Former Galesburg educator Tiffany Springer returns to the Monmouth College department that shaped her career

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by Barry McNamara

In the late 1990s, when Tiffany Diehl Springer was looking for the right school to pursue her dream of becoming a teacher, she chose Monmouth College because of the education department’s sterling reputation.

A quarter of a century later, the 2003 graduate has returned to her alma mater, eager to continue the department’s nationally recognized work as it educates the next generation of teachers.

“The goal is to teach people how to teach – to prepare educators to feel comfortable in their first job,” she said. “As long as you know your true north is helping students be successful, I want to help foster that drive in our students.”

‘Incredibly prepared’

Springer’s time as an education major overlapped with some legends of the department, including Dorothy Douglas, Frank Sorensen and Esther White. It also overlapped with the early tenure of Craig Vivian, who today serves as co-chair of the department.

“Professor Vivian let you see outside the world you know and provided perspectives for the lives of the children you’d be working with,” said Springer. “He fostered a love for those students as you learned how they worked, learned and engaged.”

Springer also recalled that Vivian knew when it was time to hold his students to a higher standard, disposing one of his classes’ tests into the trash, Springer’s included.

By the time Springer graduated, she realized the College had delivered on her expectations.

“I feel I was incredibly prepared coming out of Monmouth,” she said. “I had the tools and knowledge to be successful.”

And that preparation didn’t come only from her education classes.

“I loved all my classes at Monmouth, even the ones outside my major,” she said. “They were incredibly thought-provoking.”

Classes she took with professors such as political science professor Farhat Haq and history professors Simon Cordery and Stacy Cordery provided “a world perspective. My time at Monmouth taught me how to be a critical thinker and how to look outside yourself.”

Beyond Monmouth, Springer said her mentors in education have included Joel Estes, Neil Thompson and Katy Hasson, the wife of 1991 Monmouth graduate Tom Hasson.

Two decades in the field

After four years of running her own classrooms in the ROWVA and Galesburg districts, Springer returned to school, attending Western Illinois University, where she earned a master’s degree in education and educational leadership and a doctorate in educational leadership.

“I love learning, so going back to school was exciting to me,” she said. “I considered a path in reading, but I decided on administration because I love working with people, building a team and setting goals.”

In addition to holding principal and assistant principal roles, Springer served for several years as the Galesburg school district’s director of curriculum instruction. The team aspect she mentioned really came into play when the COVID pandemic began and Springer – as well as the rest of the nation’s educators – wrestled with the problem of how best to teach students remotely.

“How were we going to deliver instruction? That was my role – providing training to the teachers,” she said. “It was a way of learning that the teachers had never experienced. We had to help our teachers, as well as the students and their parents, navigate an unfamiliar set of instructional technology resources.”

Part of the process involved Springer overseeing a team of instructional coaches.

“They were the real go-to people,” she said. “I’m not sure we could’ve made it through the pandemic without their help. It was definitely a team effort throughout the entire district.”

Navigating the pandemic was just part of Springer’s success in the Galesburg school district. She also worked to train K-5 teachers on Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling. LETRS is a comprehensive professional learning suite designed to provide deep literacy and language knowledge with regard to reading.

“The training instructed District 205’s teachers on the science of reading,” she said. “Later, that training was suggested for school districts state-wide, but we were ahead of the curve. We were already doing that work.”

Springer’s time in the Galesburg school district covered two stints as principal of Silas Willard Elementary School, including the 2022-23 school year.

At Monmouth, Springer’s office in Wallace Hall sits one floor above the president’s office. When she was a Monmouth student, her mother’s office at Knox College was even closer to the president, located right across from the hall from then-president Roger Taylor. Knox is also where her two siblings attended.

“I’d come to see my mom wearing my Monmouth gear, and Roger Taylor would always say, ‘Why are you doing this to me?'”

Springer and her husband, Chad, have three high school-aged daughters, including twins who are seniors.

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