Oklahoma Baptist University

Literacy Award Honors Life, Work of Dr. Jimmie Russell

The Oklahoma Higher Education Reading Council recently presented Karen Rose, a beginning teacher at Norman’s Truman Elementary School, with the first-ever Outstanding Literacy Instruction by a Beginning Teacher Award, an honor created by the Council in memory of the late Dr. Jimmie Russell, OBU professor of education.

"Jimmie’s colleagues, the members of the OHERC, wanted to honor her life's work as an ardent advocate of literacy in Oklahoma," said Dr. Jeanne Akin, OBU associate professor of education. "She was exemplary in teacher preparation. She has touched thousands of lives by preparing confident and competent reading teachers who in turn pass on the passion for reading that Jimmie possessed."

Russell was renowned for her tireless work to promote reading and teacher development programs across the state. She also made sure her students understood the importance of literacy.

"Her peers expressed that her death was an immeasurable loss to their organization and to the state," Akin said. "It was their desire to recognize her noteworthy endeavors toward literacy by establishing an annual award to an outstanding beginning literacy teacher. They knew that Jimmie had a real heart for teacher preparation and a desire to support young teachers as they begin their careers."

The award recipient must be a beginning reading teacher that demonstrates outstanding literacy instruction and high promise. They receive $100 for books for their classroom and a plaque. The award will be given annually.

Rose received the award July 25 at a luncheon, at which Russell’s husband, OBU's Dr. Norris Russell, was invited to present the first award winner.

Norris Russell told of Jimmie’s commitment to preparing her students and her emphasis on literacy. He recounted the tradition of giving her costumed OBU students children’s books if they came to the Russell home at Halloween.

And not even the cancer that would eventually claim her life would slow her and could do nothing to stop her life’s legacy.

"Our 30th wedding anniversary was spent with her chemotherapy in the afternoon, followed by an anniversary dinner which she probably couldn’t eat, and then we were off to her office until to wee hours of the morning working on the America Reads placements and packets for Shawnee – which was to begin the next day," Norris said in his address.

" She packed more time and energy and accomplishments into her 52 years than most people do in a lifetime," he said. "She had a significant impact on many wonderful students who entered the teaching profession with so much more than the nuts and bolts of teaching."

Dr. Jimmie Russell died on March 31, 2002, in Midwest City, after a lengthy battle with cancer. She was 52.

Russell joined the University’s faculty as an instructor of education in 1981. She was promoted to assistant professor in 1985 and gained senior faculty status in 1988. She earned the rank of associate professor in 1991 and was named professor in 1997. She received OBU’s Distinguished Teaching Award in May 2001.

After graduating from the University of Houston with a bachelor of science degree in education, Russell earned a master’s degree from East Texas State University. She taught elementary school for six years before moving to OBU, teaching first grade for one year and third grade for five years. She completed a doctor of education degree from Oklahoma State University in 1988.

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