Stephanie Kraft is making a difference in education. After several years teaching in the classroom, the Saint Leo University graduate educational leadership degree student is now flourishing in a new administrative role in which she is helping to mold more biliterate students in the Hillsborough County School District.
The 32-year-old was born in Louisiana but grew up in Belleview, FL near Ocala in central Florida. She and her husband, Ryan, now reside in Tampa with their two children, Harper and Owen and have a Morkie, Vito. In her spare time, Kraft uses her pilot’s license to fly Cessna 172 planes.
A graduate of Belleview High School, Kraft attended the University of South Florida for her undergraduate studies where she attained a bachelor’s in elementary education in 2012. She earned a dual language graduate education certificate from the University of Central Florida in 2020 before embarking on her master’s degree program with Saint Leo.
Why Saint Leo University Was the Right Choice for Her Graduate Educational Leadership Degree
She explains her path to Saint Leo University and what sold her on the master’s in educational leadership degree program.
“Saint Leo was highly recommended by several education leaders at my school, two of whom who have gone on to be assistant principals within the district,” she says.
Plus, she was able to transfer some of the credits from her certificate program to Saint Leo. She began the online Master of Education in educational leadership degree in August of 2020.
“I chose this program because in Hillsborough County (FL), this track offers the most flexibility in pursuing other jobs. If I had chosen a master’s in education that was more generic or narrowly focused in a certain area, I might be a bit more pigeonholed on future opportunities.”
Working full time and being the mom of two young children, she adds that the online format of the program was appealing to her. Additionally, the eight-week structure of the courses was another big selling point.
Graduate Education Professors of Note
According to Kraft, her instructors have been a true joy to work with.
“All of them have really been great,” she explains. “They are always very accessible and understanding about our work obligations as students. They will take the time to work with you based on your situation and what is going on in your life.”
Drs. Toni Zetzsche, Renee Sedlack, and Beverly Wickson have specifically stood out to her.
“Dr. Wickson helped start up a school I was teaching at, so it was really cool to learn about that connection and her background.”
The courses have also been engaging to her, she adds. Her fieldwork course made a very positive impression on her. She has enjoyed the collaborative assignments with her fellow students.
“The group activities have allowed us to meet other students and get to make friends,” she says.
She says that the online platform for her coursework has been easy and efficient to use.
A Proud Honor
Along with her traditional coursework, she was inducted into the Iota chapter of Omega Nu Lambda National Honor Society in the fall of 2021.
“Even as an online student, it was so nice to receive this honor. They even sent me the honor cords and a certificate.”
R-E-S-P-E-C-T: More Than an Aretha Franklin Hit
One Saint Leo University core value has stood out to her most as a student.
“Respect is felt within the whole coursework of the program,” she explains. “As students who are mostly working in our careers, the professors truly respect us as professional people. During the Zoom-based courses, it is such a respectful environment to be in. I love how Saint Leo incorporates these core values into our assignments.”
In terms of her degree program, she hopes to finish her studies in the next few months.
Moving Up in Education
Throughout her career, Kraft has taught Kindergarten as well as second, third, and fourth grades. She helped to start a dual language program at Bellamy Elementary School in Tampa.
“Our students learn at least half of the school day in English and the other half in Spanish,” she says. “The model we started with consisted of English- and Spanish-immersive teachers. We want to help close the achievement gap for language learners. We want to give students the ability to learn a new language while still cherishing their heritage language spoken at home.”
In November, she stepped out of the classroom to work at the district level within Hillsborough County Schools. She serves as a district resource teacher and project manager of a grant. Growing the dual language program is also a big focus for her from a broader standpoint. One of her goals is to expand the program beyond the elementary level into middle and high schools within the district.
“My job is to expand the program into English-dominant families who are connected to the military. We want to mold biliterate personnel to prepare them for the military.”
She says education has been such a rewarding field for her.
“I’ll always cherish the day-to-day memories that will last a lifetime with students,” she says. “To see how a child grows so much is what it’s all about.”
In terms of career goals, she hopes to remain on the administrative side of education for a long time to come. She would love to educate more teachers on the dual language program and other unique aspects of teaching.
Photo credit: The photograph included in this blog article was provided by Stephanie Kraft and is used with permission.