Student Stories

Alice Franco - 762

Pursuing Passion: Alice Franco de Steppe, MA-Teaching ’16

Many teachers come into the classroom first and figure out how to change lives later. For Alice Franco de Steppe, Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) ’16, it was the opposite. She came into teaching because of the life-changing experiences she had while working as a tutor in South Minneapolis. 

“My assignment was to meet with each scholar privately in their homes,” Franco de Steppe explained. “I got to know each student on a personal level and got to know their families as well. I saw how many struggled with economic barriers, lived in single-parent households, and faced obstacles that hindered their academic achievements.”

Franco de Steppe remembers one particular student well.

“I was assigned to a tenth grader that attended South High School,” she shared. “He was failing math and reading and needed a great deal of academic support. He couldn’t tell me what his goals or dreams were and couldn’t fathom the idea that college was possible for him.”

This student shared a one-bedroom apartment with his parents and his sister; he slept on the living room sofa. His situation was difficult, but Franco de Steppe said he was willing to learn. She not only tutored him for two years but also mentored and advised him in that time, even helping him find a program that provided him with a free bus card, which enabled him to look for part-time jobs. 

At the end of those two years, he passed his testing requirements and graduated high school. He was the first in his family to do so. He further broke ground by going on to college, studying business.

Watching this transformation happen, seeing the difference one person can make on another firsthand, was all Franco de Steppe needed to pursue teaching. 

“I saw a need for teaching, a need for teachers to connect with their scholars,” Franco de Steppe said. “I saw that one teacher could change a life simply through education.” 

Franco de Steppe started out as a substitute teacher as a way to decide whether or not teaching was the right fit. 

“It was my test on how I would handle myself as a teacher and how I could be creative and foster fun learning environments in the classroom,” she said. “After subbing for a year within Minneapolis Public Schools, I still had the passion. I loved how I got to meet so many young, bright minds and experience what they brought to the table; it’s what led me to seek full-time work.”

Franco de Steppe did not have a teaching license, but that did not stop her. She sought positions at private schools and was accepted as a technology teacher at Ascension School. One of the requirements of her position was that she pursue her teaching license, and Hamline’s program was recommended. Even if the faculty had not recommended Hamline’s program, though, Franco de Steppe would have looked into it—not only did both of her brothers attend Hamline, the notoriety of the teaching program had not escaped her.

“If you mention to anyone about wanting to go back to school to become a teacher, everyone recommends you to Hamline,” she said. “What really caught my eye were Hamline’s small classroom size and the community-based learning style.”

While in the MAT program, Franco de Steppe found another passion within the realm of teaching: that of literacy education. It was a perfect strand for her, as she has always been an avid reader and writer.

“Teaching literacy in the classroom teaches students to use reading, writing, and speaking skills effectively in all aspects of their lives,” Franco de Steppe said. “It benefits them as lifelong learners, in their careers, when they become parents. Literacy also helps develop critical thinking, reasoning, and written and oral communication skills.”

Of course, Franco de Steppe did not need to go through the whole master’s program—she could have stopped at getting her teaching licensure. But for her, it was about practicing what she preached.

“It’s an achievement that I fulfilled for myself but also for young scholars, especially those of color,” she said. “It’s a message I wanted to deliver, to let them know that they can accomplish anything they put their minds to.”

Going through the entire program also allowed her to gain a multitude of experiences and to create lasting bonds with her professors.

“I had tremendous instructors,” Franco de Steppe said. “They are selfless and care about their students becoming great teachers. They gave invaluable insight and classroom strategies, which I was able to apply right away because I was teaching full time.”

Though Franco de Steppe relocated to Kansas when her husband, an active-duty soldier, was positioned there, she knows that the relationships she created within the program will continue to be important in her life and that teaching will remain her primary passion.

Find out more about the Hamline School of Education's Master of Arts in Teaching and the many licensure options available through the program, or contact Hamline's Graduate Admission Office to learn more about joining the Hamline community.