Gentle Endowment Professor To Restart Book Club

MONMOUTH — Marie LeJeune, associate professor of teacher education, finds it crucial to keep her pulse on what is going on in public K-12 education.

“It’s important in my work to continually be connected to what teachers are doing in K-12 schools,” she said.

A new endowment for education professors at Western Oregon University, the T.H. Gentle Endowment, will allow her to spend more time doing just that.

LeJeune is the first to receive the endowment.

“It will give me some time and money to work on our research, especially connected to the work at public schools,” LeJeune said. “It will allow me to continue and grow my research.”

A lot of her research involves working with her former students as they teach at Central School District schools.

The endowment, made possible through donations from Western’s College of Education supporters, including the Gentle family, includes a small amount of money and course release – which means LeJeune may teach one less course than is in her contract during a term next year.

“Especially for me, the time is particularly valuable,” LeJeune said, “especially time during the day when teachers and kids are in school. It will allow me to be out in the classrooms more with teachers and kids, which is really important to me.”

Her specialty as a professor is children’s and young adult literature, and she takes that knowledge into classrooms throughout Central schools.

As part of the Orbis Pictus Award committee — the largest award for children’s nonfiction — LeJeune does a lot of work with authors and reviewing books.

“I get to share a lot of the books that come in from publishers and let kids see those books,” LeJeune said.

Beyond that, she hopes to resurrect a book club for girls in fourth and fifth grade. It’s a program she started years ago with Independence Elementary School teacher MaryAnne Hill.

“It was probably one of the best experiences I had,” LeJeune said. “I did my dissertation on girls’ book groups.”

The money she received from the endowment is enough to get started so that each girl in the book club may have a book to take home with her.

“That’s really exciting, especially since there are a lot of families in the community without libraries,” LeJeune said.

To help with the afterschool book club: email LeJeune at lejeunem @wou.edu.

Thomas Gentle, for whom the endowment is named, came to Western’s campus more than 100 years ago to revitalize the teacher preparation program, and built programs and a faulty committed to excellence in this area.

Polk County Itemizer-Observer
by Emily Mentzer