Davana Jackson-Robertson grew up at CEID. Known as “Toukie” when she was a child, Davana started at the Center in 1996 when she was just 16 months old and has stuck around (more or less) ever since.
“CEID was pretty much my second family,” Davana admits.
From her introduction to CEID as a toddler, Davana has since worked as a volunteer, an intern, and now is a full-time member of CEID’s staff as a Teacher’s Aide.
Davana’s personal experience helps her make a special connection with CEID’s current students and their parents. The preschoolers can see that Davana understands how to navigate the world through firsthand knowledge of some of the challenges that can come with being Deaf or Hard of Hearing. This connection shows Davana that at CEID, everyone is treated the same.
“They treat me the same as every other person. And that’s all I want, to be treated equally as all of our kids should be treated.”
CEID co-founder Jill Ellis remembers Davana from her early days at the Center. Ellis notes that while Davana was a preschooler nearly two decades ago, her experience likely wasn’t too different from the exemplary care that CEID students get today.
“Davana’s experience at CEID in the 1990’s was quite similar to that of the students enjoying their mornings in our creative classrooms today. Her teachers were extremely talented and committed,” said Ellis.
However, while CEID staff knew how vital early education was to children in the 1990s, education professionals did not have the research we have today. Ellis points out that “We now have proof that early intervention unequivocally substantiates how important a child’s quality learning environment is to his or her overall brain development and social development during the first four years of life.”
CEID is such an integral part of Davana’s story that she struggles to imagine what her life might look like without the Center.
“I would be scared to know what my life would be like without CEID because it’s my safety net,” said Davana.
Davana’s mother, Chidori, agrees, noting her disappointment in how unhelpful the medical community at large was in treating a child who was D/HH. In contrast, the staff at CEID saw Davana as an individual, worthy of the best care possible, not just another statistic.
“CEID provided a holistic approach to our family as a unit, targeting each one of our family members where they were and providing community support, and more importantly, smiles and understanding every morning we came through the door,” said Chidori.
For all that CEID has given to Davana, the popular Teacher’s Aide has given just as much back by being a positive influence for students, a dedicated colleague to co-workers, and a steady presence for parents new to understanding raising a child who is Deaf or Hard of Hearing.
“I find myself sharing the same pride in her accomplishments as I do with my own children,” said Ellis. “She is poised, confident, and truly has a unique ability to appreciate every child and parent and help them through this important journey,” said Ellis, adding “and she still allows me to call her Toukie!”
Now “Sheltering in Place” due to COVID-19, Davana’s day-to-day life has changed dramatically but her commitment to CEID’s students remains as strong as ever. “I have been working from home, providing families with projects to do with their child(ren) both documented and videoed,” Davana wrote from her home in Berkeley where she is sheltering with her family.
In addition to the enacting a distance learning curriculum, Davana explained, “I have Facetimed a few students just to let them know their teachers are still here and we miss them terribly.”
Even in trying times, or maybe especially during these circumstances, Davana finds comfort in her extended CEID family, sharing, “another reason I love CEID [is that] despite surprising hardship on everyone we are able to support each other at this critical time.”
CEID 90's Kids: Nia, Jimmy, Daniel, Madi, Toukie, and Rafa