Family was the primary factor that drove Grace White, EDU '23, to pursue her degree in early childhood education with a concentration in special education at Temple University's College of Education and Human Development. White, one of four children, says her passion for making a difference in students' lives comes from her siblings.
Her older brother, Sean, was diagnosed with autism at three years old.
"For me, this was a guiding hand into the world of education," says White.
Her little sister, Isabella, was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD) at six years old.
"Being able to watch her experience has been helpful. I noticed how my coursework in college related to her learning and behavior support. Now that I've graduated from Temple, I see myself in a position of special education behavioral support."
White also had experience reading to her oldest brother, Brendan, which gave her a love for bonding with people over books.
Her relationship with her family is also the reason she chose to study at Temple University. The close proximity to her hometown in Norristown, Pennsylvania made the decision easy for her. By picking a school so close to home, she is able to spend as much time with her family as she desires, which aids in her personal experience with special education. Picking Temple, in Philadelphia, White says, was eye-opening.
"I can tell that Temple's education program really prides itself on the opportunities that they give students. We get first-hand experience working in inner city schools through classes, practicums, and student teaching field placements," says White.
One course that really stood out to White was Introduction to Special Education, which she took with Dr. Allison Gilmour. Not only did she learn more about the field of special education through this class, but she was also able to build a meaningful relationship with her professor. This allowed Gilmour to give White the opportunity to meet her daughter, who is hard of hearing.
Within Temple, she was also involved with Jumpstart Philadelphia, a national organization that promotes education equality for underprivileged neighborhoods. Additionally, she was on the executive board for A Moment of Magic, a foundation that provides creative programming to underserved children in Philadelphia. Both have further fueled her passion for education and taught her important leadership qualities.
White also spent a school year as a student teacher in a first-grade classroom at John Moffet School under the mentorship of Marita Anderson and Principal Rodney Johnson.
"We had students at a range of achievement levels. While some were ahead in their basic math skills, others still struggled with things like subtraction. My mentor taught me how to push all my students academically while still having a beautiful relationship with them where we could crack jokes and have fun," says White.
Thanks in part to these extensive field experiences, White says diversity and inclusivity will be at the root of her teaching philosophy in her own classroom.
White shares, "I want to champion students to find themselves authentically through the safe spaces that I provide for them in the classroom."
Five years from now, White sees herself having gained her master's degree in dance therapy so that she can combine her knowledge of early childhood special education with dance therapy and integrate it into her career.