Local teacher wins national contest

LACROFT-Technological and scientific progress has shaped the world as we know it today and will likely continue to do so well into to the future. Phillip Davis, a fourth grade teacher at LaCroft elementary is keenly aware of this fact and what it means for a generation of children who will inherit a tech-savvy and science-oriented world.

“Thirty years from now we’re going to be living in a different world in a lot of ways and science and technology is going to have a big part in that. The U.S. is losing the science and technology race at the moment, I want to be part of fixing that”, said Davis in a recent interview.

Davis was recently named a winner in a national essay contest called “Catch Me Being Curious.” The contest is organized by the Discovery Channel and the Intel Corporation as an extension of their Curiosity TV series which focuses on science, technology, engineering and math.

For winning the contest Davis has been awarded an expenses paid trip to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Phoenix, Arizona in May. The event features some of the best and brightest students in science and math from around the world competing by presenting their independently researched projects. The event also features conferences for educators on how to inspire curiosity in the classroom. “I plan to go at it with the intent of seeing what I can bring back for my class: examples, photos, video, I may even interview some people.” said an excited Davis in his classroom on Monday.

The topic of Davis’s winning essay was, “What does curiosity in the classroom mean to me?” Curiosity, as it turns out, is not only the theme of his essay but a theme in his life and career as well. Davis’s curiosity for living and learning has lead him as far away as Texas and Florida, but his desire to be an educator and return to the place his family has long called home lead him back to the area. “I decided that if I wanted to start being a teacher I wanted to do it here. said Davis. “As far around as my family spread, we all came back to the area.”

Davis’s family has a rich tradition producing educators, many of whom worked in the area. His step-father, Tom Snow, was on the East Liverpool City School board for many years and his grandmother, Pat McKinnon, was part owner of Ohio Valley Business College. Davis’ mother attended LaCroft Elementary as a young girl and most of his family has graduated from East Liverpool High School. “I’m the first one in my family for many generations that did not graduate a Potter.” said Davis who spent his elementary years in Allentown, Pennsylvania and graduated high school from Westford Academy in Westford, Massachusetts. He earned his Bachelors degree in elementary education from Western Governors University.

Davis’s sense of curiosity is also reflected in his resume which includes jobs ranging from auto body appraiser to waiter. “I’ve done a lot of different things over the years, but I knew that what I ultimately wanted to do was to be a teacher .” said Davis. “When I saw new a job in the paper my curiosity got the better of me and I said, ‘I wonder if I can do that?’ ” As a first year teacher Davis’s scholarly sense of curiosity continues to serve him well, allowing him to make use of all the technological teaching tools available to him. “The curiosity for me is finding new lessons and finding new ways to teach the same material, especially technological ways; how can I use these great new tools we have in the classroom.”

Davis emphasized that, although it is important to kindle his own sense of curiosity to be an effective educator what really matters is cultivating a sense of curiosity in his students. “If they’re not curious I haven’t done my job.” said Davis. “My job is to get them to want to be more, know more, and do more than they thought they could before they came in here.” One bit of information Davis is fond of using to inspire his student’s sense of curiosity is telling them they could one day walk on Mars. “NASA says that this year’s and last years fourth graders, if their time table works, will be the astronauts that take our Mars mission.” said Davis. “I tell them there’s no reason you can’t be one of those astronauts.”

At the end of the day what Davis is doing in the classroom sounds a lot like an old proverb : Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. “It’s not my job to give them the answers, it’s my job to make them want to ask the questions.”said Davis, when asked to explain his teaching philosophy.

Mr. Davis’s sense of curiosity has taken him many places in life. It has now landed him in his dream job and made him the winner of a national contest. However, his deepest reward comes from seeing the children he teaches learn and develop their own sense of curiosity. “To me, the best thing I could ask for is for one of my students, a few days after we finished talking about a topic, to come to me and ask a question and have some curiosity we haven’t answered. That tells me that I’ve really done what I’m here to do.”