Texas Tech University

First-Generation Alumna Dedicates 43 Years to Teaching Special Education

Mallory Collins

July 11, 2023

Stella Courtney Crockett

Stella Courtney Crockett left a lasting impact on early childhood education, focusing on reading skills in special education classrooms

Stella Courtney Crockett was the first African American woman from Texas Tech University to walk the stage at graduation in 1965. She graduated from the College of Human Sciences with a degree in Elementary Education, now called Early Childhood Education. Crockett then dedicated 43 years of service as an educator. 

For most of her years as a teacher, Crockett worked in special education. She said she helped her students learn to read by starting from the basics and working their way up. Crockett would encourage her students by telling them they would work together all year to reach their goals. 

“I promised my students at the beginning of the year in September, by the time they left in May or June, they will know how to read,” Crockett said. “I am very proud because every child that left my classroom knew how to read—they may not have been reading at grade level— but they could read.”

Crockett credits the courses and the time she spent student teaching with preparing her to become a teacher. She said the real classroom environment fully prepared her for life in the classroom and how to work with students. 

Her journey at Texas Tech was also difficult at times. When the university was integrated in 1961, some students still faced discrimination. However, Crocket and her friends supported and encouraged each other throughout the hard times. 

“When I talk to people about my experience at Texas Tech, I cannot leave out that it was very difficult for me and my friends because they had just integrated Texas Tech,” Crocket said. “We depended upon each other to console each other and make each other happy during those times.”

Though she faced many obstacles, Crockett was determined to graduate as a first-generation student. She would be the first in her family to graduate from a four-year university. When she received her diploma, she said her family was excited and proud of her. 

“Everyone was elated,” Crockett said. “My mom and dad did not even finish high school, so not only was it an honor to finish high school but also to go on and get a college degree that really made them happy. It made my family happy, and it most certainly made me happy.”

Crockett used her Early Childhood Education degree to impact many lives of special needs children over the years. Because of her commitment to helping those children, her students were able to achieve something others didn't believe they could.