Preparatory Academy Director Crystal Cleveland (‘17) Reflects on the Impact of Her SVU Professors

Crystal Cleveland

From an undergraduate student to academy director in just five years, Crystal Cleveland (’17), who serves as director over grades K–6 for the newly opened Charter One Wake Preparatory Academy in North Carolina, attributes the learning environment and professors at Southern Virginia University for helping her impact the lives of her students.

“I was privileged to have so many professors at Southern Virginia that made such a huge impact on me,” said Cleveland. “They really provide a rigorous education and care about the foundation that you’re building for yourself.

“That is something that has played such a huge role in the decisions that I’ve made in my life since I’ve graduated,” continued Cleveland. “Having this foundation that I can fall back on is something that’s really helped me as director.”

Crystal Cleveland with Dr. Scott Dransfield

After graduating from Southern Virginia University with a degree in liberal arts, Cleveland began teaching kindergarten and then fourth grade in Arizona under Charter One, an education management organization for charter schools. In 2022, she was offered the position of director over the K–6 grades at Wake Preparatory Academy, where over 1100 students attend.

“I’ve loved having the opportunity to have an impact on kids and really help to build their knowledge and their experiences,” said Cleveland. “At Charter One, the core of our mission is to provide a wholesome environment and rigorous education to as many students as possible. I’ve enjoyed challenging my students and helping build a culture and environment for them to be successful academically like my professors did for me.”

With “too many favorite professors to count,” including Dr. Scott Dransfield, Dr. Laura Knight, and Dr. Fran MacDonnell, Cleveland shared how her professors went beyond the classroom to support her in many other aspects of her life. 

“There were times I was playing in a basketball game and the next day my professor who attended the game would talk to me about it,” explained Cleveland. “I also had professors who I served alongside with in Church or I saw often out in the community. They still remember me whenever I see them.”

An active member of the campus community as an undergraduate student, Cleveland served on the student council and as academic senator, played on the women’s basketball team, and worked as an athletic administration intern. She also served as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Nampa, Idaho. 

“Make the most of your experience at Southern Virginia,” recommended Cleveland. “Challenge yourself in the classroom. Open yourself up to different opportunities you never thought you would try. Take the time to get to know your professors and allow them to mentor you and have the humility to learn. You’re always going to be learning, and know that the professors genuinely care about every student. Southern Virginia has always been a home for me, no matter how many years I’ve been gone, and I think a lot of alumni would say the same.”