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.”
To help celebrate twenty years of service to advocating for abused and neglected children in Henrico County, Henrico Court Appointed Special Advocates, Inc. (CASA) will host an evening with bestselling author K.L. Randis on Tuesday, Aug. 26, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Belmont Recreation Center in Lakeside.
Randis is best known for her bestselling novel, Spilled Milk, which tells her painful – but ultimately triumphant – personal story of abuse and of child abuse prevention. The book is her first novel.
The Ambassador of the Philippines to the United States Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. attended the Ninth Annual Filipino Festival at Our Lady of Lourdes Church earlier this month. Cuisia (pictured above with festival performers) was welcomed by County Manager John Vithoulkas and Brookland District Supervisor Dick Glover (below) at the church, which is located in Lakeside.
While enjoying some of the cultural performances at the festival, the ambassador and his wife had a private lunch with Vithoulkas, Glover, Eldon Burton (an outreach representative from U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner’s Office) and Father James Begley, the pastor of OLL. > Read more.
Hundreds of spectators filled the banks of the James River to watch two dozen teams of competitors in the Walgreen’s Richmond International Dragon Boat Festival at Rocketts Landing Aug. 2. The event included a number of races, as well as several cultural performances. The sport is billed as the fastest growing water sport in the world.(Photo by Roger Walk for the Henrico Citizen) > Read more.
‘Fire and Rescue’ proves too predictable, boring
Planes: Fire and Rescue opens with a dedication to the hero firefighters of the world. It’s an admirable notion, and it makes sense, given that this is a film about planes that fight fires.
But here it might be a little out of place, as Planes: Fire and Rescue has a few things on its mind besides supporting the men and women who routinely throw themselves into burning buildings.
Like money. Lots and lots of money – into the 11-figures-and-counting range. In case you weren’t aware, 2006’s Cars was the biggest moneymaker Disney had in decades – not because of how much green the film printed at the box office, but because a combination of toys, games and snack foods stamped with the Cars seal of approval routinely pulls in tens of billions of dollars per year. > Read more.
This weekend in Henrico, you can learn about fall herbs or mad science. Enjoy some laughs from West End Comedy or Three-Penny Theatre’s production of “The Rivah Home Companion.” For music lovers, Jennifer Nettles is in concert tonight and the fifth annual GWAR-B-Q takes place tomorrow at Hadad’s Lake. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
Find out how your favorite dining establishments fared during their most recent inspections by the Virginia Department of Health. > Read more.
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Aug. 6, 2014Click here to read the print edition.
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