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Generations of students impacted by two professors who lead in the field of literacy education

November 22, 2013 | Ashli O'Connell

Shonna Crawford was just a second-year teacher with less than 18 months of classroom experience when she found herself with a career-defining opportunity.

Her assistant principal had taken note of the literacy model  she was using in her 5th grade classroom – something she had learned as a student at Evangel University  – and recommended her to the school district to lead a session on literacy training.

“There I was, just 23-years-old, standing before all of the 4th grade teachers in the entire district, most of whom were much more experienced than me, sharing the way I taught reading and writing in my classroom,” says Crawford.

The session went well and soon Crawford began receiving positive feedback. Many contacted her with questions, eager to learn more about her teaching methods. “That was the moment I felt called to a life supporting teachers,” she says. “My career has had a trajectory of literacy training since that time.”

Many things have changed since that day, but her mission to provide classroom teachers with literacy training has stayed the same.

Crawford, who first graduated from Evangel in 2000, returned to earn a master’s degree. While teaching in Oklahoma she was a finalist for Teacher of the Year and was also named “Teacher of Today” by the Masonic Lodge. Before returning to Evangel to join the faculty in 2010 as an assistant professor of education, Crawford worked for the Missouri Reading Initiative. Today she is also pursuing a Ph.D. in literacy at the University of Missouri.

Crawford’s passion for literacy was ignited by Dr. Becky Huechteman, a 30-year veteran of the Education Department at Evangel and coordinator of the Master of Education in Literacy program.

Becky Huechteman’s literacy legacy

Becky Huechteman

Dr. Becky Huechteman, a professor of education at Evangel for 30 years, is a leader in the field of literacy.

Huechteman has been a member of Evangel’s faculty since 1981. She served as chair of the Education Department from 1995 to 2008.

In addition to teaching at Evangel, Huechteman presents in-service and professional workshops for area schools; has served as the college liaison for Partners in Education, Weller Elementary School; and is former president of the Springfield chapter of International Reading Association. In addition, she was a board member of the Missouri Association for Colleges of Teacher Education for two terms and served on numerous accreditation review teams for the state.

In 2012 she received the Celebrate Literacy Award presented by the Missouri State Chapter of the International Reading Association (IRA).

“Endless students, teachers and literacy leaders have been touched by the work of Dr. Becky Huechteman,” says Kerri Bruce, former president of the Springfield Council of the IRA. “[Huechteman’s] contributions and benefits to the community have surpassed the norm where literacy is concerned.”

Dr. Huechteman has been working with literacy specialists in Springfield Public Schools for several years to offer the annual Literacy Conference for area teachers on Evangel’s campus.

“Dr. Huechteman really is the literacy program at Evangel,” says Crawford.

“She taught me so much, both in my undergrad and my master’s program, that impacted my career and even my personal life. The special thing about Dr. Huechteman is that she’s more than just an expert in the field, though she has a vast wealth of knowledge. What’s incredible about her is how she really sees people and connects with them. That’s what she did for me.”

Huechteman has the same respect and admiration for Crawford, who now has an office next to hers in the Education Department.

“Shonna was always one of the shining stars,” Huechteman says. “As an undergraduate student, she was one of the students who provided inspiration and hope. I knew she would be outstanding in the classroom.  As a new faculty member, she has inspired me with her dedication, inquisitive nature and ever-present smile. She is so knowledgeable and capable and just a beautiful person inside and out. I love having her right next door.  We often bounce thoughts and ideas off each other.”

Crawford said she and Huechteman share a vision for literacy training that motivates them to make Evangel’s literacy program the best. “The key to learning is literacy,” says Crawford. “We believe that if a teacher can teach literacy, they can teach anything.”

As Huechteman looks toward retirement, she is excited about the faculty who will continue her work at Evangel. “I started at Evangel when I was relatively young, so I have taught many of my current colleagues,” she says. One of them, Dr. Colleen Hardy, is the current chair of the department.

“There’s also Dr. Matt Stringer, Dr. Jon Spence, Doug Mitcham, Dr. Mike Tenneson and many more. I love the fact that maybe I imparted something to them that brought them back to Evangel. But most of all, it’s exciting to see that God has had his hand on each of their lives and that they are as dedicated to Evangel and its students as I have tried to be.”

As for Shonna Crawford, Huechteman expects that she will replace her as the leader of the literacy program. “What a legacy,” she says. “We are in good hands.”

Crawford says she is humbled by the suggestion. “It’s the biggest honor for anyone to suggest that I could replace her. To this day I don’t feel like her peer. I am just here to learn from her.”

Invest in future teachers at Evangel in honor of American Education Week
Read Dr. Colleen Hardy’s blog about American Education Week.

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