Masters of Education in Literacy Faculty | Judson University Christian College

Master of Education in Literacy Faculty

Steve LayneSteven Layne, Program Chair

Dr. Steven L. Layne is a highly-acclaimed children's book author, international literacy consultant, motivational speaker, and featured author at schools, institutes, and conferences throughout the world. Dr. Layne teaches children's and young adult literature at Judson and also serves as the Chair of Graduate Programs in Literacy Education. Dr. Layne’s research interests include the affective domain, adolescent literacy, and oral language development and usage. Full Profile


Karen Biggs-TuckerKaren Biggs-Tucker

Dr. Karen Biggs-Tucker has been an elementary school teacher for twenty-five years working extensively in grades two and five. A graduate of Loyola University's doctoral program, Dr. Biggs-Tucker loves to share ideas with others about how to instill a love for both reading and writing in students of all ages. In her spare time she enjoys Chinese food, walks on the beach and reading books by her favorite authors. Dr. Biggs-Tucker's research interests include children's literature and literacy engagement.


Brenda Buckley-HughesBrenda Buckley-Hughes

Dr. Brenda Buckley-Hughes teaches with enthusiasm and energy, and she has a passion for her students' speaking success in a variety of disciplines including literacy education, theatre, and worship arts. Dr. Buckley-Hughes is the author of Introductory Speech Communication: Overcoming Obstacles, Reaching Goals. She has taught at both the undergraduate and graduate level at wide range of colleges and universities. Dr. Buckley-Hughes' research interests include public speaking, oral interpretation of literature, and fluency.


Valerie CawleyValerie Cawley

Dr. Valerie Cawley has over thirty-five years of experience teaching junior high language arts.  She serves on the Advisory Council for the Master of Education in Literacy Program and teaches courses at Judson in grammar and writing instruction. Dr. Cawley was honored as the “Reading Educator of the Year” by the Illinois Reading Council in 2011. Dr. Cawley’s research interests include grammar, linguistics, and writing instruction.


Mary Gorr 2016Mary Gorr

Dr. Mary Gorr has taught both primary and intermediate grades and currently serves as the principal of Westbrook School in District 57. Dr. Gorr’s expertise is in literacy leadership; she is passionate about building teachers’ leadership and instructional capacities to ensure high impact literacy learning for all students.  She was chosen as Illinois Principal of the Year in 2014 by the Illinois Parent-Teachers Association.


Amy Heiting 2016Amy Heiting

Professor Amy Heiting is a high school English teacher at South Elgin High School in District U-46. Professor Heiting’s passions lie in creating opportunities for authentic and meaningful writing, offering feedback that sharpens the strengths of writers, and encouraging life-long reading habits. She is happiest with a supply of books and coffee at the ready. Her current research interests include contemporary young-adult literature, motivating adolescent readers and writers, and new literacies.


Heather Kraus 2016Heather Kraus

Professor Heather Kraus is a former middle school language arts teacher who is currently teaching 5th grade in School District 308. Professor Kraus enjoys her time in the classroom and was honored to be one of twelve Illinois State Teacher of the Year finalists in 2014. She appreciates the opportunities to present at various conferences, sharing classroom and school literacy ideas.


Melissa LeisnerMelissa Leisner

Professor Melissa Leisner is a seventh-grade language arts teacher at Prairie Knolls Middle School in District #301. Prior to joining the faculty, she worked as a graduate assistant with Dr. Wells and Professor Cawley. Melissa is also an alumni of the MLIT program! Professor Leisner has presented at various state and national conferences on literacy topics and was honored to receive the National Milken Educator Award in November, 2013.


Kristy PiebengaKristy Piebenga

Professor Kristy Piebenga was an elementary teacher in second, third, and fourth-grade classrooms before transitioning to her current role as a university professor. Professor Piebenga now shares her passion for literacy education with preservice teachers at Judson University. She also continues to spend time working with elementary students in the areas of reading and writing.


Joe RumenappJoseph Rumenapp

Dr. Joseph Rumenapp has been involved in urban education for the past 10 years in several capacities. Whether focusing on literacy development in bilingual elementary classrooms, working with students in afterschool programs around the city, or aiding in adult ESL programs for resettled refugees, he brings a critical and global perspective to literacy development across the lifespan. He also spends time working with K-12 teachers to develop teacher-research practices necessary to address the diverse needs of classrooms in the world today.


Noor Shammas 2016Noor Shammas

Professor Noor Shammas is a fourth-grade teacher in School District 308 in Oswego. In addition to her time in the classroom, Professor Shammas has presented at state and national conferences and was honored by her district as teacher of the month in December, 2015. As a graduate of Lewis University’s Instructional Technology program, she has a passion for supporting teachers’ integration of technology and literacy into their classrooms.


A. Gillian Stewart-WellsA. Gillian Stewart-Wells

Dr. A. Gillian Stewart-Wells is a former middle/high school English teacher and administrator who sought to implement reading and writing across the curriculum. She has worked at a variety of high schools and universities in six different states. Although in her 17th year teaching at the university level, she maintains a frequent presence in K – 12 schools in order to keep her practice relevant to today's teachers. Dr. Wells’ research interests include social equity, teacher efficacy, and faculty development in higher education. Full Profile


Megan Truax 2016Megan Truax

Dr. Megan Truax has taught at both the primary and middle school levels throughout her career. She enjoys spending her time attending and presenting at various local, state, and national conferences, as well as sharing her love of literacy with the staff and students with whom she works on a daily basis. Dr. Truax’s research interests include reading and writing motivation and the impact of teachers’ language on students.


Brian Tucker 2016Brian Tucker

Brian Tucker has taught for sixteen years working extensively in grades two, three, and five. He has co-authored a book about literacy entitled Transforming Literacy Teaching in the Era of Higher Standards. Professor Tucker is currently pursuing his doctorate in literacy at Judson University where he also teaches technology at the undergraduate level. He applies his expertise in both literacy and technology by presenting at conferences as he helps educators prepare students to meet the challenges of 21st-century learning.


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