by Christina Cavazos
When LeTourneau Technical Institute opened its doors in 1946, no one at the time could have imagined that 75 years later the small school would have transformed into a sprawling university that would serve as a space to educate thousands of future leaders in the critical fields of nursing, computer science and education, among others.
In 2020, the world discovered the importance of having skilled nurses with a desire to treat patients facing new types of illness, the need for adaptive technology to help people connect globally, and the significance of innovative educators who can modify classroom lessons for a changing environment.
The educational landscape changed in 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic forced traditional classroom learning to take place in an online environment. In the spring, statewide shutdowns and quarantining prompted schools to transition to online learning. Teachers adapted to the change, as did parents who took on a bigger role in making sure their children studied.
In the fall of 2020, school resumed in both traditional classroom and online environments. Parents were able to choose how they wanted their children to learn and teachers adapted to the requests. Colleges had long been at the forefront of offering online classes, but even young kindergartners adapted to technology-based learning in 2020.
Educators across Longview agree that 2020 will forever leave a lasting mark on their field as there will now be a bigger emphasis on technology in the classroom and innovative teaching methods. As LeTourneau University embarks on its 75th anniversary in 2021, the university strives to continue meeting the needs of the community for the next 75 years and beyond.
LeTourneau University is named after its founder, R.G. LeTourneau, one of the world’s greatest inventors of earthmoving equipment. A businessman and Christian, LeTourneau toured Longview in 1946 with his wife, Evelyn, to consider the city as a site for his next factory.
While flying over a vacated Army hospital complex consisting of more than 200 frame buildings, Evelyn LeTourneau inquired about the facility. After learning it was no longer in use, she suggested establishing a school to educate returning World War II veterans.
Thus, LeTourneau Technical Institute opened in 1946 with only male students. In 1961 the school became LeTourneau College, a co-educational four-year school. In 1989, LeTourneau College became LeTourneau University, an accredited, nondenominational Christian University, offering four-year and two-year degree programs in engineering, technology, liberal arts, business, aeronautical science, education and other fields. Also in 1989, LeTourneau launched a distance learning program for working adults – one of the first in higher education, according to Leah Gorman, senior director of communications for LeTourneau University.
Since then, LeTourneau University has attained many other achievements. The university’s School of Engineering is the first ABET-accredited Council for Christian Colleges and Universities engineering school in the nation. LeTourneau University is home to the only university level aviation program in the state of Texas. In 1998, LeTourneau joined the American Southwest Conference of NCAA Division III athletics. The university has been named in U.S. News & World Report as one of “America’s Best Colleges” for more than a quarter of a century.
Throughout the years, the university has expanded its scope of educational offerings and its reach to the broader community. For example, the Belcher Chapel and Performing Arts Center opened to the public in 2006 and offers dozens of performances each year to the delight of thousands of people in the community who fill its auditorium.
While the university has grown throughout the years, its focus remains the same, Gorman said.
In the fall of 2020, more than 3,100 students were enrolled in classes at LeTourneau. Those students took part in studies for more than 120 degrees offered by the university.
Beyond its in-classroom degree programs, LeTourneau University has been a leader in the community in the realm of online education, distance learning and dual credit education. Since launching one of the first online, distance learning college completion programs for working adults, LeTourneau continues to educate students online more than 30 years later. Online programs include those for working adults seeking to finish their college degree, Gorman said.
Online programs, Gorman said, have opened up “endless possibilities” for students to study at LeTourneau from wherever they are in the world. “It enables students from around the world to interact with topics ranging from thermodynamics and entrepreneurial leadership to family counseling and world history,” she said.
In the early 2000s, the university also launched a dual credit program. Today, more than 1,100 high school students take courses through LeTourneau University. LeTourneau has 61 dual credit partnerships with high schools and private schools
locally, regionally and nationally, Gorman said. The university also has partnerships with 10 homeschool enrichment co-ops.
“Part of LeTourneau University’s mission is to serve the local and global community, and a key initiative toward that end is to offer dual credit classes at a reduced rate of $90 per credit hour,” Gorman noted. “We also offer a substantial scholarship of $17,000 per year for four years for our dual credit students who want to continue their education at LeTourneau University after high school graduation. Additionally, students who are enrolled in our dual credit program receive all the benefits that our
full-time students receive with regard to Support Services, tutoring, library resources and the writing center.”
In 2021, LeTourneau University is looking forward to celebrating its 75th anniversary with its current students, faculty, alumni and the community.
