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Arkansas State University

Dual-degree Holder Ahna Davis Inspires Learning

Leading 800+ ninth-graders to success is all in a day’s work for Ahna Davis. The newly appointed principal of Cabot Freshman Academy paid her dues as teacher and coach to advance to this point in her career.

She also added two degrees that paved the way for a career in school administration: a Master of Science in Education in Educational Leadership online (2011) and an Ed.S. in Educational Leadership, Superintendency online (2014) from Arkansas State University.

The master’s degree kick-started Davis’ career in school administration, while the specialist degree enriched it.

Ahna Davis, principal at Cabot Freshman Academy

Building Blocks

Davis began her career as a teacher and athletic coach in 1995 when she graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Arkansas. She served in this capacity for many years for Cabot Public Schools. Her progression to the role of academic coach implementing curriculum standards enabled her to gain a new perspective on administration. Davis then began exploring graduate degree options to further her career.

“I was excited when I heard A-State was opening up the educational leadership online program,” Davis said. “I thought to myself, ‘I’m going to be one of the first ones to jump on it.’ I’m glad that I did because it helped pave the way to get my Specialist [degree].”

Not long after graduating with her master’s degree, Davis accepted the assistant principal position at Cabot Junior High and later at the newly opened freshman academy in 2014, both in Cabot, Arkansas.

When the principal role opened in 2018, Davis had both the experience and education that made her the ideal candidate.

“Now that I’m a principal, my specialist degree comes into play because I’m having to see things more on a district level as opposed to just a building level. The degree gives me an understanding when my superintendent talks about budget or enrollment within the district,” said Davis. “I understand it because of my classes through A-State.”

E-learning Made Easy

Ahna Davis earned her master's degree and education specialist degrees online at Arkansas State

Davis recognized the potential of graduate and post-graduate education to open doors for her. But she knew that convenience was key to her pursuit of advanced degrees.

“I needed something that was flexible,” she said. “Something that would allow me to have a good degree and help me be successful in actually getting the job.”

She discovered a number of advantages to earning the degrees online.

“I appreciated the convenience and ease of the programs,” she said. “I liked that I could work at my own pace to get my assignments done. Especially because I had a busy schedule, that’s something I wanted and needed. And, because it is online, I could access it anywhere and do it anywhere.”

The video lectures made it possible for Davis to learn when and where it suited her. Through comment posting and online chatrooms, she could contribute and engage with classmates and faculty in open dialogue.

“I like the fact that there were classes with quite a few people, and we got to see so many different viewpoints,” she said. “That was great in regard to discussion.”

One professor in particular, Dr. Jackie McBride, made a lasting impression.

“Dr. McBride was in charge of my internship and also a couple of other classes,” said Davis. “She is really positive and very knowledgeable. She was always available to answer any questions I had.”

The online format, engaging interactions and faculty support all added up to a rich learning experience for Davis.

“The programs were both flawless and challenging,” she said. “I learned a lot. I’m so glad I pursued them.”

Law to Leadership

Though Davis knew education was her calling, her interest in law led her to enroll in the education master’s program and law school simultaneously.

“As I pursued law school and got through that first year, a counselor said that I would have to quit being a teacher and quit education, in general, if I was serious about law. That bothered me. So I said, ‘No. Law school is not for me. I’m going to continue and finish this leadership degree instead.'”

The brief exposure to law cemented Davis’ belief that education was where she belonged.

“I don’t regret it,” she said. “I learned a lot from my law school days, but I knew that education was the route I needed to take.”

Natural Born Leader

“Our whole philosophy here at the Cabot Freshman Academy is ‘Students First,'” said Davis. “We nurture them emotionally, socially and academically.”

The school’s student-centric environment is nurturing of her team of dedicated teachers, too.

“We’re very close-knit and very student- and staff-oriented. We work closely together and meet every week to discuss our kids and figure out what we need to do to improve our school.”

Though the road to principalship was long, Davis knows she is right where she belongs.

“I have a thousand people under my roof whom I have to oversee every day. Some people would be scared of it, but not me. I see it as a welcome challenge,” she said. “This is something I love and embrace.”

Learn more about A-State’s MSE in Educational Leadership and Ed.S in Superintendency.

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