As the Crisp Bootheel Education Center (CBEC) of Southeast Missouri State University at Malden celebrates 20 years of existence this year, it is easy to see the positive impact it has had on the area. One area educator has been affiliated with the CBEC for most of those 20 years. This fact makes Larry Speight, full-time English instructor for Southeast, very proud.
If anyone talks to Larry, it won’t be too long before it is clear he is a Bootheel native and very proud of that fact.
“The Southeast part of Missouri is incredibly rich in history and tradition,” Larry says. “The Bootheel has more than its fair share of this richness. It’s a shame to me that these cultural riches are some of the best kept secrets of all times.”
As for the CBEC, Larry says he’s taught at the facility since the early 1990s.
“When I first started here, there was an office and two classrooms,” he said. “They had just gotten out of the trailers that used to be the classrooms. It has definitely grown. We have a wonderful, top-notch facility.”
Larry is a Lilbourn, Mo., native and a graduate of Lilbourn High School. He holds baccalaureate and master’s degrees from Southeast Missouri State University.
“I went to SEMO so long ago that it wasn’t a university when I started,” Larry jokes. “It was a college. It became a university by the time I got out of there.”
Larry’s career in education is outstanding, and his background in English education is extraordinary.
“I’ve taught at the high school, middle school, junior high, community college, and university levels,” he says. “I’m told that’s pretty unique.”
When asked why he became a teacher, Larry was quick to answer, “I got into teaching because I thought it was the best way I could make a difference.”
He said his parents had a lot to do with his view of education.
“My parents made it clear from the beginning that my brother, Gene, and I were going to college,” he said. “And we did. Gene went to Memphis State University (now the University of Memphis), and I made my way to SEMO.”
Larry is married to Rita, a retired English teacher and Southeast alumna. His stepdaughter, Sarah Moore, is an English teacher in Bloomfield. Moore holds degrees from Three Rivers Community College and Southeast, culminating from classes taken at the CBEC.
Upon entering his 32nd year in the teaching field, Larry said he plans to continue for a while longer.
“As long as the CBEC and the other area higher education centers (Kennett and Sikeston) need me, I’ll probably keep this up a while,” he said.
Because of his dedication to education in Southeast Missouri, especially the Bootheel, the area is definitely better off.