Masters of Education in Literacy Faculty | Judson University Christian College

Master of Education in Literacy Faculty

Kristy Piebenga

Kristy Piebenga, Program Director

Dr. Kristy Piebenga has been a passionate educator for over 15 years. She spent many years teaching in second, third, and fourth-grade classrooms before transitioning to the university level. She now shares her passion for literacy education with both undergraduate and graduate students. Dr. Piebenga continues to participate in local schools by working with teachers in the classroom and developing strategies for building readers and writers. Her research interests include teaching ideology, processes of literacy, and literacy as social practice.


Karen Biggs-Tucker

Karen Biggs-Tucker

Dr. Karen Biggs-Tucker has been an elementary school teacher for 25 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-Hughes

Brenda 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.


Sarah CapelloSarah 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. She 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.


Heather Kraus 2016

Heather 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

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.


Griselda PirtleGriselda Pirtle

Professor Griselda Pirtle was an elementary transitional bilingual teacher in second and third grade before starting her journey as a kindergarten Dual Language Teacher. After five years teaching kindergarten, she accepted a position as Director of Multilingual Programs for CCSD 59. In this role, she oversees the district's English as Second Language and Dual Language programs. Professor Pirtle is passionate about language acquisition, particularly how it impacts literacy development for all students but especially for second-language learners.


Tina ScruggsTina Scruggs

Dr. Tina Scruggs is a sixth-grade language arts teacher at Prairie Knolls Middle School in District 301. Social and emotional learning is at the forefront of her teaching philosophy. Her interests include reading young adult literature, writing poetry for adolescents, and presenting on the topic of SEL integration into curriculum. Dr. Scruggs was the recipient of the Kane County Educator of the Year Award in May 2019.


Noor ShammasNoor 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.


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

Dr. Brian Tucker has taught over twenty years in elementary schools and at the undergraduate level. He is the co-author of Transforming Literacy Teaching in the Era of Higher Standards. The Illinois Reading Council honored Dr. Tucker as the "Jerry Johns Teaching Educator of the Year" in 2017. He also presents at conferences to help educators prepare students to meet the challenges of 21st-century learning. Dr. Tucker's research interests include social semiotics, meaning making, and multimodality. 


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