Leah Crawford did not start her career teaching, but she always knew that’s what she wanted to do.
Crawford is a Career and Technical Education (CTE) Teacher - Commercial Art at Frank H. Peterson Academies of Technology, a public magnet career and college preparatory high school in Jacksonville.
A Jacksonville native, Crawford graduated from Frank H. Peterson Academies of Technology in 2011 and from Flagler College with a bachelor’s degree in graphic design in 2015. After graduation, she moved to Orlando for her first professional job but returned to Jacksonville after a year. Crawford spent more than five years working in the design industry in a variety of environments including agency and business settings. She began teaching at Frank H. Peterson Academies of Technology in September 2020.
“I always thought I would end up working in education although I didn’t think it would happen this early in my career – but I love it,” Crawford said.
Crawford teaches Commercial Art Technology in the Communications Academy, preparing students for careers in the creative industry after high school or college. The Communications Academy also offers programs in Television Production and Digital Information Technology/IT.
A self-described “art kid,” Crawford had a passion for art and knew early on she wanted to study design. Her transition to teaching occurred in part because she maintained relationships with many of her former teachers.
“I had many key educators – in elementary, high school and college,” Crawford said. “They all left an impression on me. I knew one day I would love to emulate that energy in a classroom setting.”
One of her mentors is Michael Fuller, now retired but who had been Crawford’s commercial art teacher at the Frank H. Peterson Academies of Technology. Fuller contacted Crawford when a teaching vacancy became available.
“I wasn’t looking for a change, but when it was put in front of me, I knew I needed to jump at the opportunity,” Crawford said.
As an educator, Crawford draws on her professional design experience combined with her passion for creative problem solving. For the transition to teaching, Crawford earned her teaching certificate and Illustrator, InDesign and Photoshop certifications. Crawford enjoys working with students.
“Being an educator isn’t just showing up to a classroom,” Crawford said. “I’m excited to help launch students into their careers.”
Students at the Academy earn industry certifications and regularly receive on-the-job training through internships. Crawford’s students work on a variety of real-world projects. In April, they will design marketing materials to promote the Healing Hearts Project’s fun run. This project also provides an opportunity for the academy to support a non-profit organization.
“Skills with Adobe products are guaranteed to give a leg up when pursuing a career at any point in time because of the early exposure that was provided,” said student Dante Pierre. “When you're exposed early to these kinds of professional programs, you develop a skillset that never truly becomes obsolete.”
Many of Crawford’s students value the Academy’s programs.
“I believe this Academy is helping my school life improve overall,” said student Danielle Wilson. “I'm learning things about websites, programs, editing and design, and I'm learning concepts that allow my school work to look nicer and my creativity to flow.”