Emmaline Ellis

Emmaline Ellis, a PhD candidate in Temple University's College of Education and Human Development, draws upon her teaching experience and love of children's literature to promote research-informed best practices for early literacy.


Emmaline Ellis, a PhD candidate in Education with a concentration in Literacy and Learners, has always had a passion for teaching. After completing her MSEd and MSW, Emmaline became a kindergarten teacher in the School District of Philadelphia.

"I really loved my job," Ellis shared. "I was really excited about teaching kids to read and write." But Ellis said she felt she could be doing more to help her students master these skills.

As Ellis started exploring opportunities that would allow her to make research-informed decisions about best practices and expand her repertoire of instructional practices, she discovered the Literacy and Learners program in the College of Education and Human Development. She was immediately drawn to the program's focus, faculty and location.

"I wanted to still have that connection to the city. I felt—and still feel—really passionately that teachers need to be supported in low-income school districts so that they can help students make gains, especially in early literacy," Ellis explained.

This commitment to the local school district has continued throughout Ellis's time at Temple. As a graduate assistant, she worked with Jumpstart, a national organization that trains undergraduate students to help preschoolers in under-resourced communities develop literacy and social-emotional skills. Ellis helped Jumpstart staff collect data and develop their observational tools.

Ellis has also conducted her dissertation research in low-income preschools in the northeast. Her research focuses on how teachers engage with specific print features—like speech bubbles—to draw young students' attention to words. "Really young students need to have this idea that print has meaning—that when stories are being read aloud, adults aren't just making up a word."

Through her research, Ellis aims to emphasize what teachers are already doing as they use the picture books in their classrooms to advance students' literacy skills. She hopes that her study will also help teachers embrace additional instructional strategies that can provide even more comprehensive support for young readers.

Although research and practice have been central to her experiences at Temple, Ellis's time in her doctoral program has been enriched by her relationships with faculty and fellow students.

Ellis credited her advisor, Sabina Neugebauer, EdD, as a major influence during her time in the program. "She is so supportive, and she is constantly looking for opportunities for me to not only hone the skills that I came in with, but also giving me opportunities to expand my research experiences," Ellis said.

Ellis also valued the peer support she found in CEHD. In her first year, she was the only student to start the Literacy and Learners concentration, but by taking classes with students from other disciplines and programs, she found that she was able to feel a sense of community—even during the COVID-19 pandemic—as well as learn about other areas of research.

As Ellis prepares to defend her dissertation in June, she looks forward to a career in which she can maintain her connections to Temple and Philadelphia as well as continue her efforts to support teachers and early readers.

In August, Ellis will begin her first faculty appointment as an assistant professor in the College of Education and Social Work at West Chester University. She is excited about the opportunity to not only train pre-service educators, but also to continue her research on early literacy practices.

"The model at West Chester is a teacher-scholar model. Professors are encouraged to include their students in their research," Ellis shared. "So I'm really interested in involving my pre-service teachers in my research about early literacy practices in the classroom to help them gain a more critical eye." Ellis hopes this research experience will help teachers align their practices with research in ways that will promote student learning.

Through her research, practice and personal commitment to educating teachers and promoting early literacy, Ellis embodies CEHD's mission to improve others' lives through education.