For Debbie Davis, the advanced math teacher at Our Lady of Peace School in Clarks Green, teaching is more than counting. It’s about life’s lessons that change the way she and her students view the world around them.
She teaches in a creative way that makes math easier to grasp for her sixth through eighth grade students. She mentioned how she simplifies the math problems, does it in steps and then applies it to real life, using basketball scores, wins, losses, slam dunks and more.
The stock market game accounts for positive and negative numbers. Using money to relate to math is just one of the many ways a sometimes difficult subject can be made easier for Davis’ students.
“My students really get into it and anticipate all the games after hearing about them from my first class,” Davis explained.
But what has made the greatest impact on Davis is the four students she lost along the way. All four passed away while she was a teacher at St. Mary’s of Avoca for 20 years and at OLP over the past 10 years.
“There was this one boy who had bone cancer,” Davis recalls. “I was called to the principals office regarding some of my male students. When I arrived they were all wearing baseball caps. I immediately told them it wasn’t allowed thinking that’s why the principal called,” she recalled.
“Then to my surprise, they all grinned and took off their caps, and I realized they had all shaved their heads. I soon found out it was so the boy in their class, their friend, wouldn’t feel so alone in his battle. It still touches me until this day.”
And then there was Suzanne, a student who passed away from a deadly infection. Davis and her students planted a tree in her honor. She also asked her students to write down what they’d say if they could talk to Suzanne again. The kids shared their sentiments with Suzanne’s mom who was really touched by the whole process.
“It makes me a better teacher now. They were like children of my own even though I didn’t have a child at that time,” said Davis.
Another student, 12-year-old, Charlie, was a leukemia patient who made a great impact on Davis and his fellow students.
“He went out to dinner with his mother and when the waiter asked what he wanted to drink, he said wine. His mother asked the waiter for a few minutes. She explained to Charlie that he had to be 21. Charlie very matter-of-factly told his mother he wouldn’t live to see 21. He actually told her he was going to die that night but he’d let her know he was okay because he’d make it snow. He did die that night.
“I told this story to my eighth graders because they’re not always nice to each other. We agreed we’d have a mass for Charlie and invited his mother. On the way to the church, the students realized it had started snowing and reminded me that Charlie was just saying he was okay. It was a very emotional moment for me and my students,” Davis reflected.
Davis, who is married to George Davis and has a 13-year-old daughter, Harleigh, meets challenges head on, day by day. One of her biggest challenges is trying to find a median that suits everyone.
Davis also said she was thrilled to be a teacher of the month and the mom who nominated her, Kim Pavlick, has wonderful children.
“I feel like somewhere along the way I made a difference by what I said or did and, hopefully, improved or helped my students in a special way.”
Davis resides in Old Forge. She received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Lock Haven University and her master’s degree in elementary education from the University of Scranton.