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Henrico’s Top Teachers – Kenneth Davis

GED Instructor/Intervention Coordinator
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.”
Community

Lions Club donates backpacks to elementary school

The Richmond West Breakfast Lions Club (based in western Henrico) recently donated 59 backpacks to the Westover Hills Elementary School on Jahnke Road.

Above, club members display some of the backpacks prior to their distribution. > Read more.

Glen Allen student to perform at Carnegie Hall

Thanks to a first-place win in The American Protege International Vocal Competition 2014, Glen Allen High School student Matija Tomas will travel to New York City to perform at Carnegie Hall in December.

At the first-place winners recital in Weill Hall, Matija will perform Giacomo Puccini’s opera aria, “Chi il bel sogna di doretta.” She will perform with other vocalists from around the world and have the opportunity to win other awards and scholarships.

Locally, Thomas has performed with Richmond’s renowned Glorious Christmas Nights, Christian Youth Theatre, and WEAG’s Urban Gospel Youth Choir. > Read more.

Gayton Baptist Church dedicates new outreach center


The John Rolfe YMCA and Gayton Baptist Church have partnered in an effort to bring greater health and wellness opportunities to the community.

Through this partnership, the John Rolfe Y will run Youth Winter Sports programs, including basketball and indoor soccer, in Gayton’s newly renovated $5.5 million outreach center that features a new gymnasium, youth and teen space, social space with café, meeting space and full service commercial kitchen. > Read more.

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Entertainment

New Henrico biscuit shop thrives with grandmother’s recipe

Tim Laxton rises at 4:30 a.m. every day for a biscuit. But he’s not rushing out to any restaurant to get his favorite Southern comfort food; he’s baking his own from scratch and serving them up from his bakery on Lakeside Avenue.

Laxton opened Early Bird Biscuit Co. & Bakery in early July and since then biscuits have been flying out of there.

The self-taught baker draws hungry crowds in with a biscuit of the day like the Old Bay Cheddar, but the buttermilk biscuits are the staple.

“On a Saturday I generally make about 400 biscuits with my two hands,” Laxton said. “I’m constantly making biscuits all day long.” > Read more.

Restaurant watch

Find out how your favorite dining establishments fared during their most recent inspections by the Virginia Department of Health. > Read more.

CAT Theatre announces cast of Sherlock Holmes play

CAT Theatre’s 51st season will open with Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure, which will run from Oct. 24-Nov. 8. Adapted by Steven Dietz, it is based on the original 1899 play by William Gillette and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and was the winner of the 2007 Edgar Award for Best Mystery Play.

The plot follows what seems to be the end of the career of the world’s greatest detective as he is confronted with a case far too tempting to ignore. When the King of Bohemia faces blackmail by famed opera singer Irene Adler, Holmes and his faithful companion, Dr. Watson, find themselves falling into the trap of evil genius Professor Moriarty. As Holmes says, “The game is afoot Watson, and it is a dangerous one!” > Read more.

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