Anna, Jonesboro ‘tutoring lady’ retiring

Reception held to honor Dr. Susan Spellman

Dr. Susan Spellman, known in Anna and Jonesboro schools and among her squad of volunteers as the tutoring lady, is retiring.

For the past 14 years, Spellman, a Jonesboro resident, has trained and directed a volunteer program to tutor at-risk students in 1st through 8th grades in Anna and Jonesboro schools. Approximately 50 tutors have helped 150 students since the program began.

Spellman, who founded the program in 2003 after she had retired from Southeast Missouri State University, SEMO, in Cape Girardeau as an associate professor of education, was honored by current and past volunteer tutors at a reception which was held Friday evening, May 19, at the First Christian Church, FCC, of Anna.

Dee Armes, minister of the church, said numerous young people over the years had been rescued from “failing grades often to As and Bs.”

Herb Hall, a SEMO retiree and Anna resident, recounted how two of the pupils he had tutored graduated from high school.

“That is our payment,” Spellman said.

“The program has changed lives,” Armes said. He added that the students “have been told by someone important to them that they matter.”

The reception was not the first time Spellman was honored. When she lived in Columbus, Ohio, and taught at a school for the severe behavioral handicapped, a front-page newspaper article described her as an angel.

The article reported on Spellman’s behavior management techniques. One incentive of her program was to invite students who were well behaved to a home-cooked dinner at her residence.

In her first year after retirement from SEMO, Spellman trained volunteer librarians for Jonesboro Elementary School. The volunteers replaced the professional librarian who had been eliminated by the school due to financial stringency.

Then Spellman asked the FCC church elders to have the church sponsor the tutoring program. The elders agreed and the program became part of the church’s outreach ministry.

Later, as demand for tutoring and the need for volunteers increased, the Union County Alliance of Churches took over sponsorship.

“There has always been a faith component to the program,” Armes said.

Spellman and her husband Robert reside in a Jonesboro home built in 1857 by John Dougherty, who was a friend of Abraham Lincoln and a lieutenant governor of Illinois. Her husband is an emeritus faculty member of the School of Journalism at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.

Spellman was raised in Ohio and was valedictorian of her 1954 Cuyahoga Falls High School class.

Spellman was salutatorian of her 1958 class at Baldwin Wallace University, where she received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education. 

She received a master’s degree in reading instruction from State University of New York College at Brockport and a certificate in special education from John Carroll University.

She taught for 20 years in public schools before earning her Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction from SIU. While attending SIU, she supervised student teachers in Marion schools.

She joined the faculty at SEMO after completing her SIU studies. As part of her teaching duties at SEMO, she supervised student teachers in Jonesboro and Anna schools.

From 1998-1999 Spellman taught in a middle school affiliated with Shanghai International Studies University in the Peoples Republic of China while her husband was a Fulbright Scholar at the university.

Spellman and her husband have five daughters and sons-in-law: Virginia Black, a school nurse in Columbus, and husband Michael; Robin Fahlberg, intellectual property counsel at State Farm in Bloomington, and husband Russell; Elizabeth Lillian, co-owner of a Serv-Pro business in Overland Park, Kansas, and husband Gerard; Catherine Roberts, assistant business editor of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and husband Chad; and Zhushan Hong, associate professor of educational measurement at Boston College, and husband Fong.

The Spellmans have 10 grandchildren, two of whom are married, and five great-grandchildren. Those include Michael and Crystal Black and children Cadence, Hallie, Makayla and Arianna of Jonesboro.

Pete Housman will take leadership of the program, beginning with the fall semester.

Students meet with their tutors two days a week for an hour, either Mondays from 2:15 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. and Wednesdays from 3:15 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Jonesboro First Baptist Church, or on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3:15 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the First Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Anna.

Those who would like to volunteer to tutor or sign up a child for tutoring can contact Pete Housman at 833-7083 or any Union County Alliance of Churches pastor or secretary for forms and information.

The Gazette-Democrat

112 Lafayette St.
Anna, Illinois 62906
Office Number: (618) 833-2158

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