Connie Leathers: A lifetime educator
Connie Leathers ’75, M.S. ’79 sat at her desk in the Davis College of Business and Economics, reminiscing on what led her to this moment.
As a lifetime educator, her journey is having an impact on peoples’ lives of all ages – from elementary school students to college students. In her current role, as an IT Support Specialist, she continues teaching, just to a different audience: Radford University faculty and staff.
“Coming back to Radford had a bigger impact on me than I thought it would,” Connie said. “The first day I got here, I went to get my badge and parking pass, and I was proud of walking back across campus. I was just proud to say that I was part of Radford University.”
Connie got her start in education early on in her life. Both her parents were educators – her mother a professor at New River Community College and her father a professor at Radford University.
“They both taught public schools as well, so I always just thought it was natural to grow up and become a teacher,” Connie said.
Every so often, something comes along that completely changes society. When Connie was teaching in the 80s, she experienced one such change – the introduction of the computer.
“I started thinking that I should learn how to use one of these things because I thought they were going to be big,” Connie said. “I never thought they’d take over as they have. I took a class at the community college and, after I finished that class, I wanted to take another. One thing led to the next and I ended up taking a programming course. And, here I am today.”
Those courses led Connie to become a Blackboard administrator in Roanoke. Blackboard is an online course management interface.
Shortly thereafter, a position opened up at Radford University, and Connie returned home by assisting faculty with integrating new technologies and instructional modes into their course, developing and delivering training for faculty and staff with Windows, D2L, an online platform for teaching and learning, and Microsoft Office.
Today, Connie is more of an “apps” person, but still has the technical foundation to do basic coding in a pinch. Her knowledge of these systems led her to the career she has today.
No technology-related rollout goes smoothly, something that Connie experienced when copying rubrics for D2L course shells.
Connie and other D2L administrators worked to have rubrics available at the administrative level for the CORE courses, so students would be graded in a standardized method across the curriculum.
“At first, we just copied the rubrics to every course and found when copied in D2L, every rubric that goes into a course gets a new name,” Connie said.
They had to search through the rubrics’ data in order to make sure everything was located appropriately.
“It was fun, though,” said Connie.
Radford University has grown since Connie joined. The Radford family now includes Radford University Carilion where Connie is assisting with teaching the faculty and staff how to use D2L so they are ready for the transition from Blackboard later this year.
“We had all hands on deck to help everyone up there,” Connie said. “I thought it went very smoothly.”
Connie is driven by satisfactory outcomes.
“I want them to say, ‘Connie, thanks so much. You know, that wasn't as painful as I thought it would be,’” Connie said. “I'm very motivated. I'm a pleaser. I want people to be happy.”
Connie serves in other ways, too. She is a member of the Staff Senate and takes to heart the important concerns of staff on campus.
“Being a Senator for the IT division has given me a great deal more insight into the workings of the University, and an opportunity to represent my fellow staff members, both in IT and other divisions and departments,” Connie said.
One of the biggest surprises for Connie was in late 2019 when she received the Anna Lee Stewart Award for Contributions to Faculty Development.
“I cried,” Connie said. “It felt really good to know that I was appreciated, that someone appreciated me enough to give me the award and that I was recognized for what I did.”
As part of the award, Connie was able to nominate a student to receive a scholarship on her behalf. Connie chose Trevor Testerman, a criminal justice major.
Trevor is double-minoring in sociology and international studies and has been inducted into the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and the National Criminal Justice Honor Society, Alpha Phi Sigma.
“It meant a lot to me that I could help him,” Connie said. “And, his mother had helped so many here at Radford.”
Radford means the world to Connie and her family. As Connie began working at Radford, her son, Robert Jordan, graduated and eventually started working at the University – also in Informational Technology.
“It can’t get better,” Connie said. “I get to see my son every day. He's grown and out of the house, but I still get to see him every day and we have lunch together most days. If there's something that needs to be done, I can get on the phone, call him and say, ‘Hey, did you know the projectors out? He says, put in a ticket, mom.’ I tried to bypass the system.”
Connie’s son is now the third generation of the family to work at Radford University.
Even with Connie’s career change, she still finds time to teach University 100 each fall and Our Turn sessions to faculty and staff. Teaching is in Connie’s DNA and at Radford University, she’s able to continue her family’s legacy by having a profound, lasting impact of students, faculty and staff.
“Responsive. Resilient. Real.” is an online story series published by Radford University that began in spring 2019. The ongoing series celebrates the Highlander spirit of students, faculty, staff and alumni by sharing their unique stories and their strong sense of Highlander pride. Through being responsive, resilient and real, Highlanders are making a positive impact and leaving a lasting legacy on our campus and in communities around the world.