GSE PhD student Nicholas Emmanuele tells the students in his classroom he loves them at least once a week. While he used to say those three words only after a national tragedy, like a school shooting, he decided to make it a regular practice—because he means it.
And it’s not just students. Emmanuele loves people, especially when connecting with them about learning—something he does often through his work in Erie, Pennsylvania, as an English teacher and department chair in the Millcreek Township School District, and as an adjunct instructor at Gannon University.
His zeal for learning, teaching and connection permeates everything he does outside the classroom, including his participation in professional organizations. He serves as the president of the Pennsylvania Council of Teachers of English Language Arts and of the Literacy Association of Greater Erie, and as the associate chair of the Conference on English Leadership.
Emmanuele’s devotion to education also impacts his approach to social media. “I really like meeting people and learning things. And so, Twitter [now X] has been one of those amazing spaces where I’ve connected with people from all over … I think it has made me more aware of the profession,” he said.
“It’s talking with people, it’s building friendships—or at least professional friendships—if that’s a category of friendships, finding mentors, mentoring others,” he shared. “It’s expanding my network of connections and understanding of our field so I can do a better job in my day-to-day work with students."
The drive to continue learning and growing influenced his decision to pursue GSE’s curriculum, instruction and the science of learning PhD program in 2018. “I had done a couple of graduate certificates and two master’s degrees,” he explained. “And so, after a two-year wait, I was looking at the UB program, and I just knew I wanted to keep going. I like taking classes. I like learning. I like figuring things out.”
An online, part-time student, Emmanuele is now focused on his dissertation. Inspired by his professional and academic background in special education, he centers his research on how students with learning disabilities in reading accept, reject or navigate that label—a label placed on them by adults, a label some students do not initially know they have.
He cites faculty like Tiffany Karalis Noel, clinical assistant professor of learning and instruction and director of doctoral programs, and John Strong, assistant professor of learning and instruction, as mentors. “All of the professors have been great, whether through email, an asynchronous course or a synchronous course,” he said.
His advisor, Ryan Rish, associate professor of learning and instruction, has offered particularly helpful and constructive guidance throughout the dissertation process: “He’s been a wonderful support,” Emmanuele said. “He is very easygoing, really supportive, a great sounding board—and he always touches base when we need to.”
“Nick is, first and foremost, a thoughtful learner. He seeks to understand what is supporting and what is getting in the way of students and teachers flourishing,” said Rish. “In his research, Nick seeks to understand how students process and experience disability labels that are ascribed to them in the context of reading instruction. In his district and national leadership roles, he seeks to understand how institutional shifts can be made to support teaching and learning. Nick wants to understand in order to guide effective and lasting change.”
Looking to the future, Emmanuele hopes to finish his dissertation in 2024 and then continue his research independently after graduation. But, more than anything else, he still wants to help and work with students.
“I like working with students who are figuring out how to communicate differently, or better, and are developing as communicators, readers and writers,” he said. “I want people to feel comfortable and welcomed in school, where they feel like they can be successful and find ways that increase their sense of success.”