Stefanie Rapp recalls setting up her own play classroom when she was in the third grade. As she pursues her dream of becoming an early childhood teacher, the burden of financing her education is lifted, thanks to the gift of a teacher and UC alumna from years ago.
Rapp was selected from among 27 applicants to receive the $20,000 award, which recognizes a future teacher’s dedication to our youngest learners. The award can be used for tuition and other college-related expenses as well as for housing and living expenses.
A CECH honor since 1999, the award comes from a $660,000 endowment established by Kathryn E. Wright, named in memory of her sister, Pearl. Both women graduated from CECH in the 1920s, dedicated their careers to education and shared a home in Clifton.
Pearl M. Wright spent 30 years working for Clifton School and was principal when she retired in 1957. Kathryn Wright dedicated much of her career to working with blind and visually impaired children at Bloom Junior High School, and later worked at Kirby Road School before taking early retirement to care for her ailing father.
Pearl M. Wright was 96 years old when she died in 1990. Kathryn’s will was written in 1992, four years prior to her death at age 95. Her will established the award as a tribute to her sister, specifying that the annual award honor a UC senior who “best exemplifies high moral and academic standards of a primary teacher – who is sensitive, loving and understanding of little children.”
“I want to help young children become caring, thoughtful people, and I hope that I can also inspire them to also become interested in caring for their environment,” says Rapp.
“Stefanie is inquisitive, self-directed and wants the very best for children,” says Darwin Henderson, associate professor of education. “Reflecting about the kind of teacher she will become, Stefanie has said, ‘As a teacher, I’ll respect and cherish children’s unique perspectives on life and the world they live in.’”
Rapp says it was her own third-grade teacher, Miss (Whitney) Lyons, who inspired her to pursue the profession. In fact, Rapp says she still keeps in touch with her former teacher from Loveland Miami Elementary School, who is now married and living in California.
Rapp and a fellow third-grade classmate and neighbor Katie Hadley played school together. Both women, lifelong friends, are now majoring in early childhood education at UC.
“We would spend hours downstairs reenacting the lessons that we had learned at school during the day, and we would use our play to help us understand what might be happening throughout the real world,” she says. “I have to admit that I enjoyed pretending to teach well into my adolescence. It was quite an emotional day when my mom decided that it was time to restore the basement to its original condition,” she says.
Rapp says the early childhood teacher educates young children on how to be positive, productive members in their classrooms, which will later translate into being positive, productive members of society. During spring quarter, she says that in addition to carrying her course load, she was working 25 hours a week to support her education. “With the scholarship, I’ll now be able to focus more on why I’m here and what I want to do – learning how to be the best teacher I can be,” she says.
UC’s College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services has been dedicated to excellence in teaching for 104 years. The college prepares students to work in diverse communities, provides continual professional development and fosters education leadership at the local, state, national and international levels.