Posted on September 4, 2020 by Libby Castillo


For almost 50 years, Roxanne Henkin, Ed.D, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Interdisciplinary Learning & Teaching at the College of Education and Human Development dedicated her career to educating individuals about the power of the written word. This summer, she received three distinguished awards to celebrate her life-long achievements.

Growing up in Skokie, Illinois, Henkin’s passion for writing began at an early age.

“I was a child who loved to read and who loved to write,” Henkin said. “Looking back, that’s what my career has been, helping people not just learn to read and write but to use it for social justice, to use it for a purpose.”

Henkin began her career by quickly earning her Bachelor’s Degree at Northern Illinois University in only three years. She went on to receive her graduate degree in Reading and eventually her Ed.D from the same institution.

After earning her Bachelor’s Degree, she began working as a first-grade teacher which eventually led to a remarkable career in the education field.

“I have always loved working with people, whether I was that first-grade teacher at the beginning of my career or working with undergraduates, graduates, and doctoral students, that’s always been the highlight for me,” she said. “Being with people and sharing these incredible texts and listening to their stories and helping them become better writers. It’s been a career beyond my dreams.”

Beyond her time as a teacher and professor, Henkin dedicated herself to the   National Writing Project , a network of teachers from across the nation dedicated to improving the teaching of writing and learning in schools and communities.

Dr. Henkin’s dedication to the National Writing Project led to being a Co-Director of the Illinois Writing Project and then to the creating and directing of writing projects not only in San Antonio, but also in South Africa, India, the Philippines, and Kazakhstan. Through this, she was able to build lasting and familial friendships with the people within the projects.

“I think that’s the beauty of traveling, but not traveling to travel but traveling and staying with people and writing about our lives together,” she said. “It’s such a deep connection, you move from strangers to friends, and from friends to family.”

Dr. Henkin’s life’s work was celebrated with three awards this summer. She received the   National Council of Teachers of English(NCTE)   Literacies and Languages for All 2020 Lifetime Membership Award ,   the   2020 NCTE LGBTQ+ Advocacy and Leadership Award,   andwas awarded the   2020 Distinguished Alumni Award   from her High School Alma Mater Niles North High School.

Of her awards, Henkin remained humble and attributed her dedication to her craft and career as an opportunity to improve the world we live in.

“I see writing and literacy as a tool for promoting social justice across the world. We live in a global community and we share a love of and belief in humanity. We know that we must work together for the earth to survive,” she said. “We need the talents and the commitments of all our students, educators and people around the world to evolve into the community of our dreams. I am only one person in a long line of advocates for social justice, but I hope that I have made a difference in creating a more just world.”

— Libby Castillo