Imagine taking 20 middle school students and introducing them to a chocolate factory. Not only do they sample chocolate made from beans from Tanzania, Ecuador, and the Philippines; they also connect with farmers in those areas, learn about packaging and marketing, and create their own brand of chocolate to pitch to their peers.
That’s what Julia Armstrong helps do in her role as educational advisor to the Askinosie Chocolate University. She works with the multi-award-winning company to help her students learn from some real-life experience.
She explains, “Several years ago, I was approached by Shawn Askinosie of Askinosie Chocolate to act as the middle school advisor for Askinosie’s Chocolate University program in Springfield, Missouri. This program sends high school students to Tanzania, Africa, every other year to work with local schools where Askinosie Chocolate has relationships with the farmers whose beans they source.
“Our students learn about taking action and about how businesses can make an impact around the world and in their local communities. They are challenged to serve locally while thinking globally,” said Julia, a 2002 graduate of Evangel University.
Askinosie has high praise for her work.
“Julia Armstrong has been the leader of the Chocolate University middle school program since its inception,” he said. “We would not have been able to carry out this project without her support, assistance and encouragement. She has inspired some of her students to go on and become part of our high school program to Tanzania. She’s led projects on visioning over the past two years, giving her students a springboard into their hopes and dreams, with a plan.”
He adds, “She and her students have also raised money for school lunches for kids in the Philippines and Tanzania. Julia has symbolized our mission at Chocolate University by teaching our students that small business can be a solution for greater good and that there’s a world beyond Springfield, Missouri. The bottom line is that Julia loves her students, and they love her right back.”
He then offered the ultimate compliment for a teacher, saying, “Any student is lucky to have her as a teacher—she’s the one they will remember for life.”
That’s the kind of teacher she is — the kind that made her the “Teacher of the Year” for the Springfield Public Schools in 2011-2012; the kind that makes her a trusted advisor; and the kind that earns her awards for community volunteerism outside the walls of the school. Julia Armstrong is making a difference for scores of students that go through Pipkin Middle School in Springfield, and her influence extends far beyond.
Ms. Julia Armstrong will receive another recognition during Evangel’s Homecoming Celebration, when she is named the Evangel University Outstanding Young Alumna for 2017. The presentation will be made during an 11 a.m. luncheon on Saturday, Oct. 7, at the Bass Pro White River Conference Center.
The Alumni Board recognizes that many young alumni have enjoyed significant achievements in the few years since their graduation, although they may not yet have reached the height of their accomplishments. Nominees for the Outstanding Young Alumnus Award are under 36 and have made significant contributions to their chosen field, church, community, state, nation, or to university or seminary.
Julia grew up outside of Philadelphia, Pa., and moved to Springfield as a high school junior. She graduated from Evangel in 2002 with a Bachelor’s degree in Social Science Education, and from Drury in 2006 with a Master’s of Education in Curriculum and Instruction, furthering that with a 2012 Master’s of Education in Instructional Technology.
She credits her “tremendous opportunity” to serve as a resident assistant for Spence 3rd South as something that helped prepare her for her future.
“The individuals acting as mentors during my journey as an RA—both Rhonda Jones and Angela and Alex Bryant—were second to none,” she said. “The way they invested in the ladies of Spence hall, and the RA’s, made a lifelong impression upon my heart.”
She adds, “The manner in which they chose to serve people each day helped me to set in stone the core values that I wanted to emphasize as I led future students and worked alongside colleagues and community members. This was key as I was developing lifelong skills that I now use on a daily basis while working with my students in the classroom.
“Building positive relationships has been and continues to be a driving force in my life, career, and classroom. Without relationship building I could not reach students and the families these students need to stand up and show support to them through their educational journey. It all starts with positive, person-centered relationships.”
Her time at Evangel also included participation in the 2001 Washington Studies trip hosted by the Social Sciences Department.
“That experience helped shape my perspective of the type of history teacher I wanted to become—by instilling inside of me the importance of bringing history to life every single day for my kiddos! We had such a close-knit department that was more like a family, and it made all the difference as a student to have professors who were truly invested in me both in and outside of the classroom,” she said.
Her faculty advisor, Dr. Bryan Sanders, remembers her well.
“Julia Armstrong has a depth of love and concern for young people that surpasses many I have taught through the years,” said Sanders, retired chair of Evangel’s Social Sciences Department.
“She has consistently given of her time, emotion, and finance to make this world a better place for the next generation. Her creativity and talents given to the community truly make her a world changer and spectacular representative of an Evangel graduate,” he said.
Helping Students See the World
In addition to her full load as a teacher, she serves as the Pipkin Student Council Advisor, the Pipkin Pilot Newspaper advisor, and the Ahoy Mate-Chess Club advisor. Her many career achievements include serving as an International Baccalaureate Organization curriculum developer, a site visitor and workshop leader.
Julia has also been recognized seven times with Springfield Little Theatre’s “Frannie” Award for her service as a volunteer stage manager to the largest non-profit theatre in Missouri.
She is widely traveled, often working opportunities for her students into her passion for seeing the world.
“One of the many joys in my career,” she says, “is helping students to fundraise so that they can travel abroad. I started the International Pirates program at Pipkin, and through this program I have been able to take students to places such as London, the English countryside, Paris, and Barcelona. Travel changes people and enriches lives. It has done that in my own life, and I enjoy seeing my students living out adventures and learning by being immersed in countries rich with history.”
She has visited 40 of our 50 states and has traveled to various places throughout Honduras, Belize, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Mexico, Canada, Spain, France, Germany, England, and one of her favorites, Cardiff, Wales.
“Since working for Springfield Public Schools and the International Baccalaureate Program, I have had the opportunity to travel in the U.S. and abroad teaching other teachers how to teach effectively,” she added.
“During one of these trips I had a once in a lifetime experience when I was able to meet with and learn from Holocaust survivor and educational leader, Gerda Weissmann Klein. It was humbling just to be in her presence and to hear her speak of resilience and strength and perseverance.”
Julia adds, “I find meaning in helping teachers find unique ways to teach their students while staying true to their calling.”
It’s just one of the many reasons Julia Armstrong has been named the 2017 Outstanding Young Alumnus by Evangel University.
EU Homecoming 2017 Honorees
Four additional alumni awards will be given during this year’s Homecoming celebration. The recipients were chosen by the Evangel University Alumni Association Board of Directors.
- EU Distinguished Alumnus – Doug Broxson ’71
- AGTS Alumnus of the Year – Doug Oss ’80
- CBC Distinguished Alumnus – Dary Northrop ’80
- CBC Outstanding Young Alumnus – Dan Wootton ’05
For more information, contact Evangel University Alumni Relations Department at (417) 865-2811, ext. 7333.