Shelly Landreth, EdD, has spent 23 years in the K-12 setting as a librarian, secondary English Language Arts and Reading (ELAR) teacher, and curriculum director. These experiences, according to Dr. Landreth, helped her become the educator she is today. She was kind enough to share her experiences with us and discuss her current role as an assistant professor of literacy for The University of Texas Permian Basin’s online Master of Arts in Literacy program. Along with Literacy Program Coordinator Tara Wilson, EdD, Dr. Landreth helps educators strengthen their understanding of literacy and make a direct, positive impact in the classroom.  

Dr. Landreth has always had a passion for helping students, especially those with reading and writing difficulties. “Although reading and writing came easily to me,” began Dr. Landreth, “students who struggle with literacy have always been my favorite population to work with. I see teaching as my ‘calling,’ and it is with these students that I feel I can have the most positive impact.” 

“As a former secondary educator, I know in working with older students who struggle, you have to work really hard to motivate them first,” said Dr. Landreth. “By the time these students are in the upper grades, many of them have faced years of failure and have little to no confidence in themselves when it comes to reading and writing.” Unfortunately, numerous high school students go without the assistance they desperately need. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), approximately 43 million adults in the United States possess low literacy skills. “It takes a caring teacher to turn this around,” said Dr. Landreth. “I always say, you have to be a cheerleader first!”  

Educators can become cheerleaders, advocates for their students, by joining our online literacy program and earning their master’s degree and reading specialist certification. “Strong literacy skills oftentimes translate into success in school, in the workplace, and in society,” noted Dr. Landreth. “For this reason, a reading specialist can have a huge impact on the lives of students who struggle in reading and writing.” Incredibly, every student in UT Permian Basin’s MA in literacy program who has taken the reading specialist certification test to date has passed: a 100% pass rate. “I think that speaks volumes for the quality of our program,” Dr. Landreth enthused.  

For Dr. Landreth, helping educators earn their reading specialist certification is a way of helping readers achieve their full potential. “It’s about so much more than success in school,” she said. “[I]t’s about enabling students to be happy and productive citizens and live a fulfilling life.”  

This shared goal of enriching students’ lives may be why the majority of Dr. Landreth’s students are teachers. “Most of the students in my graduate courses are already educators,” she confirmed, “but they all have very different experiences and knowledge. I love how we all come together in an online environment to form a community, learning alongside each other.” Graduate students collaborate with Dr. Landreth and their peers in online discussion boards, where fresh perspectives and words of encouragement are offered in abundance.   

“I think that Dr. Wilson and I work hard to ensure that we connect with our students even though our program is online,” said Dr. Landreth. “Whether they are in South Korea or Maryland or right here in Odessa, I want my students to feel like they are well connected at UT Permian Basin and [with] their professors.” Designed to help Texas educators become certified reading specialists, the online MA in literacy program can also help teachers from around the world hone their craft and earn a master’s degree. “Our class sizes are also fairly small,” added Dr. Landreth, “which in my opinion, is a wonderful feature of our program because this allows professors to really get to know students well.”  

Connections formed in the literacy program can last well beyond graduation day, as evidenced by Dr. Landreth’s love of keeping up with graduates, often through social media, and seeing “how they are making their mark on the world.” 

How did Dr. Landreth discover her passion for literacy? “My teachers,” she answered. “I was very fortunate to have had some wonderful teachers who taught me about the power of books and reading and helped me form my identity as a reader and writer.” Teachers, according to Dr. Landreth, have the power to make a difference, for better or worse, every time they enter a classroom. Her teachers helped her realize that no gift compares to that of literacy, and now she can do the same for her graduate students in our online MA in literacy program.  

“Check the literacy program out!” exclaimed Dr. Landreth. “If you are unsure whether this program is for you, reach out to Dr. Wilson or myself, and we will happily answer any questions you have.” Dr. Landreth can be reached by email at, and Dr. Wilson can be reached at “Selecting a graduate program is an important decision,” she concluded, “and we want you to be fully informed.” Prospective students can also submit a contact request form with any questions they may have about UT Permian Basin and the online MA in literacy program.  

Are you interested in pursuing a master’s degree and earning your reading specialist certification? Apply to our online Master of Arts in Literacy program. Under Dr. Landreth’s tutelage, you’ll learn how to assess reading strengths, create intervention plans, collaborate with others for the benefit of your students, and make a difference every time you enter the classroom.