Photo Courtesy of Stephanie Gehret

Each year, the College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) chooses two leaders, one from the undergraduate and one from the graduate CEHD community, to represent and speak to the graduating class. At this year's ceremony, special education major Stephanie Gehret will be speaking about her experience as an undergraduate student in CEHD and inspiring her fellow graduates to reach for the stars. Stephanie Gehret exemplifies CEHD's mission and values as someone who strives to create an inclusive space for everyone, and advance equitable systems and practices within her community.  

Gehret's leadership and service to the CEHD and Temple community includes off-campus and on-campus service. Gehret initially came to Temple because of her family's strong ties to Philadelphia. Her grandmother lives in Fishtown, so Gehret was exposed to the Temple community, and how the community expressed itself, from a young age. "I just loved the culture whenever I stepped on campus," said Gehret.  

Gehret came to Temple undecided and heard of the Jumpstart program through an email newsletter highlighting different programs across campus. While in the program, she learned about challenges students who have intellectual disabilities sometimes face. Her experience at Jumpstart inspired her to pursue special education as a major.  

In addition to her major, she joined the Institute on Disabilities as a peer mentor, which supports students with disabilities in navigating college life academically and socially. Gehret used this opportunity to apply what she's learned in class. She also joined C2P2 (Competence and Confidence: Partners in Policymaking) to advocate for people with disabilities and their families.    

"I was involved in [the C2P2] cohort for about a year, and I did advocacy work for all individuals with disabilities, their families, and self-advocated at the State Capitol," said Gehret. 

As a special education student, she gained practical experience through practicum placements at Bayard Taylor School, Memphis Street Academy and John B. Stetson Charter School, before moving on to complete her student teaching at Bache Martin School. 

Outside of the required coursework, Gehret enjoyed working with kindergarten- through middle school-aged students in an afterschool program at a school in the Chinatown section of Philadelphia. There, she says she used things she learned in classes and the organizations she was involved in to create community-based events. "It was such a great experience, cause I kind of got to learn more about working in Philly," shared Gehret.  

Gehret also served as president of Temple's educational honors fraternity, Kappa Delta Pi. In this role, she helped build a network of like-minded students that can help each other in their careers later on.  

Beyond education-based organizations, Gehret was involved in Temple's Therapeutic Art Club, where students of all abilities can come together and craft, paint and more to learn about the therapeutic elements of art and relax together. With her involvement on campus, Gehret was able to build a community of supportive people at Temple to help solidify her foundation as an educator. "Being able to connect to other teachers and other people that work in social services is really important just to keep that motivation going and to make sure you're always educated on new things in the field," said Gehret.  

Within that community of supportive people, Gehret gained the foundation she needed to keep going. Through her field placements and student-teaching, Gehret found people in the field to look up to and ask questions, and they became her mentors. "The mentors were so supportive and understanding. They gave the best feedback and were just constantly there for me, with any questions I asked," added Gehret.  

One of the biggest lessons she said she learned throughout her time teaching and learning is "teaching is a lifelong craft and it's going to take time to kind of learn yourself and your teaching styles, and not everyone has it figured out yet."  

Gehret encourages CEHD Owls to leverage the support and network from the College of Education and Human Development even after departing from the nest. "It does not stop at graduation," she shared. "You can continue to stay in touch with your professors, mentors, and fellow students and always reach out for more support."   

As Gehret gets closer to graduation, the validation of being selected as this year's undergraduate student speaker is palpable. "The proudest moment I had at CEHD is accepting to be speaker at the graduation. It allowed me to reflect on the work I've done and honor the professors and friends I made within CEHD." 

After graduation, Gehret intends to become a high school life skills teacher in the School District of Philadelphia.