David Lawrence, Willard Davis Honored as Jenks District Teacher and Employee of the Year
David Lawrence, a teacher at Jenks Freshman Academy, is the 2019-20 Jenks Public Schools District Teacher of the Year. An instructor of STEM, biology, music, and special education, Lawrence was selected from a group of 10 JPS Site Teachers of the Year by a committee of JPS administrators, school board members, and Jenks teachers who previously qualified as finalists for Oklahoma State Teacher of the Year.
“I am overwhelmed and humbled to receive this honor of being named the District Teacher of the Year,” Lawrence remarked. “I know how many outstanding teachers there are here at JPS, and I sincerely hope I can be a great representative for them and for this district. It is a place that has given so much to me, and I welcome the opportunity to give back in this capacity.”
This year at the Freshman Academy, Lawrence teaches two sections of music appreciation, a special education biology class, and Intro to STEM. In his music classes, he challenges students to connect songs to the time and place they were created while also allowing students to create and perform their own music compositions. As a biology teacher, Lawrence works to differentiate material to meet student needs as he assists with essential practices such as note taking and how to ask the right questions. In the STEM course, students in Lawrence’s class are introduced to a variety of topics and disciplines including robotics, design, mechanics, structures, programming, and sustainable energy.
“Education has been an extremely important part of my life,” he said. “Right now, the profession is changing, and this is an exciting time to be a teacher. With all the technology available to our students, there are so many options and techniques and tools out there for teachers to really reach every single student and to open so many doors by creating the right kind of experiences for them inside of our classrooms.”
Lawrence, a native of Grand Prairie, Texas, has been a Jenks teacher for 11 years. After graduating from Southern Methodist University, Lawrence was a member of the Peace Corps in Cameroon. He returned to school when his time serving in Africa was completed and earned a medical degree from the University of Texas-San Antonio. Lawrence used his medical training in Togo where he went to work on an AIDS project with Crisis Corps – an offshoot of the Peace Corps. Upon his return to the United States, he worked in a hospital emergency room in Michigan and moved to Tulsa seeking a new career in education. He spent time at Jenks as a substitute teacher and a paraprofessional before earning his teacher certification.
“I have been given so many extraordinary opportunities that I never would have enjoyed if it weren’t for my education,” Lawrence stated. “I know the value of education, and I am humbled to be in a position to gift that love of learning to a new generation. There are few professions where you can so dramatically alter someone’s life for the better.”
Over the next few months, Lawrence will complete the application process to be considered for the Oklahoma Teacher of the Year. Finalists for the state award will be announced in July and the winner will be named at a ceremony in Oklahoma City in September. Lawrence is attempting to become the seventh consecutive Jenks teacher to be named a finalist for the state’s highest honor.
Willard Davis, site maintenance employee at Jenks Middle School, is the 2019-20 Jenks Public Schools’ Classified Employee of the Year. Davis was selected from a pool of 17 finalists representing each school site and department in the district.
“I was surprised to hear my name called, but it is also very gratifying to know that the heartfelt effort I give to help our amazing faculty and staff has been recognized by my peers and by this wonderful district,” Davis said. “Our teachers make such a difference in the lives of our students, but it takes the work of a dependable, diligent classified staff to keep all of the parts ready and moving. The recognition of these working parts by our sites and our district is encouraging, inspiring and certainly motivating.”
Davis, who is in his fourth year making repairs and maintaining all aspects of Jenks Middle School, spent 40 years running grocery stores in the Tulsa area and worked for 10 years as a manager at a local Atwoods. After retiring from those positions, he wanted to stay busy and knew he could use his years of experience to make a positive impact in a school setting.
“After deciding to end my retirement, I wanted to do something where I could see good outcomes in tasks well done.” Davis said. I knew that there was not much about building maintenance that I couldn’t do because of my background, but I discovered so much more opportunity than I expected. Now, I am in a place every day where I get to serve amazing students and staff members.”
Whether he is changing light bulbs, mending furniture, or working to keep an air conditioner functioning properly, Davis is an integral part of the day-to-day mission at Jenks Middle School. Colleagues selected him as the Middle School Classified Employee of the Year for his humble attitude, his friendly demeanor, and the efficiency with which he completes his tasks.
“I love the interaction with faculty and staff, seeing and knowing that maybe something I say or do might just make their day a little more pleasant and easier,” reflected Davis. “I realize that what I do and the attitude I do it with can make a difference for some of these teens who might be having a tough time. I love watching these kids come in as seventh graders and see the growth and transformation that they go out with as eighth graders.”
Here is a complete list of the 2019-20 Classified Employees of the Year from each JPS site and department:
Ronald Guinn – Site Maintenance, East Elementary
Lindsay Wilson – Site Administrative Assistant, East Intermediate
Donna Hickman – Site Administrative Assistant, Freshman Academy
Tricia Smart – Administrative Assistant, High School
Willard Davis – Site Maintenance, Middle School
April Benoit – Early Childhood Assistant, Northwest Elementary