Justice, an assistant professor of education at Elon, passed away on Wednesday, Feb. 26, after a prolonged illness. She had been a member of the Elon faculty since 2014.
Like so many of her education classes at Elon, the gathering of friends in the Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life to honor the memory of Julie Justice on Friday began with a picture book.
Students, current and former, colleagues and other friends filled the Sacred Space in the Truitt Center and listened to Associate Professor Scott Morrison read “Ida Always” by Caron Levis. The picture book about two polar bears in a zoo that tells the story of the impact a life can have even after that life has ended, of what still exists even when it is no longer seen.
“She knew that books were so important,” Morrison said of his former colleague in the School of Education, who died this week, before beginning the book.
Justice, an assistant professor of education and faculty member at Elon died Wednesday after a prolonged illness. She joined the faculty of Elon in 2014 after serving six years as an assistant professor of literacy education at UNC-Chapel Hill, having previously served four years as an instructor at the Vanderbilt University Peabody School of Education. She also served one year with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps and six years as a middle school language arts teacher in Southport, North Carolina.
As a scholar, she focused on literacy development and literacy education policy, part of the reason she made reading a picture book at the start of class such a regular occurrence. From 2015 to 2018 Justice served as faculty director for the Oaks Neighborhood, a role that saw her living on campus and working diligently to enhance the residential experience for Elon students. She received the Faculty Engagement Award by the Office of Residence Life in May 2018 for her outstanding contributions as faculty directory.
Morrison said Justice was a fan of using hashtags, and a common one, though long, underscored much of her emphasis as a teacher — #ThisIsWhatLearningToReadLooksLike. Morrison noted that she understood that learning to read happens every where, and the two of them had talked extensively about programs that teach literacy in outdoor environments. That work, to couple learning to read with outdoor education, will continue, Morrison said.
Justice taught about literacy development, children’s literature, gifted education and teaching practice. Former students now leading their own classrooms as teachers and impacting the lives of their own students shared about how the time they spent with Justice has impacted how they approach teaching. They spoke of how her interest in them as people, not just students, has made them better people.
They shared about how she asked how they were doing, even as she was facing her own struggles. They talked about the practices she taught and the books she read to start class that they now employ with their own students, and her love for life. A colleague shared how when you received a hug from Julie Justice, “she was squeezing life into you.”
As one former student noted, “she cared more about the people in here than we can comprehend. She is with us, always.”
Anyone who would like to talk about their feelings of loss or concern for others may contact the Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life at 336-278-7729, the Office of the Dean of Students at 336-278-7200, or Counseling Services at 336-278-7280. Crisis counselors and the Student Life administrator on-call are always available at any time by contacting Campus Safety and Police at 336-278-5555. Faculty and staff may also utilize Elon Work-Life Resources for support.