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Retiring teacher returns to mentor new staff

Veteran instructor to the rescue for first-year teachers

Kent City — The district was expecting a large number of staff retirements in June 2021, but administrators were a bit surprised to see Marie Davis’s name on that list.

Davis had taught social studies for 27 years in the district, with classes at both the high school and middle school. 

“I just knew that I wanted to retire at the top of my game, and didn’t want to stick around until I had nothing new to offer and was tired of being in a classroom,” she recalled.

Superintendent Mike Weiler asked her if she was sure she was done, and suggested she think about whether she might be able to contribute to the district without being in the classroom.

“It was a hypothetical question,” Davis said, “but it got me thinking.”

The Result

Davis had been involved with a teaching leadership conference while working on her master’s degree. That work involved cognitive coaching that helped teachers plan, reflect and problem-solve their classroom techniques in an effort to constantly improve classroom experiences for students.

So she pitched the same techniques to aid new teachers. 

‘The simple fact is that it is super important that Kent City supported this and offered this opportunity… It is clearly better for students this way.’

— Andrew Webber, first-year middle school teacher

It turns out the entire social studies team had retired from the district at the same time, and new staffers were asking for help often once a week or more, especially early in the semester.

“New teachers often feel that they are the only ones that have ever been through this: difficult students, not having enough time to get through the material, or (able to) fit in extras like planning, grading and meetings,” Davis said.

Social studies teacher Nick Rasmussen enjoys showing off a bit in demonstrating population density, while retired teacher and mentor Marie Davis looks on

Nick Rasmussen came to teaching after a successful business career because “I just realized there are not enough dollars in the world to make me happy, and it was time to listen to God and go do what I was meant to do.”

He said he has appreciated Davis’s expertise amid the challenges of his new vocation. 

“Not yet,” he said, “but I see myself getting better slowly. My goal is to be the best. Having (Davis), for me, is awesome. I am trying to get better at my craft. It is important for me to do well and I have a better opportunity to reach my goals learning from her years of experience. She is a content expert as well as having perfected the craft of teaching.”

Mutual Gratitude 

First-year teacher Andrew Webber expressed gratitude to the district for providing a mentor for new teachers. 

“The simple fact is that it is super important that Kent City supported this and offered this opportunity,” he said. “They are progressive enough to support the newest teachers, as opposed to just seeing what year one might bring. It is clearly better for students this way.”

Davis said she’s grateful for the opportunity to stay involved while she wades into her retirement years and runs her business, Lucky Car Wash in Greenville. But she still believes she made the right decision.

“I am willing to step in when necessary, but a lot of the time I am just a cheerleader or sounding board. These new people are so excited to be in the classroom, and that is what matters.”

Retired teacher Marie Davis enjoys working with students during seminar time; from left are sixth-graders Bryce Chappell, Saydie VanderLind and Jackson Carr
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Janice Holst
Janice Holst is a reporter covering Kent City and Sparta. She has been both a teacher and a journalist. A former MLive reporter, she wrote features and covered local government and schools for Advance Newspapers for nearly two decades. She also was a recipe columnist and wrote features for Mature Life Style and occasional entertainment pieces for On The Town magazines. She lives in Sparta Township and enjoys spending some of her retirement hours writing the stories of the northern Kent County school districts. Read Janice's full bio

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