Druid City Living Teacher of the Month: Kim Davis, Tuscaloosa County High School Featured

24 Apr 2019 Faith Henley

According to Kim Davis, learning a new language not only opens doors to new opportunities, it makes life more fun. By teaching French to the students at Tuscaloosa County High School for eight years, she’s seen a lot of both, and she’s discovered the key to engaging learners – reading.

“I would advise parents to read to your kids when they are young and develop a culture of reading in your home,” said. “It doesn’t really matter what they read, as long as they are reading.”

Davis came from an extensive family of educators – but following in her family’s footsteps was not always the goal. In hopes of one day working in the United Nations, Davis moved to Tuscaloosa to attend the University of Alabama. She earned three degrees: a bachelor’s degree in French and religious studies, a master’s degree in applied linguistics of French, and an alternative master’s certification in second language acquisition of French. 

Along the way, Davis realized her true passion for teaching and working with teenagers through a fellowship with the Blount Undergraduate Initiative and her experience teaching at the Alabama Academy of Irish Dance. After graduation, Davis decided to stay in Tuscaloosa and invest in the students at TCHS.

“My biggest lesson as a teacher has been learning that students need to take ownership of what happens in the classroom,” Davis said. “Putting their ideas, needs, wants, and hopes front and center not only helps them learn French, but it also gives them agency over their education.”

Davis attributes her unique teaching style to two different strategies – using the language comprehensively and learning through independent reading. She regularly engages her French students in class discussions of current events or by creating stories in the new language. Additionally, class time is dedicated for each student to read a book of their choice that interests them (in French, of course).

“I believe that giving students input and choice in the classroom increases their engagement and rigor, because students become stakeholders in the classroom and in their own learning,” Davis said. “Now, my students are interacting with French both inside and outside the classroom in their daily lives.”

A life-long learner, Davis says she is currently learning Spanish, Turkish, and Mandarin using the same methods her students use in class. She often discusses her progress, both successes and failures, with her classes.

“We influence our students by being a real person,” Davis said. “I am never afraid to admit and apologize when I have made a mistake or when my plans aren’t going well. I admit when I am tired or grumpy. I think being honest and vulnerable in that way shows that teachers are humans too, but we find ways to persevere. I think modeling that perseverance is really important for young people, because it’s a hard lesson to learn.” 

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Druid City Living (DCL) is Tuscaloosa, Alabama's premier community newspaper, covering the great people, places and activities of the area.