August 22, 2013
Faculty members bring innovation, experience to classroom
SIU students learn from experts in their fields, faculty members who know what success looks like in professions that range from artist to pilot to teacher.
That is why they expect so much of their students. Crystal Shelby-Caffey’s courses are tough because she knows the challenges her students will face.
“I tell students that I’m preparing them to work with children,” she said. “I have children. I know what kind of teachers I want my children to have.”
As a mom and a teacher, I appreciate her perspective.
Crystal is an assistant professor of Reading and Language Studies in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. Both she and her husband Ronald – an assistant professor of Africana Studies – are Salukis. Crystal earned her bachelor’s and doctoral degrees at SIU; Ronald earned his bachelor’s, MBA and doctoral degree here.
Prior to joining our faculty in 2009, Crystal was a fourth-grade teacher at Carbondale’s Lewis School. She also has taught in what she calls “some of Chicago’s toughest neighborhoods.”
Her students are juniors in our Teacher Education Program, and graduate students, including experienced teachers pursuing master’s degrees in Reading and Language Studies or who are brushing up on their skills. Crystal loves being in the classroom with them.
“It’s so exciting when you see the light come on, whether they are undergraduates or experienced teachers,” she said. “We spend a lot of time looking at how literacy and technologies intersect. Some of my courses are infused with a lot of technology, techniques I want teachers to take back and use right away.”
Some teachers are uncomfortable with technology because they don’t feel they have time to learn it due to their many responsibilities. Crystal uses “flip-learning” in her classes, which she hopes her students will use in their own schools.
“I give them time in class to complete what normally would be homework,” she explained. “I am there to answer questions, and they can help each other with questions. If you give them the time and the support, they are willing to try it with their own students, and it removes some of the uncertainty.”
Over the summer, 14 of her students worked with children in our Saluki Kids Academy, which promotes literacy and learning for children in kindergarten through fifth grade. They come from around the region, with most participants involved in Carbondale’s “I Can Read” program.
Crystal’s students gained clinical experience that included diagnostic testing, evaluations of the children’s literacy needs, and tutoring.
Saluki Kids Academy succeeds because of our dedicated faculty, staff and students, and strong community support. Crystal’s staff included one undergraduate student and one graduate student, meaning the partnership was incredibly valuable.
“The greatest thing about the camp was that between my students, other SIU students, and community members – including high school students – we had roughly 30 volunteers who ran the camp daily,” Crystal said. “We solicited donations of goods and services and got exactly what was needed to make the camp happen. The community stepped in to make this possible.”
I appreciate Crystal’s passion for teaching. Like her fellow faculty members, she is a champion for all who want to learn.