Emily Davis wanted to be a professional musician all her life. She started playing when she was three years old and even fulfilled a dream of playing at Carnegie Hall. Her Temple journey began as a music education major.
But as she checked off goal after goal, she realized her true passion was in teaching and working with students receiving or in need of special education support.
The Marlton, New Jersey native and undergraduate speaker at this year's College of Education and Human Development graduation ceremony, scheduled for Friday, May 12, says her passion is personal.
Growing up with a learning disability, Davis says school was a miserable place at times until she received her diagnosis: Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) and Decoding Deficit Disorder (DDD). APD is a disorder of the auditory system at the level of the brain, according to Nationwide Children's Hospital. The organization's website explains the disorder "causes a disruption in the way that an individual's brain understands what they are hearing." There are multiple types of APD, and Davis was identified as decoding difficulties. According to VocoVision, a company that provides services for schools and families, "decoding difficulties involve a lack of figuring out words that are spoken. [Individuals with DDD] hear the sounds, but their brains do not process them as words."
The diagnosis changed her life. She received an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and 504 Service Agreement, along with speech and hearing therapy for eight years, helping her live and thrive, she says, with APD and DDD.
It's the reason she became an early childhood education major and is on track to earn her master's in special education next year through the CEHD's accelerated master's program.
"My parents had to be really big advocates for me," said Davis. "The teachers I had weren't always prepared. I plan to advocate for students who have special needs."
Davis plans to eventually earn her doctorate in educational leadership and work as a school administrator so she can support other educators and help train them to support their students. Still, she vows to remain connected to the students and their families, attending school functions and engaging with the community to ensure strong communication and relationships.
As she thinks about her future, Davis reflects on how she got to this point. Her dad, Dan Davis, is a longtime Temple University mailroom employee. Her mom, Mimi Davis, owns a dry-cleaning business. Davis says they sacrificed a lot to support her music education and they fully expected her - their only child - to pursue her career in music. She says she was relieved to find they were fully supportive as she chased her passion.
"They know I'm going to have a job I love, and that's what they care about," Davis said. "As a child, you don't see what your parents do for you. Now, as an adult, I understand."
Coming to Temple, Davis says, changed her perspective on education. She says she received a "hands-on, raw experience. I don't think any other college would give me this raw insight into a successful career. Temple ensures you are prepared."
Specifically, Davis says assistant adjunct professor Mishel Williams has been a pivotal influence.
"She was real with us - the job is hard, but the work you do matters," Davis recalls Williams advising. "She taught me real life skills that I use in student teaching. What to do when your lesson plan derails. It's not what you teach, but how you teach it. Every kid is learning the same things, but how are you going to differentiate it for all learners?"
Davis keeps all this in mind when she's in the classroom. "Your tone and delivery matter. I can tell that the students absorb the vibe I give off, and they give it right back to me. Be engaged. If they're not enjoying it, you're wasting your time."
The connection and investment in her students go beyond academics.
"I know I am more than their teacher," Davis said. "I'm their therapist, best friend, support system. Not everyone will get A's, and that's okay. Sometimes a child's priority is not school. All they need is someone they can connect with."
Davis values that connection.
"I'm driven by purpose," she said. "I'm doing something for a reason - because it does something for others, there's a positive impact. With kids, you build relationships, and you show up for those kids every single day. You really own that classroom and it's your home."
Just a few years ago, Davis says, she was still working on correct pronunciation of words - since she couldn't hear them correctly, she was not saying them correctly. This resulted in a stutter due to lack of confidence. Now she looks forward with pride and purpose to standing on stage, not at Carnegie Hall, but at The Liacouras Center, where she will address her peers, reflecting on the impact of their individual journeys and inspiring her fellow graduates for a lifetime of impact on others.
Name: Emily Davis
Hometown: Marlton, NJ
Major: Early Childhood Education
On the Resume:
- BacheMartin Elementary School: Student Teacher
- BayardTaylor Elementary School: Practicum
- Temple University Facilities Management: Emergency Dispatch
- Delta Zeta Delta Tau Sorority: Vice president of Programs (2022), Vice President of Administration (2021)
- Kappa Delta Pi Education Honors Fraternity: President (20212022)
- Future Educators of Temple University: Social Media Coordinator (20202021)
- 2023 Lavonne Heghinian Scholarship award recipient (Delta Zeta Delta Tau Sorority)
- 2020 Charlotte Fields Silversteen chapter award recipient (Delta Zeta Delta Tau Sorority)
Favorite memory: Moving in with my roommates, who I met through my sorority, and they became my best friends. That was a big milestone - the next one will be moving out. I also loved bumping into my dad on campus - sometimes we would have lunch together.
Future plans: Continuing my accelerated master's plan and graduating with a master's in special education in May 2024.