“It is a momentous occasion to celebrate and reflect on the past 75 years of the rich history of LeTourneau University – from our earliest skill-based training for returning WWII GI’s to one of the nation’s leading Christian universities,” Gorman said. “This is also an opportunity to celebrate the impact of our over 25,000-plus alumni around the world and to look ahead to the next 75 years of Christian polytechnic education.”
The university plans to celebrate from the spring of 2021 until the spring of 2022. Many notable events are planned, beginning in February.
“In February 1946, we received our charter from the State of Texas and held a day of prayer, dedicating LeTourneau Technical Institute to the Lord,” Gorman said. “We will commemorate this in February 2021 with a day of prayer, guest speakers, and a worship and prayer service for the entire LeTourneau community.”
In April 2021, the university will celebrate its Homecoming and Family Weekend, joining together alumni from the last 75 years. In September 2021, the university plans to celebrate its first day of classes with a special campus-wide celebration. Festivities will conclude in April of 2022 with another Homecoming and Family Weekend.
When alumni visit the campus, they notice buildings, updated technology and new opportunities available to students at LeTourneau University, Gorman said. “What our students are working with – from wind tunnels to turbine engines, from arc welders to computer game design – has changed, but what has remained the same is the commitment to a Christian hands-on technical education provided by faculty who are committed to the spiritual growth and personal development of our students,”
As the university launches a new strategic plan in January 2021, Gorman added that strategies will continue to evolve but the university’s focus will not. “It is our Christian mission that will remain central to who we are and the ways we serve students, our community and the world,” she said.
While many universities, such as LeTourneau, have offered online and distance-learning programs for decades, public education for elementary through high school students has traditionally been in-person. In 2020, that changed as the pandemic pushed technology to the forefront of educating even the community’s youngest learners.
School districts across Longview met the challenge as their teachers adapted to an online classroom environment in an effort to continue their mission of educating the community’s youth.
“Longview ISD teachers are truly amazing. During the closure in the spring, teachers hosted Google Meets and Zoom meetings with students and parents to make sure they were doing OK emotionally and with their school work that was provided,” said
Elizabeth Ross, community relations specialist for Longview ISD. “From the beginning of this school year, our teachers have been working very hard to make sure their classroom students and distance learning students are getting everything they need to be successful. Teachers have a very difficult job right now and we are proud of the job they are doing.”
While education during the spring 2020 shutdown was a challenge for all school districts, local educators met the needs. Longview ISD provided online and paper education tools for students, offered curbside meals and meal delivery for families, and provided paper packets to students within the district. Physical Education teachers offered workouts for students to keep them active and the district also provided online resources, virtual tours and DIY experiments families could do together, Ross noted.
Like Longview, Pine Tree ISD also sought to meet those same needs in innovative ways. The district used buses to continue distributing school meals, and teachers and students adapted to online education environments.
“I think our biggest adaptation was the need for every teacher to become more technologically savvy, almost overnight. In order to do remote learning, we all had to learn new platforms, virtual communication methods, and the ability to troubleshoot technology issues,” said Mary Whitton, director of communications and public information for Pine Tree ISD.
Students also met the changes with a positive attitude after their school year was disrupted in the spring of 2020 and after they returned to a modified classroom environment in the fall of 2020. When school resumed in person, it was with many safety protocols in place to ensure social distancing, sanitizing and other measures. Longview ISD, for example, was chosen in 2020 as one of eight school districts in the state to be part of a pilot program for COVID-19 testing on campuses. The district received 2,000 COVID-19 tests each month that could be administered by school nurses with results available in 15 minutes.
“Our students, like our teachers, are amazing,” Ross said. “They have adapted to the safety protocols and are facing the challenge of this school year head on. Our distance learning students are doing what they can to make this feel like a normal school year.”
Despite students and teachers adapting, educators said the past year has taught them that there is no replacement for in-class learning.
“Our teachers have responded well even though the learning curve has been challenging,” Whitton said. “Our kids have done everything we have asked but many of our students have really struggled with online learning. Our biggest takeaway has been truly understanding the power of teaching kids face to face.”
Longview and Pine Tree ISD leaders believe one of the lasting impacts of the pandemic year will be a renewed focus on technology in the classroom. Whitton said Pine Tree ISD believes there will be more of a push, perhaps from policymakers, for more online learning in kindergarten through 12th grades.
