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Lynda Davis – Morningside Elementary

Lynda Davis is a very talented and tireless teacher who consistently goes above and beyond the standard curriculum to capture students’ hearts and imaginations. She genuinely cares about each student and that investment shows not only in the students’ academic success, but also in their enthusiasm to go to school each day to see what fun adventure Mrs. Davis has planned next.

Mrs. Davis teaches a class of gifted and talented 5th graders. These students are verbal, inquisitive, demanding, and challenging. Mrs. Davis maintains high academic standards for her students while using their natural curiosity and aptitude to propel them far beyond what the state curriculum requires. While space does not allow me to enumerate all of the educational activities that Mrs. Davis has engaged her students in this year, I would just like to share a brief snapshot of what it is like to be in Mrs. Davis’s 5th grade classroom.

To begin the year, Mrs. Davis created a Pirate theme. Each student spent a month researching pirate history, geography, legends and stories in order to create their own book. These books were complete with original writing, illustrations, maps, and history. After each book was complete, Mrs. Davis had them bound into a hard cover book for these children to share their “first published work” with their family and friends.

Next, Mrs. Davis turned her science lessons on animals, observations, and study into a “Snail Olympics”. Each student brought several live snails from home, observed them, and then recorded their progress as they proceeded to “race” through an obstacle course of the students making. The scientific method took on a completely new luster for students as they cheered on their favorite snail.

In October, Mrs. Davis’s class hosted a Spook Alley for the entire school. This activity allowed students to create a story line for their portion of the spook alley, plan, organize, work collaboratively and then enjoy scaring their friends. The Spook Alley was a huge undertaking that required Mrs. Davis to portion off her room with black garbage bags, set up props, costumes, and make-up. The students have looked forward to this activity since they attended the spook alley as 1st graders and is just another example of the lengths Mrs. Davis will go to in order to engage students in fun, experiential learning.

After teaching Junior Achievement lessons throughout the year, Mrs. Davis’s class participated in JA Biz Town at the Discovery Gateway. JA Biz Town is an opportunity for students to experience life as an adult for an entire day, running companies like Zions Bank, KSL, Tesoro, Rocky Mountain Power, Delta Airlines, etc. They also learn to pay bills, balance a checkbook and manage their time efficiently. Mrs. Davis had students complete resumes and job interviews for the job they were interested in and then they had an opportunity to become a CEO, CFO, Public Relations Officer, Marketing Director, or Reporter for one amazing day.

In December, after studying immigration, U.S. history, citizenship and naturalization, Mrs. Davis arranged for her class to attend and perform a program highlighting famous Americans at the Salt Lake City naturalization ceremony. Each student was responsible for portraying an American hero and then watched as immigrants took the oath to become citizens of the United States of America. This was truly a timely and illuminating lesson for these 5th grade students in light of the country’s recent debates about immigration.

As a capstone for the U.S. History unit, Mrs. Davis put on a Colonial Day for her class. Students were able to partake of a traditional early American feast, churn their own butter, practice quilting, create their own piece of metalwork, write with calligraphy and make an old-fashioned pomander. Students dressed in traditional early American clothing, they were transported back to the 1700s for a day.

To teach students about the power of earthquakes, especially on the Wasatch Front, Mrs. Davis held an Earthquake Cake Day. She baked five sheet cakes and had students use them to create different landforms and developments. The kids then shook the cakes to see where fault lines developed and how landmasses shifted and the destruction that occurs during an earthquake. This was followed by joyous eating of the destruction. Earthquakes have never been so sweet!

Throughout the year, students have attended field trips to Timpanogos Cave, the symphony, the ballet, a Bees game, theatrical performances, and Engineering Day at the University of Utah. The level of enrichment that Mrs. Davis’s class experiences is phenomenal and broadens students’ exposure to culture, science, music, art and sports.

In addition to all these in-class activities, Mrs. Davis spends countless hours preparing students to compete in statewide competitions in Future Problem Solvers and Debate. The skills learned in these programs have profound lasting effects on the children’s critical thinking ability, public speaking, analytical skills, performance under pressure, and confidence. Mrs. Davis spends hours outside of class supporting students at their meets, further demonstrating her commitment to and love for these students.

While Mrs. Davis consistently demonstrates her dedication to academics, she also models and fosters a development of compassion, service and character. This winter, a home across the street from Morningside Elementary burned to the ground, taking with it precious memories and irreplaceable heirlooms. Mrs. Davis immediately organized a class bake sale for her students to raise money to donate to the displaced family. Together, the class raised more than $1000, which Mrs. Davis delivered to this devastated family. The opportunity for students to give of themselves and help someone in need taught lessons far more valuable than math facts or spelling words.

As a parent, I am in awe of a teacher who wholeheartedly dedicates herself to the betterment of her students. However, I think the highest praise for Mrs. Davis’s efforts comes from her those in her class. I asked my 5th grade son why Mrs. Davis is his favorite teacher. He said, “In Mrs. Davis’s class, we don’t just memorize facts in text books. We get to explore and create and live in the places she is teaching us. Our class doesn’t feel like school, it feels like an adventure.” Any teacher who can elicit such a response from a 5th grader deserves recognition from Zions Bank’s Teacher Feature Award. – Kim Bouck