URBANA — Stephanie Josephine Amelia Czelder passed away at home Thursday, March 12, 2020.
She is survived by her husband, Jim Leake; sons, Alex and Isaac; mother, Anne Czelder; as well as her siblings, Christine Patrick, Nancy Miller, Neil Czelder and Victoria Poeling.
Stephanie was born Oct. 26, 1953, in Hopkinsville, Ky. Stephanie’s dad, Chuck, was in the military — he served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam — so the Czelder family moved a lot when she was young, to Germany, Washington, New Jersey and California.
Stephanie was a devoted mother and a dedicated teacher. She especially liked teaching kindergarten and first grade. She taught in both Washington state and Illinois, as well as in the United Arab Emirates, Spain and Tunisia.
Stephanie was a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV), where she served as a health care worker in the Sultanate of Oman, from 1980 to 1982. From 1983 to 1986, she lived in the Pacific Northwest, Tunisia and Spain, where she taught (1985-86) at the international school in Bilbao. Between 1986 and 1993, she gave birth to and began raising her two sons on Queen Anne in Seattle. From 1993 to 1999, Stephanie and her family lived in Al Ain in the United Arab Emirates. She taught at the Al Ain English Speaking School for four years. She was one of the first American’s to teach at this British curriculum school. She also orchestrated Halloween and Christmas celebrations for the ex-pat community, camped extensively in the Arabian Desert and took annual family vacations when traveling between the UAE and Seattle.
Stephanie and her family moved to Urbana in 1999. She worked for the Urbana and Champaign school districts for 18 years. From 2005 to 2018, Stephanie was an ESL teacher at Martin Luther King Elementary School, a place she loved dearly. At King, Stephanie helped to organize UN Day, the International Potluck, the Young Author’s competition, and she was a performing member of the King School Players. Prior to working at King, Stephanie worked with homebound students, as well as teaching for a year at Stratton School. She received her MA in education from UIUC in 2015. In 2016, she attended the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. In the spring and early summer of 2018, Stephanie completed the 500-mile pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela (Camino de Santiago) with her sister, Nancy.
In the past 20 months, Stephanie has received countless tributes from friends and colleagues across the world describing her kindness, generosity, tolerance, patience, spirituality, courage, humor, professionalism, as well as her special ability to use the written word for encouragement and persuasion. She was able to connect with and make each person feel special and important.
Memorial services for Stephanie will be held in Urbana later this spring or summer, as well as in Seattle in the late summer.
Stephanie has requested that donations be made to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Nature Conservancy or the library at King School. Condolences may be offered at renner-wikoffchapel.com.