Faculty - Doctor of Education | Judson University Christian College


Brenda Buckley-Hughes
Dr. Brenda Buckley-Hughes
Program Director

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.

Joy Towner
Dr. Joy Towner
Program Director

Dr. Joy Towner began her professional teaching career in District 205, in Elmhurst, IL, where she served as a classroom teacher and eventually as the building reading specialist. She holds an M.S. Ed in Reading Education from Northern Illinois University and is a trained Reading Recovery teacher. Dr. Towner enjoys bicycling, reading, and playing games with her family. Her research interests include professional development and literacy in the instruction of preservice teachers as well as the benefits of reading aloud to K-12 students.

Katie Ahsell
Dr. Katie Ahsell

Dr. Katie Ahsell began teaching students with significant emotional needs in Chicago Public Schools. She has since worked as a special educator and administrator in Champaign Schools and as a Director of Growth and Equity in Elk Grove Village Schools. She holds an EdD in Educational Administration and Foundations from Illinois State University. Katie enjoys time with her family and action research in culturally responsive education, social emotional learning, and educational leadership practices.

Karen Biggs-Tucker
Dr. Karen 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.

Sarah Capello
Dr. Sarah Capello

Dr. Sarah Capello has seven years’ of teaching experience at public and private universities in three primary areas: academic writing, teacher education, and educational research methodologies. Dr. Capello earned a PhD in Social and Comparative Analysis in Education from the University of Pittsburgh, and her primary research interests include practitioner research methodologies, instructional supervision, and teacher discourse. In her spare time, Dr. Capello enjoys hiking and backpacking as well as experimenting with new recipes.

Valerie Cawley
Dr. Valerie 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.

Deane Gidlund
Dr. Deane Gidlund

Dr. Deane Gidlund has been a middle school teacher in District 300 for thirteen years working with 6th and 8th graders. A graduate of Judson University’s doctoral program, Dr. Gidlund embraces opportunities that allow her to collaborate with others in an effort to create a passion for reading and writing in her students. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, writing, and spending time with her family. Dr. Gidlund’s research interests include adolescent reading motivation and read-alouds in the middle school classroom.

Anastasia Gruper
Dr. Anastasia Gruper

Dr. Anastasia Gruper has worked for District 47 in Crystal Lake for the past eighteen years serving as a classroom teacher, an assistant principal, and the director of professional development. She holds an M.A.T. from Dominican University, an M.S. in Educational Leadership from The University of St. Francis, and an Ed.D in Literacy Education from Judson University. In her spare time she enjoys spending time with her family and friends. Her research interests include instructional leadership in literacy and professional development.

Mellissa Gyimah-Concepcion
Dr. Mellissa Gyimah-Concepcion

Dr. Mellissa Gyimah-Concepcion began her professional career as an English teacher in Dover, UK. A recent graduate of UIC's Literacy Language, and Culture doctoral program, Dr. Gyimah-Concepcion loves learning about people and their unique backgrounds, how they experience life and the ways in which they learn. She loves beating her husband in board games, bicycling in forest preserves, and eating dark chocolate. Her research interests include dialogic literacy experiences, critical literacy, positioning theory, and culturally sustaining pedagogy.

Sue Larson
Dr. Sue Larson

Dr. Sue Larson is a K-12 literacy educator who brings her experience as a reading specialist, elementary, middle, and high school teacher, researcher, conference presenter, and teacher educator to her work with Judson students. Her passion is discovering the unique needs of children and adolescents to elevate their ability and love of reading. Dr. Larson teaches courses in literacy and assessment. Dr. Larson's research interests include content-area literacy, motivation, engagement, and identity.

Melissa Leisner
Dr. Melissa Leisner

Dr. Melissa Leisner is a seventh-grade language arts teacher at Prairie Knolls Middle School in District 301. She has presented at the local, state, and national level and published an article about conferring with adolescents during writing instruction. In November 2013, Dr. Leisner was honored to receive the National Milken Educator Award.

Maria Schlup
Dr. Maria Schlup

Dr. Maria Schlup has been a classroom teacher and reading specialist for over ten years. In addition, she has taught English as a second language and adult literacy at the college level. Dr. Schlup is Reading Recovery trained and holds a master's in reading from Northern Illinois University. Her research interests include early intervention, culturally responsive teaching, and reading motivation.

David Smith
Dr. David Smith

Dr. David Alan Smith has spent more than a decade as an English Language Arts teacher at South Elgin High School in South Elgin, IL, teaching courses from freshman English to AP Literature. He holds an EdD in Literacy from Judson University, where he teaches courses in education and communication arts. Besides teaching, Dr. Smith enjoys reading, running, and playing music with family and friends. His research interests include the history of education and sociocultural influences on literacy learning.

Megan Truax
Dr. Megan 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.

Terrence Wandtke
Dr. Terrence Wandtke

Dr. Terrence Wandtke is a professor of English and media studies at Judson University where classes taught include Advanced Essay Writing, Literary Theory and Criticism, and Comic Books and Graphic Novels. He directed Judson University’s film and media program, founded the Imago Film Festival, and currently acts as the editor of the Comics Monograph Series for the Rochester Institute of Technology. He is the author and editor of many books on comics books and graphic novels with his most recent being The Comics Scare Returns: The Resurgence in Contemporary Horror Comics. His scholarly interests include connections between contemporary literature, film, and comics books and the multiliteracies of the 21st century student.

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