Sunday, July 14, 2024

Bill Davies, Inspirational Math Teacher, on the Cusp of Retirement

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LEAVENWORTH - Bill Davies is wrapping up a substantial teaching career of 39 years, 30 of which were at Cascade High School in the math department, as he approaches retirement at the end of this school year.

“I have had the pleasure to know Bill for over 30 years,” shared Greg Peck, retired teacher at multiple grade levels. “We had children in the same class, and later we taught and coached together. When I was at the high school, Bill and I had classrooms connected by a movable wall so we worked closely together and collaborated on many projects.

“Bill is an amazing educator, always putting kids first. He would give up his lunch hours, come early or stay late to help his students.”

Davies has taught math to thousands of local students over the years and also impacted hundreds more as a coach. He’s been closely associated with track and field, having been an assistant coach before his decade as head coach. He also coached cross country and soccer in the past.

He surprised himself with his chosen career path. As a child, Davies aced math but after one bad teacher in high school, he swore he’d never take another math class. The idea of working with kids grew from a fulfilling stint as a summer camp counselor. For his business degree at WSU, Davies took a couple required math courses. He gave math a second thought and switched to the more rigorous math degree program.

His first six years of teaching were on the west side of the state. He followed that with three years in Japan teaching on an Air Force base in a 1A size school. Working abroad could have been his path in life. Being near Tokyo was fun. “In Japan, I also coached cross country, soccer, track and wrestling. But I didn’t love base life,” Davies said.

When a math position opened at Cascade High School, Davies jumped at the opportunity to return to Washington. He’s been in Leavenworth ever since and holds the current longest tenure in the district.

Davies’s first taste of coaching occurred while he was a college student. He had solid high school running times for the 400-meter and 800-meter. “When I got to WSU, they were running times in practice that I ran in races.” So, rather than compete, he found an opportunity to assist with coaching for the Pullman High School team, and he’s never looked back.

His instinctual freudenfreude, which is a mindset that celebrates others’ successes, contributes to Davies serving as social glue at the high school. “The most important thing is building relationships and building trust with students,” he said. Authentic, individualized relationships are foundational to how he teaches. When discipline is needed, Davies is careful to address the behavior and not the child. “You pull them aside and say, ‘Here are the consequences, and tomorrow is another day.’”

Davies’s expertise in teaching math concepts in a variety of ways enables student achievement. Additionally, his empathy and interpersonal skills have been assets in the classroom and on the track. “Coaching builds the strongest relationships,” Davies said. He has built a strong track program because, as he says, “My strength is finding great coaches.” Together with his coaches who excel at relays, distance, throws and jumping, there’s a synergy that benefits the athletes.

“At a 1A school, we want all of our students to turn out for sports,” said Elia Alailima-Daley, former teacher and principal at CHS. “Bill would actively encourage students and whether they were the star or someone who just wanted to be a part of a team, Bill supported and coached them equally.”

This also made him a great candidate to add an AVID class to his repertoire. “The AVID class is a smaller group of students that stay together, year after year,” he explained. “It’s a lot about academic support.”

Alailima-Daley shared, “Ever since meeting Bill as a colleague in 1995, I have admired his love for teaching and his never-give-up-on-a-student attitude in helping them learn math. He has strong content knowledge. Most importantly, he has always been willing to alter his instruction to meet the needs of students. He develops a strong relationship with students, getting to know them as a person to better support them.

“In the year before I left, our schedule needed a new AVID instructor. While out of his comfort zone, Bill knew adding an AVID elective course would benefit students and the school. So, he signed up, learned the process. I have heard he has done an amazing job.”

Davies has witnessed many changes—mostly improvements—in the district over his tenure. He applauded the switch years ago to 90-minute class periods because he could incorporate more projects that engage students through the application of math to real world problems. Examples include building hot air balloons and calculating the max height, and egg drop experiments to study acceleration.

He's also glad that state testing is no longer tied to graduation, and he’s seen a growth in kindness and acceptance of diversity, saying, “The kids are driving this culture.”

“Teaching is a hard job. You have to be overly prepared,” Davies advises future teachers. “Maybe you have to put in 60 hour weeks at first. Three to four years down the road, it pays off.”

The work can, however, be fun, when you’re a teacher like Davies. As fellow math teacher, Dayle Massey, said, “Teaching across the hall from Bill for the last few years, I am continually impressed by how much fun he has in the classroom. His enthusiasm is contagious, and his students know that he is on their side and really wants them to learn and be successful.”

Massey went on, saying, “Bill has led the math department for years, helping out the other math teachers with teaching and curriculum advice, and advocating for school policies that help our students' math performance. He is the major reason why Cascade has such a strong math program.”

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