“For Pine Tree, we understand that you can push content out online but there is no substitute for the culture you create on a campus. We strive to create a culture of high expectations, respect, hard work and kindness,” she said. “This culture doesn’t just exist in the classrooms. It’s in the hallways, the cafeteria and the playground. Our ability to teach successful habits exists within this culture because it’s a part of every aspect of a student’s life on campus. Unfortunately, there is no way to mimic this in a virtual setting.”
Ross added that education will never look or feel the same again, nor will the role of educators. Teachers will continue to find innovative ways to reach students. Campuses have hand washing and sanitizing stations in the buildings, and taking temperatures before entering the campuses is now a new normal.
“But what remains the same is the heart and love of our teachers. What remains the same are the sweet faces and open hearts of our students,” Ross said. “Processes and procedures may change because of COVID, but the heart of this district will stay the same. That is what families can count on and that is what we can provide each year.”
Gladewater ISD administrators, teachers, and staff members, in partnership with students, parents, and community members, are dedicated to helping each student prepare for life-long learning and effective citizenship. GISD has an enrollment of approximately 1850 students in grades PK-12. TEA identified GISD and all campuses with a Met Standard Rating. GISD recently passed a 35-million-dollar bond for two new campuses. In August of 2016 Weldon Elementary and Gladewater Middle School opened. GISD recently spent 1.7 million dollars renovating and updating its stadium area.
Longview Independent School District is the largest and most comprehensive district around, with more than 8,400 students and 1,400 staffers. The district offers unparalleled academic and extracurricular opportunities for students from K-12, and is one of the few school districts in the country to offer the International Baccalaureate Programme. LISD is building the biggest Montessori School in the state. Longview High School offers more Pre-AP and Advanced Placement courses than any other school in the area, allowing students to earn college credit. Each year, the district sees an increase in National Merit, GLOBE, and Advanced Placement Scholars.
Pine Tree Independent School District proudly educates students in Longview, Texas with the mission to continue a tradition of excellence by providing a high-quality and challenging educational environment, maximizing opportunities for the success of all students, equipping them to become responsible, involved, and productive citizens. The district, established in 1847, currently consists of six campuses with approximately 4,600 students. Pine Tree ISD offers a variety of specialty courses and activities within a comprehensive, rigorous, and balanced curriculum.
Spring Hill Independent School District, established in 1887, strives to be a premier school district focused on engaging lessons and successful students. As the center of our community, Spring Hill ISD is committed to the fulfillment of each learner’s intellectual, creative and physical potential through the collaborative efforts of exceptional educators, dedicated parents, and integrated rigorous instruction provided in a safe environment. An enrollment of 1,900 students and small class sizes allow us to provide individualized instruction and creative lessons that have helped our district earn the #1 ranking in East Texas for College and Career Readiness. Proud Past, Promising Future.
White Oak ISD is a school district committed to preparing students for Future Ready success. As a member of the Texas High Performing Schools Consortium and East Texas New Vision for education Cohort, the District is focused on the transformation of classroom instruction in an effort to provide a “this century” educational experience for all of our students. Student success in the classroom translates to success in fine arts, academic competition, and athletic contest. White Oak ISD was awarded the UIL Lone Star Cup in 2012 as the overall UIL State Champion in Division 3A and consistently places in the top ten for that trophy each year. White Oak ISD – “A Heritage of Pride, Tradition and Educational Excellence.”
Christian Heritage School was founded upon a tradition of Christian beliefs. Its mission is to provide excellence in classical, Christ-centered, college preparatory education while working together with the home to develop within all students the ability to reason Biblically while equipping them to fulfill their God-given calling in life. We serve 296 students in grades K4-12 and offer a variety of activities in the fine arts, including chorale and strings; as well as sports, including basketball, baseball, football, soccer, tennis, and golf. Come discover the difference of a classical, Christ-centered education!
Individualized instruction is used to meet the needs of each student in limited class size. Crisman makes success a reality daily for students with dyslexia, ADD, ADHD, Asperger’s, sensory processing delays, and other related disorders. A strong cultural arts program rounds out the academics taught with multi-sensory, project-based learning approach. Crisman offers a certified staff counselor, shared services for OT, PT, and speech. The Crisman School is a non-profit, 501©(3) accredited by AdvancEd SACS CASI, the largest accrediting body in the world.
