Sue Davis and her husband, Rod, were the first members of the School’s Dean’s Leadership Council, which honors alumni and friends who lead by example with their gifts to the School. “I support the School of Education because it serves an important mission: to create powerful mentors and educational leaders for our region. The work of the School, particularly through its strong teacher education program, touches thousands and thousands of lives.”
With scenes from Mr. Holland’s Opus still playing in her head, Sue Davis (Credential ’73) approached her final year of teaching the same way she begins every school year: with a determination to “rethink and retool everything” to ensure that her students learn.
“Every year, I watch that movie before the school year starts because in it, the main character realizes that if a student is not learning, it is his failing, not the student’s,” said Davis. “If one of my students can’t master something I am teaching, I just have to think of a better way to teach it.”
Now after 37 years of teaching, Davis has given herself permission to move out of the classroom. She will retire in June from Deterding Elementary School in Carmichael, CA. She plans to volunteer with an outdoor education organization.
“I have said every year, I can’t quit until I get it right, but teaching is something you can never master,” she said.
And according to Davis, that’s half the fun. “A teacher should
treat each day as a new opportunity to learn. Your students are
definitely your best guides. I try to bring in their interests as
well as my own to keep
learning fresh and fun, and I try to connect learning to the bigger world,” said Davis.
“My fondest memory is of watching a student from my first year of teaching walk across his high school stage at graduation to receive the valedictorian award,” she said. “When I taught him in first grade, he spoke no English. His keen sense of humor and extraordinarily detailed art hinted at his future potential.”
Davis, who teaches third grade at a school where art plays a central role in the curriculum, believes that art and hands-on projects unlock students’ creativity and enthusiasm for learning. This year, Davis’ students raised crayfish and steelhead, created art and poetry based on a field trip to the Marin Headlands, and acted out scenes from novels they are reading. All of the artwork they create out of class is integrated into their social studies, science and language arts lessons.
“There are an infinite number of ways to improve understanding by embedding lessons within the arts,” she said. She even requires her students to explain how they solve math problems through pictures and written explanations.
“It is always a delight and a privilege to move a child toward greater understanding and wisdom. To see the light go on and to observe those ‘ah hah’ moments is really exciting. I’m going to miss it,” said Davis.