in rhetoric and composition from University of Louisville.
She began her teaching career at age nineteen, when she ran a pre-school in Muenchweiler, Germany. Since then she has taught English in junior high and high school, for the Army Intelligence School on Okinawa, for the American Language Academy at Idaho State University, and at Morehead State University, Prestonsburg Community College, and the University of Louisville. She began teaching at BYU-Hawaii in fall of 1994.