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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

Celebrating 106 years

Former Sandston resident Mildred Taylor celebrated her 106th birthday Aug. 9. Taylor, who now lives in Powhatan, is still a member of Sandston Baptist Church. She was visited the day after her birthday by several members of the church, who played for her a recording of the entire church membership singing happy birthday to her during worship. > Read more.

YMCA breaks ground for aquatic center

YMCA officials gathered last week to break ground on the new Tommy J. West Aquatic Center at the Shady Grove Family YMCA on Nuckols Road. The center, which will featured 7,600 square feet of competitive and recreational space, including water slides, play areas for children and warmer water for those with physical limitations, is the fourth phase of a $4 million expansion at the facility. West was president and CEO of Capital Interior Contractors and a founding member of the Central Virginia Region of the Virginia Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors. > Read more.

Rotary donates to ‘Bright Beginnings’

The Sandston Rotary Club recently donated $1,000 to the Sandston YMCA for its Bright Beginnings program, which helps provide children in need with school supplies for the new school year. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


Enjoy the final days of summer with comedian Guy Torry, the Sam’s Club National BBQ Tour or mystery writer Mary Miley Theobald at Twin Hickory Library. Another great way to welcome the beginning of fall is to check out the UR Spider Football season opener with man’s best friend. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

Bottoms up

Short Pump brewery offers more than just beer
I am still (happily) thinking about my entire experience at Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery last week. Knowing nothing about this new brewery out of Denver, I was leery of brew-pub in the heart of Short Pump Town Center – this is not what I’d usually think of as a perfect fit, and yet, it was.

The restaurant and craft brewery opened in early June and features 10 beers made by female brewmaster Becky Hammond (pictured). This is the restaurant’s second location in Virginia; the first is in Arlington. Behind glass walls, customers watched the beer brewing in massive steel barrels. For our up-and-coming beer region, it makes sense that Short Pump would jump on board.

As I walked up to the back of the mall near the comedy club, I was taken aback by what I saw: at the top of the stairs was an overflowing restaurant with outdoor seating, large umbrellas and dangling outdoor lights. > Read more.

Cultural Arts Center announces 2014 fall class schedule

The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen is now registering participants for its fall 2014 schedule of classes.

The center will offer more than 100 classes for children and adults, covering topicssuch as culinary arts, fiber arts, visual and performance arts and more. Instruction is structured to appeal to a wide range of abilities, from beginners to experts of all ages. Class sizes are kept small to ensure maximum benefit for participants with generally no more than 15 students. > Read more.

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Henrico's Top Teachers