Davia Brown-Franklyn, GSE ‘97 and Senior Director of Partnerships at the Bank Street Education Center, didn’t grow up with dreams of becoming an educator, even though her grandmother had predicted she would be a teacher when she was six years old.
“I fought [my grandmother] tooth and nail,” she says. Davia majored in business at Ithaca College and worked in advertising after graduation. But education remained an important part of her life. She tutored students at PS 65 Mother Hale School in the Bronx and hosted tours of historically black colleges for high school students during spring breaks.
So when Davia discovered that a local school was looking to hire career-changers and decided to pursue teaching, she realized that education was indeed what she wanted to do with her life. It was, in her words, “a calling.”
She then applied for a conditional teaching license and began her education career as a 3rd grade teacher at PS 65 in Brownsville, Brooklyn. Her principal, Margot Spielberg, recommended that she look into Bank Street for her masters degree. Both of them agreed that Bank Street’s teacher practitioner program aligned well with Davia’s beliefs in progressive education, but she was concerned that it was financially beyond her reach.
However, Davia not only applied to and was accepted to Bank Street, she was also selected as the recipient of the DeWitt Wallace Reader’s Digest Fund scholarship, which allowed her to embark on a life-changing experience as an educator.
“[Receiving the scholarship] meant an opportunity to be educated at a prestigious private institution that has a history and an opportunity to offer [Bank Street] my diverse perspective as a woman of color and an urban NYC teacher,” she says.
Davia eagerly dived into her coursework at Bank Street while simultaneously working at NYC Lab School, where she worked in expeditionary learning teams. She describes her Child Development and Observation and Recording classes as particularly formative experiences–they provided her with the knowledge of how children behave at certain ages and how to meaningfully observe the interactions between students and teachers in a classroom, skills that she continues to use in her work today
After graduating from Bank Street and having her first child, Davia began working as a faculty advisor within the Graduate School. Through the Division of Continuing Education, she also provided coaching and professional development workshops to middle school educators so that they could work more effectively with young adolescents.
Davia then became the Director of Teaching and Learning at Newark Educators Community Charter School, spearheading the hiring and training of all staff along with fellow Bank Street graduate and principal Dina Velez, GSE ’05. She also supervised Pre-K-2nd grade teachers, and offered professional development support for teachers in multiple content areas by helping them understand the Common Core shifts.
Davia’s Bank Street education and her experience as a school leader and project manager prepared her well for her current position as Senior Director of Partnerships at Bank Street Education Center (“Ed Center”). Founded in 2014, the Ed Center provides school systems with guidance and services to develop and spread strong teaching practices across schools and has partnered with districts including Newark Public Schools, New Haven Public Schools, and the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE).
Currently, Davia leads the Ed Center’s partnership work with NYCDOE and its Pre-K for All initiative, which aims to offer free, high-quality, full-day pre-K to every four-year-old across the five boroughs. The Ed Center provides citywide training sessions and ongoing site based coaching to pre-K teachers in two areas essential to creating quality pre-K environments: social-emotional learning and the Building Blocks math curriculum.
“This is an amazing opportunity to have Bank Street supporting teachers and leaders in early childhood schools through coaching and citywide training,” Davia says. “Bank Street belongs in the conversation and has a rich history of creating appropriate early childhood classroom environments and working with all kinds of educators.”
Davia also led the Ed Center’s work with New Haven Public Schools earlier this year to conduct a review of the district’s early childhood practices and policies. Throughout the project, she and the Ed Center worked collaboratively with educators and administrators from the Graduate School of Education and the Center for Emotionally Responsive Practice, as well as several Bank Street alumni. They included Gabriel Guyton, GSE ‘10; Tarima Levine, GSE ‘01 and Director of Content Development at the Ed Center; Nancy McKeever, GSE ‘76, acting chair of the General Teacher Education Department for the Graduate School, Kristina Satchell, GSE ‘13, and Allyx Schiavone, GSE ‘94 and current Executive Director of the Friends Center for Children in New Haven.
Working closely with other Bank Street alums was a positive experience for Davia. “Having an opportunity to norm with alums about what ‘good’ looks like together helped us to see the importance of our Bank Street roots of child development and developmentally appropriate curriculum,” she says. “We were able to widen our knowledge base and bring expertise from multiple sources.”
Davia looks forward to continuing to develop partnerships with school districts across the country as part of her work at the Ed Center, including one with Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) this fall to help develop and facilitate a professional learning curriculum for CMSD’s principal supervisors.
And in the end she knows her grandmother was right all along. “I didn’t choose [education],” Davia says. “It chose me.”