Douglas teacher wins $25,000 award
Unless your children had Debbie Davis as a teacher during the 11 years she’s worked in Douglas County School District, you probably haven’t heard of her.
Co-workers say that’s because she just teaches and quietly goes about her job without ever raising a fuss or seeking the limelight.
However, on Friday morning at a ceremony in the Pinon Hills Elementary School lunchroom, Davis was pushed into the spotlight as she was named one of the four teachers in Nevada to receive the Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award for this year. She received $25,000.
Davis almost had to be pushed to the front of the room by other teachers as the rest of the audience clapped and took pictures.
“I’m speechless and shaking and stunned,” were her first words.
Davis hesitated a little when talking about herself, but when asked what she liked the most about teaching, she didn’t need a second.
“The kids,” she said. “Watching the light go on – it’s wonderful to be a part of that. And they are funny and every day is different. The days go fast. I’m sorry if I’m talking too fast, but it’s so easy to talk about them.”
Davis, who this year teaches 4th grade, said she had heard of the award before – her mentor won it soon after Davis came to the district – but she didn’t even know she was under consideration.
“I’ve known teachers who have gotten this before and I’ve said, ‘Wow, they are fantastic teachers. They really deserve it.’ I just can’t believe this honor has been given to me,” she said.
Davis was named teacher of the year by her peers last year. At the ceremony in May, Principal Nancy Bryant said Davis got an overwhelming number of votes for the honor.
“Her students are always really well-prepared as they leave her class. Her goal this year was personal responsibility for the students and she met with each child every month to let them know where they were,” Bryant said.
“She’s a wonderful example. She is great with kids,” said librarian Michele Burke. “She brings them into the library quite a bit and she is always positive and willing to help out if somebody needs help.”
Davis graduated with a bachelors degree from the University of Maine in 1990 and earned her masters of education in literacy from Lesley College in 1995.
At PHES, Davis has advised the garden club, the CARE team and takes students to a Carson City convalescent home on her own time. She also was part of the teacher committees that helped write the competencies.
Superintendent Pendery Clark said Davis is an excellent teacher who represents the quality of teaching at Pinon Hills and all the Douglas County schools.
“She’s always very willing to come forward. She cares so much about each one of you. She is an absolutely wonderful teacher and I am so proud of her and of all the teachers here,” Clark said.
Davis is a site trainer who learns about differentiated instruction at the Professional Development Center, then brings the information back to other teachers at her school.
“I wanted to improve my own teaching and I wanted to get that information. It was helpful to me and after I started using it, I was able to help make it work for (other teachers),” Davis said.
The award was given to 144 other teachers across the country this year, Lewis Solmon, vice president of the Milken Foundation, told the students gathered before the announcement.
“That sounds like a lot, but do you know how many teachers there are in the country? Three million teachers, so they’ve got to be real special to win this award,” he said.
Solmon told the audience that Davis would attend a dinner in Las Vegas with other state winners, attend a teachers conference in California with winners from across the country and receive $25,000 to spend in any way she wants.
Davis said she has twin 19-year-old sons, Dan and Jeff Rahme who are students at Western Nevada Community College, so she and her husband, Daniel, will be glad to have that money to use for their education.
PHES Principal Bryant said she was relieved not to have to keep the secret any more.
“I am glad she is going to get to go to this teacher conference because I know she’ll come back and teach all of us,” Bryant said.
“How many of you watched the Olympics on TV? When someone did really well, what did they get? A gold medal is the prize, that’s right. We’re going to announce a prize for an excellent teacher. We heard you have all excellent teachers at your school, but we can’t give a prize to every teacher. We at the Milken Foundation feel that teachers don’t really get enough recognition. So this award goes to the teacher who has done an outstanding job with his or her students,” Solmon said.
The nominees are chosen by a panel appointed by the state education department from a state pool. The winners are chosen based on exceptional teaching abilities, outstanding accomplishments and an engaging and motivating presence.
Gov. Kenny Guinn announced Davis as the winner and also gave the students a little educational pep talk after students sang the Pinon Hills school song, the 50 states song and “Home Means Nevada.”
“I was always so excited to be a student. I love school. I went to a school a little smaller than this in an area similar to this. If you work hard and are good students and good citizens, pay attention to what your mom and dad says and what your teacher say, you have a great opportunity,” Guinn said. “I hope one of you gets the chance to be governor of Nevada.”