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Evangel University partners with Weller Elementary

Published on Dec 14, 2015 by Paul K. Logsdon

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — “Many of our students feel called to work with the children in these schools,” said Dr. Colleen Hardy, chair of the department of education at Evangel University.

“Every one of our education majors is required to gain field experience in a Title 1 school,” Hardy continued. “But this is more. We are talking about young men and women who specifically train for and seek employment in low income schools — some here in Springfield and others when they return home.”

Evangel University attracts students from all 50 states and numerous foreign countries, and for 60 years has been sending new teachers back to schools and churches with a passion to serve the needs of the needy.

Locally, Evangel has had a special partnership with Weller Elementary since the early 1980s.

“We are pleased to partner with Evangel in a variety of ways,” said Dr. Rebecca Donaldson, principal of Weller.

“We have a group of EU students who volunteer every Thursday with fifth-graders, and another group of football players who come over and read to third-graders,” she said. “This past Wednesday, we had 50 Evangel kids here to do a big holiday assembly, give treat bags to all of the kids, and then go into the classrooms to talk about the importance of literacy.”

Katie’s passion

Language and literacy are passions for Evangel senior Katie Tillman, an early childhood / elementary education double major from Staunton, Ill.

2015-12.11-A Weller teachers
Left to right: Laura McBride, ELL instructor at Weller Elementary, with Evangel University senior Katie Tillman and Weller first grade teacher Jamie Miller. (CLICK PHOTO TO ENLARGE)

This semester, Tillman is doing her practicum in the classroom with first-grade teacher Jamie Miller, and is also training with Laura McBride, the “English Language Learners” (ELL) teacher at Weller.

“I have always been interested in working in the low income schools, because growing up, I had benefitted from the resources they provide to families in need,” said Tillman. “I want to be a light to those in need, like I had been.”

In addition to her teaching degree, Tillman is earning TESOL certification — Teachers of English for Speakers of Other Languages — at Evangel.

Her impact on the classroom at Weller is already being felt.

“Katie is constantly applying her learning in both areas, whether it be teaching whole group lessons in the language workshop or developing literacy in small group reading,” said Miller.

Tillman will continue serving the children at Weller, when she does her student teaching in Miller’s class in the spring.

Giving back

Other Evangel students are enjoying what Principal Donaldson calls an “immediate application of their instruction.”

Sixteen EU education majors actually meet for class twice a week at Weller. From 8-9 a.m., Dr. Becky Huechteman teaches Analysis and Correction of Reading Difficulties, and her students then do one-on-one teaching with Weller children in a program called “reading buddies.”

After 30 minutes of buddy instruction, the EU students reconvene to discuss problems and questions and develop teaching strategies for the next class session.

The experience gained working with children at schools like Weller often results in passions that last for a lifetime. It has for Jamie Miller.

“As a student I was immersed into Title 1 schools, and now, I get to come to work where I once dreamed to be,” said Miller, a 2011 graduate of Evangel who also did her student teaching at Weller.

“Weller doors open daily to Evangel students who come to give back,” concluded Dr. Donaldson, herself an Evangel graduate. “This not only impacts the kids and staff at Weller, but will create a lifetime habit of giving back to the community.”


Dec. 12, 2015 — This story was featured in the Springfield News-Leader:

PHOTOS: Paul K. Logsdon