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Redbird legacy: Following mom into education

Legacy November 2011

An Illinois State legacy began in the 1930s for one Redbird family. Graduates include, front row from left, Teri (Billingsley) Spratt and Estella Hensley; back row from left, Ron Spratt, Karen (Billingsley) Schulz, Becki (Billingsley) Wahls, and Rick Wahls.

When Estella Hensley ’34, ’71, attended Illinois State in the 1930s, she never predicted a legacy in the making. She earned a teaching certificate with her mother’s persuasion and began her career in a Central Illinois country school.

For nearly 10 years she taught first through eighth grades, and did so much more.

“In the country schools, you were the janitor,” Estella said. “If you had hot lunch, you did the cooking. You did everything.”

Estella, now of Normal, returned to Illinois State to earn a bachelor’s in education. She continued teaching for 30 more years after having her only daughter, Karen (Billingsley) Schulz ’68, M.S. ’80.

Karen, who lives in Bloomington with her husband, Bill, followed in her mother’s footsteps. She received dual ISU education degrees and then taught in the same school district as her mother. Karen’s two daughters also attended Illinois State.

Teri (Billingsley) Spratt ’89 is an elementary school teacher. She married fellow graduate Ron Spratt ’87. They reside in Chanhassen, Minnesota. Becki (Billingsley) Wahls ’93, M.S. ’95, is a speech pathologist working in schools. She too chose an alum as a spouse, Richard Wahls ’89. They reside in Lewis Center, Ohio.

Family gatherings include reminiscing about ISU. The bond is especially tight for the women, who share a love of teaching. “It has been wonderful to share experiences from my teaching career with my mother and grandmother,” Teri said. “They have given good advice and have been very supportive.”

All the members of this extended Redbird family appreciate the huge role Illinois State has played in their lives. “A lot can be attributed back to the education” at ISU, Karen said, reflecting on fulfilling family careers spread across three generations.

 

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