Q&A with APT's September Teacher of the Month

Q&A with APT's September Teacher of the Month

Learn how Willie Davis manages parent expectations while cultivating curiosity in the classroom.

By Hazel McLaughlin

Willie Davis has been a K-12 educator for 11 years. While he’s taught 1st through 4th grade in the past, one lucky kindergarten class in Bessemer, Alabama is learning from him today. 

Always in search of ways to improve his teaching, solve classroom problems, and engage with other educators, Davis said he’s in the process of completing APT’s K-12 Teacher Certification, a self-paced course utilizing APT and PBS LearningMedia resources to enhance lessons.

Davis’s favorite subject to teach at Charles Hard Elementary School is reading and language arts, but when he was younger, his dreams leaned more toward criminal justice. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a police officer. I wanted to be able to help people and put ‘bad guys’ away in jail,” he said.

In the end, Davis did end up helping people. His passion for connecting with his students and partnering with their parents has impacted so many young minds.

Read our interview with Mr. Davis to learn how he manages parent expectations while cultivating curiosity in the classroom.

How did you get started in education?

I was planning to major in history. During my senior year of high school, I was afforded the opportunity to participate in the Executive High School Internship program. Since I didn't have a vehicle, I was placed at the elementary school next door to my high school. I enjoyed the experience so much that I decided to major in elementary education. I continued to volunteer at the elementary school my first two years of college and worked at a preschool my first year of college. After graduating, I worked as a substitute teacher and eventually became a classroom teacher.

What's a common misconception about your job?

That teachers get summers off. Many teachers use the summer to engage in professional learning, take summer courses, and work in their classroom to prepare for the upcoming school year.

What's your favorite part of your job?

My students. I love seeing their growth over the course of a school year. I love working with families and colleagues to meet the needs of students.

What is your approach to teaching students?

My approach to teaching students is meeting them where they are. Children come to school on various levels and with various abilities. They don’t all learn the same way and can’t be taught the same way. I tailor instruction to meet their academic, social, and emotional needs. I ensure instruction meets the needs of auditory, visual, and tactile/kinesthetic learners. I  make sure I am addressing IEP/504 needs. I also make sure I am giving them opportunities to learn from one other.

How do you stay motivated in the classroom?

My students and their improvement motivate me. When I see their growth and mastery, I’m motivated to work harder. Students are also motivated to work harder when they see they are getting better at something.

How do you manage parent expectations?

I strongly believe in home-school partnerships. I manage parent expectations by maintaining open and honest communication, seeing families as allies or partners in education, and giving families opportunities to be involved. I send out surveys at the beginning of the year. Families are given the opportunity to tell me their hopes or expectations for their child that year. I use this, along with other information, to create goals for the student. I keep families updated with their child’s progress and provide strategies and support that they can use at home to assist their child.

What advice would you share with people who are interested in becoming a teacher?

Teaching is a very noble profession. It might not be one of the highest paid professions, but it’s very rewarding. As a teacher, you can change the world and transform the community that you serve in. There can be some challenges at times, but the good outweighs the bad.

What advice would you give a first time teacher?

Find a mentor. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t think you have to know it all. Even experienced teachers don’t know it all. Don’t get involved in the politics of education. Keep your students as your focus. Never stop learning!

What would you say to the incoming class of 2023 - 2024?

Congratulations! You have made it to the end of your K-12 career. You have much to be proud of. In the words of Dr. Suess, “Kid you’ll move mountains.” I am expecting great and wonderful things from each of you. Regardless of the career path you’ve decided to take, just know you matter, you add value to the world, and you have a world of opportunities waiting for you.

Do you know an extraordinary teacher in your community? Nominate them for the APT Excellence in Education award!

Nominate a Teacher!

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  • C. W. Daniel Charitable Trust, Young Heroes
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    a state program of the National Endowment for the Arts
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