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Dr. Kathy Lofflin, Ph.D.
Dr. Kathy Lofflin is the director of the Dorothy Harper Watson Literacy Center. Kathy was born and received her K-12 education in the small central Kansas town of Hillsboro. She received her B.A. in Communications from Ottawa (KS) University in 1977, graduating summa cum laude, and also completed requirements for teacher certification in middle school and secondary English, journalism, and social studies. She began her career as a teacher's aide in an overcrowded second-grade classroom in Louisburg, Kansas, in 1977. In 1978, she moved to the Kansas City area to accept a position teaching language arts, social studies, and journalism in Grades 5-10 at the Oxford Park Academy in Overland Park, Kansas.
Kathy returned to school in 1980 to complete certification in elementary education at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC). It was there that she took her first reading education course; in that course a desire to know more about literacy and literacy teaching was born. That desire led to enrollment in more and more literacy-related courses, and Kathy eventually enrolled in UMKC's graduate program in reading education, where she earned her M.A in 1984.
It was during that time that Kathy became interested in student-centered, holistic literacy instruction. For course projects and independent research, Kathy read the work of many literacy educators. With the guidance of her professors at UMKC (especially her mentor, Dr. Robert E. Leibert) and on her own, she discovered the work of Ken Goodman, Yetta Goodman, Frank Smith, and Dorothy Watson. Other literacy educators whose work influenced her growing theoretical orientation toward whole language and holistic literacy instruction in general included Louise Rosenblatt, Sylvia Ashton-Warner, Russell Stauffer, Grace Fernald, Dolores Durkin, and Patrick Shannon. As she completed her master's program in the early 1980's, Kathy taught secondary and middle school language arts at Kansas City Christian School in Merriam, Kansas, and at St. Teresa's Academy in Kansas City, Missouri. As her own learning progressed, she began gradually implementing whole language literacy into her work with her students, and discovered that both she and her students were growing as a result.
In the fall of 1983, Kathy was accepted into UMKC's doctoral program in Reading Education. She was awarded several teaching/research assistantships over the next few years, and left K-12 teaching to serve in those positions as she completed coursework toward her Ph.D. In 1983-84, she served as a research/teaching assistant at Notre Dame de Sion Lower School in Kansas City, Missouri, where she was the school's reading consultant and special reading teacher, and conducted reading assessments with children in the school. The following year (1984-85) she served as research assistant to Dr. Robert E. Leibert, collecting observation data on reading instruction in numerous classrooms for a study Dr. Leibert was conducting in the Kansas City, Missouri School District. During the next two academic years (1985-1987), Kathy was a teaching assistant in UMKC's practicum department, supervising both elementary and secondary preservice teachers during their junior field experiences in Kansas City area public schools. During this time, Kathy also became a part-time UMKC lecturer, teaching various courses in the reading education, curriculum and instruction, and educational psychology divisions. It was at this time that Kathy began to develop a love for teacher education, with a special interest in working with preservice teachers. Kathy was named a UMKC Helen Kemper doctoral fellow during her time as a full-time graduate student and teaching/research assistant.
In 1987, as an "all but dissertation" doctoral candidate, Kathy came to Park University (then Park College) as a full-year substitute for a faculty member who was taking sabbatical leave. The following spring, a retirement occurred in Park's education faculty, and Kathy won a position as a full-time faculty member in 1988.
Kathy completed her Ph.D in 1992, finishing her doctoral dissertation while teaching a full load of courses at Park. The dissertation, "Preservice Teachers' Conceptions of Effective Reading Instruction", a qualitative case study in which she worked with a group of preservice teachers as a participant-observer in a reading course block and field practicum, was the Reading Education Division's nominee for the UMKC School of Education's Outstanding Dissertation of 1992.
In 2001, Kathy met Dr. Dorothy Watson at Park University's annual Alumni Weekend. Although she had read Dr. Watson's work, and even had attended her sessions at national and regional conferences, she had never met Dr. Watson. The two were introduced by Pam McNally, then with Park University's Office of Institutional Advancement. They talked at length that day, and the idea of the Dorothy Harper Watson Literacy Center was born. Over the next two years, the idea for the Center was developed until the Center officially opened on June 20, 2003.
Kathy remains on the Park University education faculty, teaching and advising half-time in the University's undergraduate and graduate education programs, and serving half-time as Director of the Dorothy Harper Watson Literacy Center.