Henrico’s Top Teachers – Kenneth Davis
By Patty Kruszewski, Citizen Managing Editor (Photo by Robert Thomas for the Henrico Citizen) 02/16/12
A high school dropout who struggled with a learning disability, Kenneth Andre Davis says that he became a GED teacher because he understands what it’s like to feel less than smart.
Although he persevered – enrolling at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College and eventually graduating from University of Richmond – he never forgot how it was to be pegged as “lazy or slow.”
He also never forgot the teachers who helped him through, especially a middle school teacher named Ms. Shaw. “She was hard on me,” he says, “which I didn’t appreciate then, but certainly did later on.”
Originally planning to become a sportswriter, Davis obtained a degree in communications, and was preparing to take on an internship at the Richmond Times Dispatch. But in the meantime, he had begun substitute teaching at different schools.
“It wasn’t until I subbed at Henrico High School, the school that I dropped out of, that I caught the teaching bug,” says Davis, “despite not teaching anything up to that point in my life.” When the principal asked him to take over the GED program temporarily, Davis found himself accepting the position despite his misgivings.
Five years later, he feels fortunate that he has found teaching. “I didn’t know that I wanted to teach,” he says, “although I always knew that I wanted to make a difference.”
As a GED teacher, he strives to help his students see that high school isn’t for everybody, and to know that the type of diploma a person gets does not define them. “It’s what you decide to do with the diploma,” he says, “that truly determines the key to your success.”
To drive the point home, Davis displays in his classroom a board with photos of GED graduates from his previous classes, as well as a board displaying pictures of famous people who have obtained their GED.
It’s clear from the words of the students and colleagues who wrote to nominate Davis as a top teacher that he has succeeded in imparting his message.
One former student credited Davis with helping him not only to receive a diploma, but also a scholarship to college. Others wrote that after obtaining their GEDs they went on to careers in the military, in nursing, and in other professions – often with Davis’ help on their resumes and the job hunt.
“He always told his students to overcome any obstacle that they have had in life,” said one student, “because he went through the same obstacles, but now he is a college graduate. “
The fact that Davis was once in their position, however, is just one of the reasons that his students find him inspiring.
“I wanted to learn in his class because of the vibe this guy gives to a classroom,” said one student. “Even the most hard-headed of students that hate school [get motivated], because after class you’ve learned more than [in] a week high school.”
“He is fun-loving and a loving teacher,” said another student. “He has the compassion and heart. He [puts himself] in his student’s situation and makes us know that we are a phone call away from him.”
“He treats all his students with the same respect he gives any other adult,” wrote another former student. “He never made us feel like we were young and immature like most teachers do. He never judged me . . . and even though I am young and married with a son, he helped me to realize my life doesn’t stop there but may continue to get better with my education. “
“He always pushed me and never gave up on me nor my classmates,” said a student. “Without Mr. Davis I would not be where I am today.”
A colleague of Davis’ wrote to say that he has never missed a GED graduation ceremony. While at Tucker H.S., he had the highest GED passing rate of all the teachers; he has also had the highest number of students take advantage of the college scholarship offer for GED recipients.
“He believes in his students,” said his colleague, “and in turn they start believing in themselves.”
Both Davis and his colleague cite the case of a recent GED graduate as an example of what can be accomplished once a student acquires that belief.
Even before the student entered his program, Davis had heard about him from other teachers – “and let’s just say that they weren’t singing his praises,” he recalls, noting that the student had been described as hyper, disruptive, and disrespectful.
What’s more, by his third year at Tucker, the student had acquired exactly zero credits.
In spite of his reputation, Davis was determined to give the boy a clean slate, and before long they had found common ground in their music and fashion tastes. According to Davis, they simply “clicked,” and the boy began to improve in “leaps and bounds.”
Within nine months in the program the young man was able to make up four years, says Davis, “due to his work ethic and strong belief in himself.”
Now a freshman at Stratford University majoring in culinary arts, the former student invited Davis to his college orientation, where Davis says he found himself reminiscing about that “disrespectful, disruptive young man who went through two years of high school without a credit.”
That’s the beauty of his job, says Davis, and the source of his passion to teach.
“Right before your eyes, you watch their apathy turn into unbridled interest,” he says, “and a once-resistant student turn into a willing and engaging one.”
