Our Welcome To Sanford Teacher of the Week is Rachel Davis of West Lee Middle School. Ms. Davis is an eighth-grade science teacher and holds a Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts in Teaching from Austin Peay State University. Recently recognized as West Lee’s 2018-19 Teacher of the Year, Ms. Davis is a member of NSTA and Amnesty International.
Ms. Davis’ best teaching experience occurred when she worked at the Community Learning Center, an alternative school in Moore County. She recalls, “I had at times up to 13 students who were recommended to attend an intervention period from their home schools. These students had been placed at CLC for a variety of reasons that were always complex and sometimes unfortunate circumstances. Before working at CLC I had the common misconception that the kids at CLC were ‘bad’. This erroneous thinking was holding me back in my connecting with all my kids. The hard work that is alternative education was the best experience in shaping my philosophy of pedagogy.”
Ms. Davis’ goal is to have her students feel safe and confident enough to make mistakes commenting, “The authentic relationships developed with my students are important to the culture of my classroom. Then real learning begins and I set the bar as high as possible and the kids feel empowered to reach it.”
Ms. Davis’ original career plan was to go to law school, but as she studied for the LSAT, she took a job as a substitute teacher. Ms. Davis comments, “This was my ‘aha!’ moment. It was a sixth-grade class that I took on as a long-term substitute for a teacher on leave. Those six weeks were amazing. The kids became MY kids. Although it was the end of the school year and the students were very spirited, they helped me experience the pure joy that comes from learning with children.”
If someone who was considering a career in teaching asked Ms. Davis for some feedback, she says she would encourage them honestly, stating “I would ask them questions earnestly about their plans and provide sincere and frank answers regarding my experiences as a teacher. I would tell them that education is extremely hard but the payoff makes it the only industry I will ever work in.”