Stephanie Huntsman ’17 has enjoyed a diverse career as an elementary educator in both Fort Worth and Arkansas. Recently, she taught at an award-winning charter school specifically designed to serve children who have experienced childhood trauma. Read on to learn about more about her journey from TCU to school counseling and beyond.
Tell us about your background.
Growing up as a military kid, we moved a lot for my dad's job, which led to spending seventh to ninth grade in Germany. We took full advantage of being able to easily travel between countries. I went to three different high schools in three years, which was challenging but provided me with diverse opportunities. My experiences as a military kid helped shape my worldview and who I am as a person. I graduated from TCU in May 2017 and taught in DFW for five years, both kindergarten and fourth grade – before moving home to Arkansas in 2022.
Tell us about your current work.
I recently wrapped up the school year at a public charter school in Northwest Arkansas designed for elementary-aged children who have experienced early childhood trauma. We served roughly 50 students and families across the area, with each class ranging from seven to 10 students. Many of our kids were not successful in a traditional school setting due to externalizing behaviors in response to the trauma they have experienced.
We had a behavior support team and paraprofessionals in almost every classroom to help students regulate and support learning. Additionally, we had services in speech, occupational and physical therapy, among others, as well as two mental health counselors, a school counselor and a counseling intern on campus. While we used the same academic curriculums as neighboring districts, we also spent a lot of our time teaching healthy boundaries, coping skills and necessary self-regulation strategies. Overall, I believe the students I taught this past year are going to thrive in their new settings, and I can't wait to hear about their new journeys.
What is something that influenced you in your education?
It is so important to be trauma-informed and take a trauma-centered approach to teaching at any school, regardless of the demographic. Thanks to my Learner-Centered Teaching: Families class at TCU, some hands-on experience and my diverse experiences growing up, I have always been able to empathize and meet the needs of children from hard places. Understanding how trauma affects the brain and body functions is not only beneficial for students, but it is also very helpful to teachers.
What’s your favorite part about being a Horned Frog?
I love everything about being a Horned Frog, from the life-long friendships I forged, the incredible professors I had the privilege of learning from, my study abroad experience, to Big XII sports. I can count on one hand how many home football games I missed throughout my entire time as a student at TCU. This past football season is one I will never forget. Who knew that the little school from Fort Worth would make it all the way to the National Championship?
I will graduate with my master’s degree in counseling and development and begin my career as an elementary school counselor in Florida. I will also be studying to become a licensed professional counselor. I hope to not only serve as a school counselor, but I would also love to work with women, children and military families one day.