More than 300 participants took the plunge for charity Feb. 25 at The Shops at Willow Lawn, raising $40,000 for the Special Olympics of Virginia as part of the 2017 RVA Polar Plunge Fest. Participants jumped into frigid water as part of the event, having raised money through donations leading up to the event.
“At Special Olympics Virginia, our vision is to inspire the first unified generation; a generation of people who respectfully include each other in the school, in the workplace, in the community,” said Rick Jeffrey, Special Olympics Virginia President. “Plunging this past Saturday included people with intellectual disabilities and those without; people of all ages, genders, races and religions; students and teachers; doctors and lawyers; military and law enforcement; one for all; all for one." > Read more.
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“It's in the Bag” included handbag designer Thaddeus DuBois and his family from Syracuse, Ind. DuBois brought four handcrafted handbags, which were auctioned off and raised more than $4,000. Three autographed handbags from “Sex and the City” star Sarah Jessica Parker also brought funds. > Read more.
Citizen Staff Reports 02/28/2017 Features
Above, Varina’s Andre Watkins drives to the basket during the Blue Devils’ 52-51 win against Hampton in the Group 5A third-place game at Hermitage High School Feb. 25. Below, Tyrese Jenkins drives to the basket during the game. The Blue Devils (21-6 on the season), who earlier last month defeated Hermitage, 53-34, to earn a spot in the 5A state tournament, next will face Albemarle in that tournament. It is the program’s first trip to the state tournament since 2001 and first under fourth-year coach Andrew Lacey, who has turned around a team that was 6-14 during his first season. > Read more.
For the past two months, they showed up every day at the state Capitol, dressed in matching blazers and carrying pen and paper at the ready – the next generation of public servants carefully observing their superiors.
These young adults are known as pages. They are middle school and high school students from around Virginia who assist in everyday tasks at the General Assembly to experience firsthand how the legislative process works.
The program dates as far back as 1850, when the one page who worked was paid $2 a day. > Read more.
Citizen Staff Reports 02/27/2017 Features
The Capital Region Land Conservancy (CRLC) is seeking to raise $100,000 in 30 days to cover due diligence and closing costs associated with the historic Malvern Hill Farm. These include boundary survey, Phase I ESA, title search and insurance, recording fees, taxes, and legal work as well as a Section 106 review.
CRLC is scheduled to close on the purchase of the property May 31, and is asking community members to help support the site's acquisition. All donations will help CRLC leverage $1 million in matching funds. > Read more.
St. Joseph's Villa’s Flagler Housing & Homeless Services was one of three entities to earn the National Alliance to End Homelessness' Champion of Change Award. The awards were presented Nov. 17 during a ceremony at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.
NAEH annually recognizes proven programs and significant achievements in ending child and family homelessness.
Flagler completed its transition from an on-campus shelter to the community-based model of rapid rehousing in 2013, and it was one of the nation's first rapid re-housing service providers to be certified by NAEH. > Read more.
Richmond International Raceway's 13th annual Community Christmas tree lighting has been rescheduled from Dec. 6 to Monday, Dec. 12, at 6:30 p.m., due to inclement weather expected on the original date.
Entertainment Dec. 12 will be provided by the Laburnum Elementary School choir and the Henrico High School Mighty Marching Warriors band. Tree decorations crafted by students from Laburnum Elementary School and L. Douglas Wilder Middle School will be on display. Hot chocolate and cookies will be supplied by the Henrico High School football boosters. > Read more.
Given the warm weather lately, Saturday’s RVA Polar Plunge Winter Fest, benefiting Special Olympics Virginia, might actually be enjoyable! Other weekend events you’re sure to enjoy include the 14th annual Richmond Kids Expo at the Richmond Raceway Complex, the Richmond Symphony and The Taters in concert at The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen, and the Richmond Ballet Minds in Motion Team XXL performing at the Henrico Theatre. This is also the last weekend to check out HATTheatre’s production of “Bill W. and Dr. Bob.” For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
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CalendarBig Brothers Big Sisters will host its annual fundraiser Bowl for Kids’ Sake from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at AMF Sunset Lanes, 6540 W. Broad St. To register, visit http://tinyurl.com/RichmondBowl2017. Full text