10-year path to greatness
College of Education graduate student and mother of five makes it to Commencement after 10 fulfilling years
By Briana Richert ’20 on December 14, 2019
Summer 2019 graduate Danielle Turner is set to walk the stage at the winter Commencement ceremony. Turner graduated from Towson University with Suma Cum Laude honors and a bachelor’s degree in elementary education in 2009. Ten years later, she’s graduating with her master’s degree in reading education.
Her journey with TU is far from over, though. Turner continues here at TU working as an adjunct instructor and project manager for the Towson branch EMPOWER project, a five-year, 2.2 million dollar grant meant to help students become certified in serving English language learners.
Within this decade of building her education and reaching goals to success, Turner has become triple-certified as an elementary educator, reading specialist and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) teacher. She has also served as team lead for three years in Anne Arundel County Public Schools, school STEM team lead at the Maryland State Department of Education conference, was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, began working as an adjunct instructor at TU in the Department of Special Education, and has had five children.
With all of these major achievements, Turner adds another to her list by being selected as the graduate speaker at the College of Education’s Commencement reception.
Transferring to TU her sophomore year, Turner quickly found her place. With a strong connection to COE faculty and staff members who continue to encourage her success, Turner was able to achieve her goals and complete her master’s degree.
“It was the best choice I could have made to come here once I knew I wanted to be a teacher and a teacher in Maryland,” Turner says. “I made so many great connections and they have such great faculty here.”
Halfway through the graduate program, Turner began to work on a new project of building her family. During this time, Turner took a pause from her education and from teaching to focus on family and raising her five children. But, it wasn’t too long before she returned to her professional goals, completing her degree while also working full time as project manager of the EMPOWER grant and raising a family.
“It definitely has required a lot of energy, but I feel like it’s also built a lot
of resilience in me to try new things,” she says.
With her work in the EMPOWER grant, Turner spends two days a week offering professional development and supporting the ESOL staff at their partner schools, Monarch Annapolis and Monarch Global. She works with instructors to promote literacy to English learners while also promoting and encouraging the use and literacy of their first language.
“We’re celebrating them as multilingual learners, celebrating that they have these assets of being fluent in another language, and trying to build their literacy in their first language alongside building their literacy in their second language, which I’m pretty passionate about.”
Turner emphasizes how important the encouragement and assistance from faculty and staff at the College of Education have been to her educational and professional path, with special thanks to Patricia Rice Doran, Turner’s mentor and the principal investigator for the EMPOWER grant, Betsy Neville, chair of the Department of Special Education and co-principal investigator of the EMPOWER grant, and Gilda Martinez-Alba, co-principal investigator and the college’s assistant dean.
“I had these strong, inspirational women who got me through it,” Turner says. “There’s this movement I feel across the College of Education where the professor’s role is to remove barriers to learning, to remove barriers to success for their students. Connecting students to opportunities and trying to look out for people who have unconventional paths. Everybody has a different path and we’ll help you get to yours.”
Turner’s success is also thanks to the support of her family. With their belief in her and with her desire to make them proud, Turner was able to return to her education and her work, achieving and balancing everything with the inspiration from her loved ones.
“It just feels like a dream come true, because I’m the first person in my family to get their master’s,” she says. “I feel really proud. I hope my kids remember, however hard your dream is, whatever it is, it’s worth just continuing to work at it.
“It really upset me when I didn’t think I was going to finish [my degree]. So, it feels really crazy that it actually happened, and that, as a result, I see all of these other opportunities in my future that weren’t there before. So, I just hope that my kids have that inspiration.”
What will she do next? Turner’s long-term plan is to continue her work here at TU and see where her path takes her.
“My goal is to grow here at Towson, because I’ve been given so much support and so many opportunities here that I am looking forward to seeing what opportunities continue to grow,” Turner says. “I’m just very proud to be an alumna and to still be a part of Towson.”