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Recently retired DA teacher offers advice, shares memories

It's strange to think that when classes resume at Daniel Axford Elementary next week, Jean Davidson won't be there welcoming students. The Oxford Village resident officially retired from teaching July 1 after 20 years with the district. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
August 27, 2014 - "Make sure you take those special moments to just have fun together (with your students)."

That was Jean Davidson's advice to all the new teachers beginning their careers in the Oxford school district this fall.

All the "peripheral requirements" imposed on teachers these days, from curriculum mandates to extra paperwork, "can truly get overwhelming," she said. That's why it's important for teachers to "stop every so often and do something with the kids."

"Enjoy the moment," Davidson said.

Davidson's days in the classroom ended back in June in the same place where they began when she was a little girl – Daniel Axford Elementary on Mechanic St.

That's where she retired after 20 years of teaching.

It's also where she began her school career as a first-grader in 1964, back when her last name was Patterson and her father, Bill, was the new pharmacist in town.

"I always loved having the history and the connection of being able to teach where I went to school," said Davidson, who spent most of her career at Daniel Axford.

Davidson, a 1976 graduate of Oxford High School, loved teaching "the little ones," as she calls them. She spent a little more than half of her career in the kindergarten classroom. The rest of the time she taught first and second grade.

"Kindergarten was my absolute favorite," she said.

That's because, at that age, "everything is new" to them and there's an excitement about learning and understanding things for "the first time."

"You could visually see when they got things – the light bulb literally went off," Davidson said. "They were always so proud of themselves. That was just so rewarding and wonderful."

To be one of their first teachers, to watch them grow both socially and academically, to witness their transformation into students "was truly an honor" to her. "That's what I'm going to miss the most," she said.

Davidson loved all the humorous moments the younger students gave her over the years.

"The little ones are so literal," she said.

One day, a kindergartner was trying her patience, so rather than lose her temper, she stopped and took a few moments to count to 10. She then asked the class, how many of them had mothers who had to count to 10 every so often.

A little boy answered, "Oh, my mom can count to 100, no problem."

"You just start laughing," Davidson said.

Living in Oxford Village, Davidson is constantly running into former students at the grocery store or at football games.

"That's one thing that I've just always enjoyed," she said. "I know a lot of teachers don't necessarily agree with that. They like to have their family life separate from their school life. But I always loved running into the kids. I loved that interaction."

Davidson's career in education is an example of how it's never too late to pursue your dream or follow your passion. When she was studying education in college back in the late 1970s, there were no teaching jobs available, so she left school and became a bank teller.

Then, in the late 1980s, Davidson went back to college and became a certified teacher in 1991. She worked for Oxford Schools as a substitute teacher and paraprofessional for three years before being hired in 1994.

"I was a late bloomer," Davidson said. "It took me 10 years of life experience to realize this is what I want to do and I'm going to do it. When I was 18-19 years old, it wasn't as clear cut as that."

As much as she's enjoyed teaching and as much as she'll miss "the little ones," Davidson is quite comfortable with her decision to retire.

"I don't regret it at all," she said. "I have not had any doubts whatsoever that I've made the right decision. I'm thrilled. I'm happy. I'm in a good place."

"It was a wonderful run and I enjoyed it, but I'm very excited about the next chapter," Davidson added.

Davidson is currently spending part of her time working as a bookkeeper at Patterson's Prescription Pharmacy in downtown Oxford, the store started by her father.

Since 1994, the drug store has been owned and operated by her husband Tim. The two met in junior high school and recently celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary.

"We were high school sweethearts," she said.

She's planning to devote more time to her hobbies, specifically quilting, which she's been doing for 30 years. She's even considering teaching some classes in it.

Davidson is looking forward to "broadening (her) horizons and seeing what pops up."

"I am so excited for what's ahead," she said.

After 20 years in the classroom and putting two sons, Todd and Scott, through Oxford Schools, Davidson offered this advice to parents – "Be involved, but be a spectator, not a participant."

She said it's one thing to be involved in a child's life and support them by attending all of their sporting events, plays, concerts, etc.

It's another thing to be involved to the point where a parent basically, takes over and is living their life through their child or doing their work for them.

"Enjoy it for them, not for you," Davidson said. "Understand that they're different (from you). They want to have you involved, but they want to do (the work) themselves. Nothing beats that sense of accomplishment."

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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