Skip to main content

Kelly Leffel

Ph.D. in Curriculum and Learning Design

Education Policy, Planning & Leadership

  • 2023, William & Mary, Doctor of Philosophy, Curriculum and Learning Design
  • 2004, Rutgers University, Master of Education
  • 2003, Rutgers University, Bachelor of Arts, Anthropology

What kind of educational and professional experiences did you have prior to beginning this degree?
After obtaining my master's degree, I spent a year coordinating education programs at Walt Disney World. Shortly thereafter, I began my teaching career as a high school social studies teacher where I found my true passion supporting other teachers. I spent the majority of my career, about 12 years, at Colonial Williamsburg coordinating professional development workshops for teachers and school districts around the country.

As a student pursuing a doctorate in Curriculum and Learning Design, why did you choose this field?
After working with various school districts and teachers around the country, I saw how hard teachers work every day and that they are not always supported in the way they deserve. So many good teachers get burned out early in their careers even when they were doing everything right. I want to find new ways to support teachers throughout their career, from providing the tools and resources they need and helping them reinvigorate their passion for teaching to being an advocate for policy change.

What do you hope to be doing after graduation? In 10 or 15 years?
I would like to work at an institution of higher education where I can teach pre-service teachers while also partnering with school districts to provide professional development. I am also interested in working as a director of professional development programs for the state or a non-profit organization. My big dream would be to partner with schools across the globe to support teacher growth through interactive blended learning experiences.

Why did you choose William & Mary and specifically your degree program? What sets this degree program apart from those offered at other colleges?
I explored both the Ed.D. and Ph.D. programs in education across the state of Virginia. I was interested in programs I saw in Education Leadership and those categorized under Curriculum & Instruction. The Ph.D. program in Curriculum & Learning Design at William & Mary was the perfect combination of both! I can also say that the early interactions I had with faculty and staff in person at the prospective student day event and via email were also positive and supportive. They wanted you to find the program that was the best fit for you, regardless of whether it was at William & Mary. I did not feel that way when exploring other institutions. In the end, I didn't even apply to any other school. I just knew this was the right fit for me.

What has been the most influential experience you've had so far in your program?
Over the last 6 months, I have had the opportunity to co-teach two courses virtually for our pre-service teachers. It has been a unique experience to see virtual learning from both the student side and as an instructor in these courses, especially amidst the added stress that the pandemic and an election year can bring. I have learned a lot about the ins and outs of higher education, how to support adult students while also providing the rigor they need, and how to be flexible, adaptable and creative as an instructor. I have always had an interest in educational technology, but this experience has pushed me towards the decision to make it my official cognate or focus of study.

Is there any additional information you would want a prospective student to know about the School of Education and its degree programs?
The School of Education is small. You will get to know your professors very well and they will get to know you. You will be pushed to do great things, but you will feel supported every step of the way.

Learn more

Curriculum and Learning Design