On Saturday, May 13, 2017, 181 students will participate in the School of Education’s diploma ceremony. They’ll apply their learning as teachers, counselors, school psychologists, researchers, school leaders, university faculty and education advocates as they pursue careers in a wide variety of educational fields. This week, we’re sharing just a few of these graduates’ stories.
Sam Davis has long known she wanted to be a teacher. With an intrinsic passion for making a difference, she believes educating and caring for young people is how she can help make the world a better place.
After completing her undergraduate degree at Christopher Newport University in 2015, she pursued an internship in CNU's admissions office and got to work on graduate school entrance exams and applications. But late that year, tragedy struck her family. Her mother was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer and just four months after that diagnosis, the cancer took her life.
In the meantime, Davis had been admitted to the William & Mary School of Education’s master’s program in secondary English education. “My mother passed away three weeks before I was due to begin classes,” she said. “I wanted nothing more than to stay at home and help my father care for my younger brothers, who were 17, 8 and 2 at the time.”
Her mother’s funeral, as difficult as it was, had the unexpected effect of propelling her to pursue her degree. Among the family, friends and community members who gathered for her mother’s service, she was surprised by how many of the teachers and educators who had worked with her and her brothers came to offer condolences. “These teachers did not attend because they had to, but because they genuinely wanted to be there,” said Davis. “After that, I knew I owed it to myself and my family to go to school and chase my dreams, not put my life on hold.”
As she began her studies at William & Mary, the biggest challenge was remaining resilient and motivated while dealing with the life-changing loss of her mother. “My mother was my confidant, my rock, my voice of reason, my best friend, and so much more,” she said. “When you lose a loved one, it is earth-shattering, but you have to make the choice to keep going.”
She focused on keeping herself healthy, mentally and physically, so that she could succeed in her studies. She attended grief counseling and sought the guidance of faculty members.
“I learned so much about myself,” she said. “Life has truly given me a run for my money this year, but I feel like I have come out on top. I pushed myself to my limits and made it through things I did not believe I was capable of doing.”
Davis will graduate on Saturday with a 3.9 GPA and a master’s degree in English education. She’s already accepted a job teaching English 9 and Photojournalism at New Kent High School in New Kent, VA. “If anything, my loss made me a more ambitious person,” she said. “My mother’s dream was always to see me continue my education, and for that reason I have worked tirelessly to make her proud.”