Master of Education in Literacy Faculty
Steven 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
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.
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.
Professor 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. Professor Cawley was honored as the “Reading Educator of the Year” by the Illinois Reading Council in 2011. Professor Cawley’s research interests include grammar, linguistics, and writing instruction.
Professor Jamie Diamond has taught social studies and language arts at the middle school level in Barrington District 220 for more than twenty years. Professor Diamond enjoys presenting at various professional conferences where she shares best practices for integrating technology into the curriculum. She has co-authored a book on the topic entitled Literacy Lessons for a Digital World. She is also a proud Judson MLIT alum.
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.
Professor Meg Knapik is a middle school teacher in Barrington District 220 where she has taught a variety of content areas and grade levels. In addition to her time in the classroom, Professor Knapik teaches professional development classes on integrating technology and literacy and is proud to have co-authored a book on the topic entitled Literacy Lessons for a Digital World. She also enjoys presenting at local, state, national, and international conferences.
Professor Nancy Hatcher is a proud Judson alum! She has enjoyed teaching early primary grades up through 7th grade as well as being a staff developer, conference presenter, and literacy leader. She is presently working as a reading specialist and teacher coach in Community Unit School district 300. She was honored as a 'Distinguished Educator' by the District's Foundation of Excellence for her work with students and teachers in 2008.
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.
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.
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.
A. 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
Dr. Maria Walther has taught first grade since 1986. Along with teaching young learners, she shares her knowledge with fellow professionals around the country as a literacy consultant and in the course she teaches in the MLIT program at Judson. Dr. Walther has co-authored three professional books including Month-by-Month Trait-Based Writing Instruction and Literature is Back.