The classroom has been the domain of Mansfield Elementary teacher Cheryl Davis for over four decades. Driven by passion, purpose, and creativity, for Davis, being a teacher is fulfilling God’s plan for her life.
“I decided to go into teaching because I had a passion and desire for helping kids,” shared Davis. “I have always loved school, even as a child, I loved going to school…There was a drive inside of me that just kept me working toward the goal of becoming a teacher. I love the fact that teaching allows for a person to be creative and purposeful. Each day is new in the fact you can say, ‘How can I create a lesson that would excite and engage students?’ It is almost like a treasure hunt. You look for ways to help students learn and it is like bringing a treasure to them, a treasure of knowledge. I think God gave me that desire and wisdom to work with kids. It was God’s plan for me.”
Davis attended Westark Community College in Fort Smith for two years and received her Associate’s Degree before transferring to the University of Central Arkansas in Conway. She received a Bachelor’s Degree in Education, and later, a Master’s Degree from Arkansas Tech University.
In 1980, Davis would embark on a teaching career based solely within the Mansfield School District. She has taught second and third grades exclusively throughout her 42 years in education.
Those years have afforded her many treasured memories. She recalled some of her most memorable moments at Mansfield Elementary School.
“Some of the best moments were with the team of teachers when I taught second grade with Jeane Dalmut, Leta Ingold, Peggy Edwards, and Tamachia Barton. I love this group of ladies. We went to reading conferences together and had such good times with our professional development. Leta decided one year we should have a pet parade. Kids dressed up and brought their costumed pets and we paraded downtown. I can still see that picture in my mind, it was wonderful. I never thought it would work out, but Leta always had lofty visions and reached for the sky. I treasure the moments when we worked together to create a project like the time capsule in second grade. When that group of second graders became seniors we invited them back down to the elementary to open the time capsule. I treasure the times when second graders entered the Christmas Parade and each year we had to be creative with the theme and have a program for parents to come watch their child sing…I loved seeing the kids sing in front of their parents.” Davis went on to share memories of students painting the city street. “…Leta wanted to have the kids paint on the streets, I can’t remember why, but she called the news media to cover it. We had a lot of fun.” Lastly, Davis recalled enjoying seeing the kids with their Tiger masks on, watching the Homecoming Parade and dashing out for the candy.
Davis went on to add valued memories from her time as a third-grade teacher. “My teaching team kept changing, but a good group of ladies also. I loved taking the kids to the Science Festival in Fort Smith at UAFS. COVID stopped this, but it always brought a smile to my face…One moment stands out to me. It was one of the biology teachers showing the kids slides from his microscope onto the big screen. The kids were all standing, looking at his presentation and listening intently, and so was I. At that moment, I wanted to be a biologist. And that is what teaching is all about, inspiring and creating an atmosphere for learning.”
Davis also recalled teaming up with third-grade teacher Dimity Beren for a program called Shade Trees for Playgrounds through the Forestry Service. “It was a team effort with the whole elementary school. There was a tree planted in memory of MES student Skylor Leroy, who passed away from cancer.”
During Davis’ time as a third-grade teacher, she asked her social studies students to create a project that would help improve the community. The kids brought their old toys, sold them, and gave the money to Kix Brown’s little sister for medical needs at Arkansas Children’s Hospital. “The kids collected $1,000 and the story was reported by a local news channel. As a result, more was given by those who saw the story.
Fishing in third grade was a memorable moment. According to Davis, messy, but memorable. “Mrs. Henson told one third grader he had to kiss the fish he caught, and low and behold, he kissed that fish. I can still picture that moment.” Davis also recalled a field trip to a Quartz mine, and remembers one student exclaiming “Best field trip ever Mrs. Davis!”
Lastly, Davis recalled the fun professional development days. “Third grade was the year Laura Holland, Tonya Wagnor, Jim Reynolds, and I all attended a 10-day science professional development. One of those days involved canoeing down the Mulberry River. Laura was smart and opted out of this day. Tonya and I on the other hand went, and on the bus we told each other we would probably die because neither of us were good with a canoe. We told Curtis Varnell to put us with an advanced canoeist. He did, but I ended up crashing into rocks and getting dumped out of my canoe. I did think I was going to drown, but I survived with bruises…”
Davis concluded, stating, “…each year of teaching has been a treasure.”
In 2016, Davis received one of the highest accolades for area teachers. The Western Arkansas Outstanding Teacher Award is given for invaluable contributions to the students of educators of the Western Arkansas Education Service Cooperative and the State of Arkansas. Davis recalled Dr. Curtis Varnell from GFESC, Guy Fenter Educational Service Coop, presenting the award. “What made this award special was that my mom was so proud of this for me. Everywhere we went she had to tell someone.”
Those treasured moments will live forever in her memory, and for now, that is enough. Davis admitted that although she loves to teach, she feels it is time for a rest. “Someone said…that now I could do the things I have dreamed of doing. But, I have been doing the things I have dreamed about, and that is teaching. But each season of life brings new dreams, so I will wait and see what the Lord has planned for me in this season of my life.”
Davis acknowledges she will miss the students. “I will miss the kids. I will miss hearing that child say, ‘I’m learning to read!’ I will miss that smile from that child after I have had a bad day. I will miss those faces of kids who looked to me each day to bring a sense of accomplishment…Call me crazy, but I will miss coming to school each morning.” She laughed, noting that she will not miss indoor recess!
She will continue to rely on the strength of her family, who has been a mainstay of support. Her husband Terry Davis has assisted her many times with work-related activities, including planting flowers at school, setting up an aquarium, and serving as a go-to, bringing whatever Davis may have forgotten that day to the school. “He has gone to Fort Smith to buy me mealworms for my science lesson,” added Davis. “He has also helped with fishing day with all the third graders.”
The Davises have one daughter, Sarah, who has also been a helpmate. “Sarah is the one that would go down to school with me after hours so I wouldn’t have to work alone in an empty building. Terry would call every once and a while and ask, ‘Are you guys okay?’ Once we worked late in the third-grade
Other family members, such as Davis’ beloved mother, Jimmie Jackson, was always there for her, and the one to whom she’d call to tell about her day after school. Sisters, Pam Mulson and Barbara Johnson as well as her brother, Roy Jackson, have also been a big part of Davis’ life.
The Mansfield School District honored Davis with a retirement party on Monday, May 23 at the elementary library. Friends, family, fellow teachers, staff, and administrators celebrated Davis, her passion for teaching, love for her students, and dedicated years to the district.