(M.A., Interdisciplinary Studies)
Like many children who dream of becoming teachers, Brittany Davis converted her bedroom into a classroom and recruited her siblings to play the part of students.
But there was nothing bossy in Davis’s role play – nor has there ever been since.
“I don’t see myself as the person in command of a classroom,” says Davis. “I see myself as a servant to my students. I want to be the person to give them the knowledge that they need, but also encourage them and uplift them and let them know they have a chance and opportunity to go further in life.”
A Bill and Melinda Gates Millennial Scholarship enabled Davis herself to become the first member of her family to attend college. She earned an undergraduate teaching degree at Spelman College in Atlanta and then decided to pursue her master’s degree at TC, because she felt the College – and New York City – would prepare her to become a fourth- or fifth- grade teacher “in ways I wouldn’t experience anywhere else in the United States.”
"I want to be the person to give them the knowledge they need, but also encourage them and uplift them and let them know they have a chance and opportunity to go further in life."
— Brittany Davis
She has particularly embraced the College’s commitment to social justice, volunteering on behalf of underprivileged clients served by Broadway Community, a Morningside Heights non-profit. “We are students in a Columbia graduate school, but we are also part of the community and we care about that community,” she says. And she is grateful for the flexibility TC has given her to “create an interdisciplinary program that has enabled me to study in multiple departments.”
Ultimately, opportunity and flexibility are mutually reinforcing, she believes, because teachers can best help young students when they recognize their individual differences. For example, in her TC thesis, in which she observed 90 Lower Manhattan second graders during recess for six weeks, Davis found that girls generally responded to adversity verbally while boys resorted to physical retaliation.
Davis is now in the midst of applying for teaching positions in New York City. Wherever her future students may be, they are a lucky group, because – as Davis puts it – “anything I do will be grounded and rooted in service.” – Steve Giegerich
Read about TC's 2018 Convocation ceremonies.