Secret of life still prominent even in retirement
NEW CASTLE – “Each year, the first day of school, I would tell all the students that everyone is gifted in some way, and the secret of life is to find that gift in yourself.”As Fred Davidson speaks, it becomes clear that the past 12 years of retirement have not, in any way, dulled his passion for children and their education.
Davidson, who resides north of New Castle with his wife, Jeanette, served as principal at Glenwood Springs Elementary School from 1975-1986. He then decided to move from the principal’s office into the classroom where he taught fourth and sixth grades until his retirement in 1996.”I wanted to return to teaching to enable me to end my career by working directly with children,” said Davidson.”We had two kids in high school at the time and trying to balance three schedules was tough,” said Jeanette, on her husband’s departure from the hectic life of running a school.Davidson’s life in education began in 1962.With a bachelor’s degree in education from Central Washington State College in hand, Davidson took a job in Coolidge, Ariz., as a junior high school social studies teacher. After a three year stint in Coolidge, Davidson moved on to Naco, Ariz., where he not only taught sixth- through eighth-grade social studies and math, but ventured into uncharted water as the girls’ volleyball coach. “That was a lot of fun,” said Davidson, with a laugh and a big grin. It was during this period that he gained his master’s in secondary education at the University of Arizona.Naco was also the spot where Davidson was to meet a young lady named Jeanette Sample, who had just graduated from Colorado State Teachers’ College and was a teacher in Naco’s school system. The two were married in 1969 in Jeanette’s hometown of New Castle. Ironically, the couple now live just a few miles from where the bride grew up on East Elk Creek Road.Upon returning to Arizona, Davidson took a one-year sabbatical from the classroom to earn an educational specialist’s degree in administration.
“It’s the degree you get without writing a doctoral thesis” said Davidson.It didn’t take him long to land a spot in education’s upper echelon, as Davidson was offered, and accepted a position as principal in Miami, Ariz., in 1972. The job entailed keeping watch over four schools, kindergarten through eighth grade, with a combined population of just over 1,000 students.Though the Davidsons enjoyed their time in Arizona, the offer for Fred to take over as principal at Glenwood Elementary in 1975 was too tempting to pass on. It not only meant that Jeanette would get to return home, but it would also give her husband the chance to work for a man whom he now regards as one of the biggest influences on his life in education – former Re-1 superintendent Nick Massaro.”In my career, I was fortunate to work for two very dynamic superintendents,” said Davidson. “Nick Massaro and Darryl Irish, who was in charge in Miami, Ariz. They were both very good men. Nick especially, was always fair, honest, and straightforward with people.”Much the same could be said of Davidson, who still drives a ’67 Mustang with a bumper sticker that loudly proclaims, “JOHN WAYNE LIVES.”Davidson recalls coming to a very traditional Glenwood Elementary and trying to implement some very non-traditional, multi-disciplined, and hands-on approaches such as the Berkeley Health program. The former principal is also very proud of starting the school’s first gifted and talented program, which is now implemented district-wide in Re-1. Davidson is also quick to mention that, “We were the first school in the district to have computers.”It would be an understatement to say the Davidsons have kept active in retirement. With a house in the country and horses to tend to, there are chores and continual upkeep on the property to keep them busy. In their spare time, Fred serves as a bailiff for the 9th Judicial District Court, and Jeanette still does some substitute teaching in Silt and New Castle.
The couple can also be found on Thursday afternoons rolling a few strikes in the “Wrinkles” league at the New Castle Burning Mountain Bowling Alley.Having spent so many years in various public school systems, and seeing some of the ongoing changes that have taken place, Davidson is happy with the profession he chose for his life’s work, but he does express some concern over what he sees as a growing trend in education over the past forty years.”It seems like we’ve developed a philosophy that doesn’t always make students responsible for their own actions,” said Davidson, who also served on the Garfield Re-2 school board from 1989-1993. “We tend to look for excuses rather than building personal responsibility. Sometimes it’s okay for a child’s ego to get a little bruised if we are to encourage high expectations and achievements in each child. One of the greatest rewards in education is to see the gleam in a child’s eyes who has achieved even beyond his/her own expectations.”
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