East Texas Christian School offers K-4 through 12th grade on its 24-acre campus and provides a course study consistent with the Christian faith. ETCS is a member of the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) and accredited by the International Christian Accrediting Association (ICAA), recognized by the TEA. The school is affiliated with TCAL and CSAC for athletic, fine arts, and academic competitions. More than 40% of the qualified teaching staff hold masters degrees.
Founded in 1982, the educators at Longview Christian School strive to assist Christian families with the training of their children by pursuing excellence in faith and education. LCS offers a traditional K-12 educational program with athletics, fine arts, and drama, all taught from a Biblical worldview. LCS also offers an Early Learning Center for children 6 weeks – Pre-K. The campus consists of separate buildings for upper and lower grades, a gym/workout facility, a band hall, a library, and a cafeteria.
Oak Forest Montessori School serves students eight weeks through Kindergarten and offers an after school program for students Kindergarten through fifth grade. The Montessori environment has been designed to accommodate students of all levels of ability. Each classroom is equipped with an array of sequential materials to be used as tools in learning. The advantages of individualized instruction are enhanced by curriculum that includes math, language and phonics, sensorial exercises, and practical life activities. Children also receive instruction in motor skills, art history, geography, botany, and science.
At St. Mary’s Catholic School, we partner with parents in forming disciples committed to faith, scholarship, leadership, and service. St. Mary’s Catholic School provides a nurturing atmosphere for every child through a variety of fine arts, comprehensive athletic programs, gifted and talented enrichment, and dyslexia and reading recovery intervention in a safe, bully-free, Christian environment since 1948. Offering EC – grade 12, our school is fully accredited and our teachers are highly qualified and certified. Index based tuition allows affordability for all families.
For over 50 years, Trinity School of Texas has been an independent, co-educational day school serving students two years through grade 12. At Trinity each child’s individual interests are encouraged and rewarded, laying the foundation for a lifetime of achievement. The Southwestern Association of Episcopal Schools and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools maintains accreditation. A 100% college attendance rate is reached each year, proving that these high standards provide students with success in college placement and the transition to college life.
Embracing Faith, Engaging Minds, and Empowering Leaders – this describes the student experience at East Texas Baptist University. The 100-year-old Christian university offers a challenging curriculum in more than 40 areas of study. Students who want to pursue a more intensive learning environment can participate in the University Scholars program. Travel-study opportunities allow students to see the world while working toward their education goals. Graduate programs are offered in business, counseling, teacher education, and religion.
Jarvis Christian College, founded in 1912 in Wood County, maintains a proud tradition of progressive leadership and accomplishments. A fully accredited, four-year, private liberal arts college for men and women, Jarvis provides great educational opportunities within the context of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Jarvis awards Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Business Administration, and Bachelor of Science degrees with a variety of majors and academic concentrations, and also offers dual degree programs.
Kilgore College-Longview offers college courses designed for transfer to a university, fast-track night class programs designed for working adults to earn an associate degree in two years, and Workforce Education programs designed to prepare students for immediate careers. The college also provides training programs including Adult Education & Literacy, GED preparation classes, ESL classes (free of charge), Continuing Education classes to update job skills, and the Small Business Development Center to counsel, train, and inform small business owners.
LeTourneau University is the premier polytechnic university in the nation where educators engage students to nurture Christian virtue, develop competency and ingenuity in their professional fields, integrate faith and work, and serve the local and global communities. Ranked in the top tier of U.S. News & World Report’s “America’s Best Colleges” for over two decades, LETU offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs across a wide range of disciplines and delivery models at LETU’s residential campus in Longview, Texas, and in hybrid and fully online options at centers in Dallas, McKinney and Houston.
Texas State Technical College in Marshall provides certificates and associate degrees in 14 technical fields, from Biomedical Equipment Technology to Cyber Security to Industrial Maintenance to Welding Technology. TSTC students can take advantage of on-campus housing, internships with area companies, local scholarships, federal financial assistance, and campus activities. The technical college also works with East Texas companies to improve workers’ skills and with area school districts to offer dual enrollment opportunities.
The University of Texas at Tyler Longview University Center is home to one of the top nursing programs in the region. BSN students attend traditional face-to-face courses on the Longview campus, which are taught by full-time, fully accredited, on-site faculty members. Industrial technology is the LUC’s newest program and is one of only two accredited by the Association of Technology, Management, and Applied Engineering in the State of Texas. In addition, the criminal justice program continues to prepare students for a dynamic career in a wide-ranging and growing field. The LUC is an ideal destination for students transferring from regional community colleges. Visit us on Facebook.