Barri Bumgarner is an associate professor in the Department of Education and the education department chair at Westminster College in Fulton.
She started at Westminster in 2013, where she has been teaching reading and writing education courses as well as teacher preparation courses focusing on the exceptional individual and literature for children and youth.
In 2014, Bumgarner began teaching a digital literacy course that gets current students to embrace the 1:1 movement in order to better prepare them for the schools in which they will teach. Bumgarner spearheaded the Westminster Advisory Technology Team that led to the campus to going 1:1 with iPads and Apple pencils. She is also the coordinator for Digital Blue, which continues to oversee the program and conduct professional development for faculty and staff to teach with the devices.
"Its' been a huge impact on this campus," Bumgarner said. "I love that anybody can do anything, but it's been really cool to share that journey with my students. You have to know how to balance technology, you need to know when to put up your phone and when to unplug, but you also have to know, especially when you're teaching, reading this technology gives kids access to every book on the planet."
She earned her Ph.D. in English education and digital literacy from the University of Missouri in Columbia, her M.Ed. in curriculum and instruction from the University of Missouri and her bachelor of science degree in English and pre-med from the Missouri State University in Springfield.
Bumgarner has been teaching for about 31 years. Seven years were spent teaching in the education department at the University of Missouri, and she's now continuing her ninth year at Westminster. While teaching junior high school in Columbia, Bumgarner published her first novel, "8 Days", a sci-fi thriller that landed her on an FBI watch list.
In "8 Days", Bumgarner kills 98 percent of the world's population in eight days. She was doing her research for the book when she receives a phone call from Homeland Security.
"This guy says, 'I'm with Homeland Security, and I want to know what your interest is with weapons and mass destruction,'" Bumgarner said. "And I said, 'well I teach junior high, don't we all want to kill people.' And he said, 'ma'am I don't think anything about this is funny.'"
It wasn't till then Bumgarner realized it wasn't a practical joke from her fellow teachers.
She was told to submit her manuscript, notes and anything else that could verify that she was in fact writing a book.
She started her second book, "Slipping", which is about a man whose alter ego is a serial killer and he's unaware. As she's researching, she gets another call from Homeland Security with the hopes she is writing another book.
"Slipping" got reviewed in the Washington Post and was compared to "Silence of The Lambs". It was said that she kills fewer people but better.
"I was writing from the time I was very little," Bumgarner said. "My mom took me to see "The Exorcist" when I was 10 and after that I started writing really dark stuff. My teachers would call home and say Barri wrote a story about a man getting killed after he killed a dog and my mom would be like well then he deserved it. So that just really kind of started everything."
Her book "Dregs" is about a couple of boys that decide they want to make all the popular kids realize that they're not all that, and it works due to a school shooting.
"My students found out I was an author," Bumgarner said. "And they wanted to read one of my books. I read to them the first chapter of 'Dregs', and then we had some book clubs reading different books and one of them was reading 'Dregs'. They were like, 'that was really good, but we have some advice for you when writing your next one,' and I'm like, 'oh, great.'"
With all the excitement and interest in Bumgarner's books, Dateline invited her on the show to talk about her research with the Steven Rios case. She conducted almost 500 interviews, and after being interviewed by Keith Morrison, she finally admitted she doesn't believe Rios did it.
She is currently working on "Shades of Gray: the Steven Rios Story", a true crime book about the former officer's conviction for the murder of Jesse Valencia, a new YA novel using the same characters from "Dregs" and a prequel to "8 Days" called "Playing the Line".