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March 28, 2013 7:59 am

Longtime teacher honored at Southside Elementary

Written by Dante Geoffrey

A plaque honoring the late Christy Davis hangs outside Southside Elementary’s library during a dedication ceremony Monday evening. Davis taught at Southside for 11 years, and for 18 years before that at Powell Middle School. A plaque honoring the late Christy Davis hangs outside Southside Elementary’s library during a dedication ceremony Monday evening. Davis taught at Southside for 11 years, and for 18 years before that at Powell Middle School. Tribune photo by Dante Geoffrey

Jean Hubbard, a guidance counselor at Powell Middle School, would receive emails from Christy Davis every Monday morning.

Despite Davis’ circumstances (she was undergoing chemotherapy following a diagnosis of ovarian cancer), her emails to her best friend always focused on the positive.

 

 

“Every one of them was just filled with brightness and with cheer,” Hubbard said. “It was all about the gift of life that she was given.”

The life that Davis cherished and shared generously with others was honored Monday night at Southside Elementary, where she was beloved as both a teacher and a friend. That legacy has remained since her death in September 2010.

A plaque featuring an image of Davis and bearing the words “Lover of literature. Champion of children” was placed on a wall just outside the school’s library.

“This plaque will not only help us to remember Christy, but it will also be in remembrance of the impact one teacher can make on a school, a staff and a child,” said Southside principal Scott Schiller. “Each fall we will revisit this plaque in Christy’s memory and honor our top summer reader at Southside Elementary School. Our staff thinks Christy would have liked that.”

Inside the library, amongst the books that Davis held in such high regard, were friends and family, students and parents, fans and colleagues, all of who came to remember the woman who had so impacted their lives.

Christy’s husband, Dennis, stood in the center of the room, filming the evening’s event as he is apt to do, absorbing every kind word directed at his wife of 31 years.

For a few minutes, Dennis took his turn in front of the camera.

“I know that Christy would be honored and humbled by the ceremony,” Dennis told the audience.

Dennis then held up a copy of Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree.”

“The first physical object that she gave me was, not surprisingly, a book,” he said. “As many of you know, Christy loved books. So this honor is particularly appropriate to be in this room.”

Christy donated boxes of books to Southside. Many found a home in the school’s library, while some were given as rewards for students who met reading goals.

“While she’s honored by your remembrance of her, I think she would also be very much honored in knowing that her books continue to give gifts in shaping the lives of those who read them,” Dennis said.

As a lover of words, Christy was fond of writing letters, cards and notes.

Former Southside principal Ginger Sleep shared some of her favorite words from Christy, quotes that captured some of the qualities that made Christy such a popular and respected figure.

“I’m shaking a little bit. Sorry,” said a visibly emotional Sleep, now the principal of Shoshone Learning Center.

Even during Christy’s toughest times, the letters she wrote to her classes would offer nothing but hope, encouragement and inspiration.

“I feel ... so filled with joy knowing that you’re giving your best each day,” read one letter Christy wrote from the hospital to her third-graders. “I count on you to show your patience, your persistence (don’t give up), your courage and most of all, your precious love. I want you to know that I’m feeling strong.”

Hubbard said that, when friends would ask Christy how she was doing, they were never given a negative response.

“Her response was always ‘I am blessed,’” Hubbard said. “Usually, people would go over and she would make them feel better by the time they left. They went over to encourage her, and she would be the one to end up giving them so much strength and so much love.”

Hubbard said Christy’s genuine optimism and interest in others was unmatched and was the reason she was such a successful teacher to all that knew her.

“I miss her so much, because she taught me so much. And she made me feel so special. And she loved me,” Hubbard reminisced. “I think that is what sums up Christy Davis. She made everyone feel so special. She taught us all so much, and she loved us.”

Christy’s ability to enlighten a day wasn’t saved for herself or those closest to her.

“Christy would make you feel like you’re the only person in the room,” Sleep said. “Sometimes time had no boundaries for her. She wanted to spend that time with you to let you know that she cared and that she had something to say to you or she wanted just to listen and to guide you along the way.”

When Christy returned from surgery in Denver, the outpouring of love was so overwhelming and came from so many people that it had to be scheduled, ultimately turning into what Hubbard called “Christy Walks.”

Twice a day for a few weeks friends, students, coworkers or anyone else who wanted to share an undoubtedly special moment would sign up to help a weakening Christy walk around the block or through Washington Park.

“The Christy Walks filled up very, very quickly,” Hubbard said.

Walking, one of Christy’s favorite pastimes, will now be incorporated into Southside’s infrastructure.

Schiller said a “learning path” that circles the campus is “in the works” and will give teachers a place to walk and bond with their students away from the classroom.

“It’s not books, it’s not rules and regulations, it’s not standards and it’s not tests. It’s just a teacher and her kids,” Schiller said.

Christy excelled at connecting with students at a level deeper than book exercises and PAWS scores. She was remembered Monday for investing in students as people.

At the end of Christy Davis’ letter to her third graders, she wrote five sentences that totaled 10 words, offering both priceless advice and calming reassurance, delivered in a penetrating, straightforward manner.

“Be tough. Be bold. Be thoughtful. Be courageous. I am.”

2 comments

  • Comment Link March 28, 2013 1:22 pm posted by Randy Rempfer

    I remember reading the Polar Express in middle school with her back in the early 90s. At the end of the book she produced a bell that only a couple of us could hear. She had an AMAZING way of bringing reading into our lives. Every Christmas I pick up that book with my boys and remember her.

  • Comment Link March 30, 2013 10:01 am posted by Kara Althoff

    My life will be forever changed by the gift of Christy in it. I remember her class motto,"You are precious, you are priceless, you are one of a kind, and you think for yourself..." She could transform a child into a confident and creative "little adult" because she truly believed this motto and taught not only academics, but moral values and respect to her students. As a friend, she did the same, making each of us feel precious, priceless, one of a kind......and she brought things out of each of us that we didn't even know we possessed. She was a treasure and will NEVER be forgotten. May her legacy be lived out in each of us.

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