Louisiana native David Knight never lost sight of what was truly important to him during his year at the Ed School. Even though his goals in enrolling in the Prevention Science and Practice Program (PSP) were to improve his research skills and broaden his knowledge in the key areas of restorative practices and adolescent literacy, he made sure to have time for the kids.
“It’s easy to get into the grind of academia and research,” he says, “but continuing my work in youth development helped me to stay focused on why I came to HGSE and for whom I was advocating.”
In fact, he kept inspired, he says, by staying connected to young people and communities that he cares about. This is a connection that he knows will remain after graduation, as he plans to return to teaching on the middle or high school levels, and continue his youth development work.
“David Knight is a true gem in the Prevention Science and Practice Program,” says Lecturer Mandy Savitz-Romer, director of PSP. “His classmates insist that his passion and intellectual curiosity have enhanced their learning, but also set a high bar for others in PSP, and the HGSE community. He accomplishes this not through quantity of interaction, but through the quality and sincerity with which he engages others. I am counting on the fact that David's strong intellect, and commitment social justice and equity will create a ripple effect in whatever school community he enters. That is certainly what happened here this year.”
Upon learning that he had been honored with the Intellectual Contribution/Faculty Tribute Award for SSP, Knight answered some questions about his time at the Ed School and beyond.
Favorite class? Professor Meira Levinson’s class on civic identity and education really pushed me intellectually and professionally. Not only did the class connect many of my diverse interests, but it also challenged me to rethink the way I thought about the interplay between identity, education, and citizenship. The content ranged from political philosophy to sociology to practical educational materials, and I was encouraged to be very intentional in my analysis and use of evidence. I often reflect and draw on my learning in this class, and I made some lifelong friends there!
Are there any professors who significantly shaped your experience at the Ed School? Professor Robert Selman always had my back while I wrestled with a range of ideas and questions, and he helped me think of how to integrate them. Professor Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot reminded me that my own life and story are crucial to my work as an educator. Professor Levinson was always willing to engage with the hard questions, the “what if” questions, and to encourage me to do my best intellectual work. [Adjunct Lecturer] Linda Nathan has expertly modeled strength with flexibility as a school leader and practitioner, and she has really supported my efforts as a teacher. And, Professor Hiro Yoshikawa has been a great mentor; he was instrumental in helping me craft my research project on adolescence in context and trusted that it would develop into something meaningful. Thank you all!
What advice do you have for next year’s students going through your program? You’ve got to have a “crew” while you’re here. These are the people who support, inspire and challenge you to think in new ways and to be better. These are the people who are not necessarily in your same program and who may not share your same interests. These are the people who make you laugh at appropriate and inappropriate moments. These are the people who encourage you when you’re down or who tell you about an opportunity you should seek out. These are your best friends. I would not have had the experience that I’ve had this year without them.
What is something that you learned at HGSE that you will take with you throughout your career in education? To never, not ever, lose your sense of humor in doing this important work. Always be willing to laugh with others; it builds community.