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HILLSVILLE — Taking the sum of individualized attention, extra hours of work and encouragement for students, use of new technology and community involvement, it all adds up to a Carroll High math teacher being named the educator of the year.
Administrators surprised Lora Davidson during advanced math class Friday with the Teacher of the Year Award for Carroll County Public Schools and treats for all.
"I was just very surprised," she said after the announcement by schools Superintendent Greg Smith and others. "I didn't expect this at all.
"I didn't know why everybody was coming in here, but it is a great honor."
"Having worked for 20 years together in the Carroll County High School mathematics department, I have witnessed Lora doing a remarkable job with her classes," Yvonne Goad, math department chair at the high school wrote in a recommendation. "She is a very caring teacher who is willing to spend the extra time and effort to prepare meaningful lessons and develop rapport with the students."
Integrating technology into her lessons, Davidson has been resourceful in class use of graphing calculators, computers and smart board programs to involve students in creative learning experience, Goad added.
Davidson is an excellent teacher who goes the extra mile to ensure student success.
"Showing genuine concern for her students, she makes herself available for additional assistance before and after school hours to help students understand the topics," Goad wrote. "She connects well with the students and energizes them in their efforts to learn math.
"Attending many sports activities, she also interacts well with the students socially and shows great interest in them."
Davidson, who earned her bachelors in math from Radford University in 1991 and her masters of education from the University of Virginia in 2009, said her philosophy is that it's up to teachers to come up with the formula to help students be successful.
"Children bring to the classroom a wide spectrum of experiences," she wrote. "It is our job to discover what each child's strength and weakness is and to encourage each student to contribute to the class."
To best find how to give the youth support and confidence to do well in class requires getting to know each student on an individual basis, she wrote.
All children are capable of learning, Davidson said. Building their confidence through helping them understand math can led to the students achieving even more.
Davidson works to achieve the best results.
"I spend extra time before and after school hours," she wrote. "I offer tutoring every day that I am there. I get to know my students. I know my student's hobbies. I try to attend as many extra-curricular activities as possible and compliment them on their performance."
She tries to talk to students' families, because the families enjoy hearing about the positive things their children do.
"I love to help others and I love mathematics," Davidson said. "Those are the two main reasons I became a teacher. No two days are ever the same. This is what keeps me in the classroom."
Competing with the Internet and electronic games has encouraged her to stay on top of technology and current events.
Technology plays a big part in being able to engage students, Davidson wrote about educational trends. Teachers need to be backed up by the availability of professional development in technology.
"Technology is a great way to address the diverse learning style, including language learners and learners with disabilities," she wrote. "Technology enables us to present information in multiple ways and through different types of media. It allows us to offer students multiple ways to demonstrate what they have learned."
Teachers need professional development to learn about new technology, ideas for actives and meaningful lessons, she wrote. Professional development should be considered an ongoing process.
"The ongoing professional development should include time to talk with colleagues about possible lessons to use with the technology, assessing student performance, and providing teachers with additional help integrating the technology into their curriculum."
Many teachers don't feel comfortable using technology and they should have the time to grow into it.
"Encouragement, time and training are the key components to the success of implementing new technology into the classroom,' Davidson said.
By providing the teachers with the tools, they should see rising student performance, she said.
Davidson stays busy when not in the classroom, especially with her church. At Coulson Church of the Brethren, she has served as co-treasurer for 10 years, helped pick up trash on roadsides spring and fall, made apple butter and caroled during Christmas.
Davidson keeps her hand in teaching during the summer by providing free tutoring help. Some of the people she works with have been her students and those who have continued on to college-level courses.
The summer tutoring topics are often not those she has taught in class, and it takes some research for her — Davidson sees this as an opportunity to broaden her skills.
The rewards of teaching might not always be immediate.
"After students graduate and have entered college, many realize that we really do care and that we try to equip them with the skills to be successful after high school," Davidson wrote. "I've had many students tell me they wish they had tried harder in high school and paid more attention in the classroom.
"This is their way of saying, 'Thank you and that you are a good teacher,'" she believes.
"The biggest reward I have received in teaching is when the 'light bulb' turns on in a student who has a history of failure in the mathematics classroom," Davidson said. "Once a child has experienced a little success in mathematics, it is easier to teach this child because of the confidence they have developed."