Dr. Constance S. (Waltz) Weaver, professor emerita of English at Western Michigan University and an internationally known expert in reading education, died July 21. She was 76.
Weaver, of Portage, Michigan, joined WMU's faculty in 1965 and retired in 2005 after 39 years of service to the University. She was a leading voice on topics such as literacy; grammar instruction; reading and writing theory; learning theory, especially whole language theory; applied linguistics; and the theoretical reconceptualization of dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and other learning disabilities.
Professionally active after leaving WMU, Weaver worked from 2009 to 2014 at Miami University in Ohio, where she was a professor of teacher education and held an endowed chair in reading and language arts. Until recently, she also continued to write, conduct research, and present talks, workshops and webinars as well as to mentor younger scholars and assist literacy and other education-related organizations.
Dr. Constance S. Weaver
For nearly 50 years, Weaver was a driving force in expanding understanding of reading and writing and how to better teach these subjects. Her prolific and innovative scholarship and research made significant contributions to theories of reading, writing and learning as well as to their pedagogical and practical applications.
During her professional career, Weaver wrote or co-wrote more than a dozen books. "Reading Process & Practice" first appeared in 1988 and became widely known as the most authoritative, comprehensive and definitive book of its kind. Still available in a Brief Edition, the text continues to assist teachers in providing high-quality instruction.
Weaver had a special passion to help teachers maximize the effects of grammar instruction on writing while minimizing the instructional time required. Her unique stance on the teaching of grammar is covered in several of her books, beginning with "Grammar for Teachers" in 1979 and continuing with books such as the now-classic "Grammar in Context" in 1996 and "Grammar to Enrich and Enhance Writing," written with WMU English Professor Jonathan Bush in 2008.
As of 2007, "Grammar for Teachers" was still in print and had been on the National Council of Teachers of English all-time best seller list for more than three decades.
Weaver also wrote or co-wrote many scholarly articles and presented talks around the country and in Colombia, France, Malaysia, Peru, Taiwan and other countries. She was active in organizations at home and abroad and was asked to join two invitation-only international organizations.
Among her out-of-class activities were assisting the Michigan Department of Education in revising the teaching of grammar in the state and serving three stints, including one as director, on the National Council of Teachers of English's Commission on Reading.
In addition, Weaver was lauded as a tireless worker on public policy issues related to the language arts. Examples include working to warn about the politics of standardized tests and their negative effects on language arts instruction and co-organizing a nonprofit citizen's group to promote educational equality and excellence.
In 1996, the Michigan Council of Teachers of English honored Weaver with the Charles C. Fries award for outstanding leadership in the profession. The following year, the Michigan Association of Governing Boards of State Universities recognized her for her teaching, scholarship and service.
More recently, Weaver was locally involved in founding Healing Energies Plus as well as Reiki Unity Community Healing Night at Unity of Kalamazoo. She also was a Reiki volunteer at the West Michigan Cancer Center and a Reiki program development consultant for Borgess Hospital Hospice.
Weaver earned three degrees in English, a bachelor's and master's degree from Indiana University in 1964 and 1965, respectively, and a doctoral degree from Michigan State University in 1970.
Weaver's life will be celebrated Thursday, July 26, in Unity of Kalamazoo, 1204 Whites Road in Kalamazoo. Celebration events are as follows: visitation, 10 a.m.; memorial service, 10:30 a.m.; and luncheon, 11:30 a.m.
At 1 p.m., family and friends will process to Mt. Ever Rest Memorial Park South in Kalamazoo for graveside services.
Memorial gifts may be made to a charity of choice or the literacy fund the family is working to establish in Weaver's name to give back to Kalamazoo County communities.
View Weaver's personalized memorial website.