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Innovative Literacy Lab at Evangel benefits students and teachers alike

Published on Apr 8, 2016 by Paul K. Logsdon

Mercedes Medina is working on a Master of Education in Literacy degree at Evangel University. She teaches kindergarten at Watkins Elementary. // PHOTO BY Paul K. Logsdon


Graduate students working to earn Reading Specialist Certification from State of Missouri, while completing Master of Education in Literacy degree

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — “All children must learn to read, write, speak, listen and utilize technology fluently to participate in today’s society,” said Dr. Shonna Crawford, summarizing the reason Evangel University offers local families free admission to its Literacy Lab each summer.

The free sessions in June are available to elementary, middle and high school students who are in public schools, private schools, or are being home schooled. Each child receives a total of sixteen 60-minute reading sessions.

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Dr. Shonna Crawford, assistant professor of education (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

“One-on-one and small group reading support is provided by graduate students enrolled in our Master of Education in Literacy program,” said Crawford, assistant professor of education.

“Last year’s parents raved about the program and many shared the opportunity with other families,” she said. “This year we received more than 100 applications for K-12 students to attend the program.”

State certification

The Literacy Lab enables master’s-level students at Evangel to obtain real world experience, as well as the practicum (internship) hours needed for their Reading Specialist Certification in Missouri. Reading specialists are in high demand.

“Our program is designed to equip classroom teachers for the current demand for literacy achievement,” said Crawford. “We also prepare future reading specialists for Title 1 reading programs and empower educators to become strong literacy leaders in their schools.”

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Grad student Amy Bolinger, a first grade teacher at Watkins Elementary, works with a student during Evangel’s free reading clinic. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) // Photo by: Paul K. Logsdon

Each of the graduate students in the literacy program at Evangel is currently employed in a local school — like Amy Bolinger, who teaches 4th grade at Watkins Elementary in Springfield.

“The program has taught me skills to really help struggling readers in my classroom,” said Bolinger.

“Rather than just working with a student and turning in paperwork, EU’s literacy program offers the experience of one-on-one tutoring under the guidance of Evangel professors,” she said.

Each graduate student teaches two 60-minute sessions each morning during the month-long Literacy Lab program, after which they meet with Evangel professors to debrief and prepare for the next day.

It is the community partnership that impresses Bolinger. “The hands-on experience serves our community by offering free literacy tutoring, but also gives the masters students experience working with families,” she said.

Exceeding expectations

Dr. Becky Huechteman, professor of education at Evangel, likes the adaptability of the program for the teaching professionals.

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Dr. Becky Huechteman, professor of education (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

“We assess what they know coming into the program and tailor our courses to help them grow,” she said. “We learn from each other…it’s a collaboration.”

Huechteman said the Evangel faculty strives to be current and aware of research and trends, and the department recruits students who are “dedicated teachers who know how important it is to be highly prepared in all aspects of literacy, in order to best educate their students.”

Mercedes Medina is a kindergarten teacher at Watkins. “I feel refreshed with new ideas and challenged to take my students further because of what I am learning through my grad classes at Evangel,” she said.

“I chose to pursue my graduate degree through Evangel because it was more cost effective, and I really liked the idea of a cohort — half online and half seated,” she continued. “I have learned so much in such a short amount of time from professors with a wealth of knowledge from the field.”

“The program has exceeded my expectations,” added Bolinger. “The program is helping me continue my education as a highly qualified classroom teacher, but also opens doors for new career possibilities.”



OPEN HOUSE Evangel is holding an open house for teachers interested in its Master of Education programs, on Thursday, April 21, from 5-6 p.m. in Riggs Hall Administration Building. Refreshments will be served. Call (417) 865-2811 ext. 7416 for more information.


This story first appeared in the Springfield News-Leader on Friday, April 8, 2016