Lucky for the students in Flagler County, Davis decided to become a teacher instead of a veterinarian.
R.D. Davis might not have never been an agriscience teacher, at Buddy Taylor Middle School, if it wasn’t for his wife Johanna Davis, agriscience teacher at Flagler Palm Coast High School. Now he has been nominated for Teacher of the Year for the second time in his career, and one of the people he is up against is his wife, with her first nomination.
“I didn’t go (to the University of Florida) with the intent to be a teacher at all,” Davis said. “I went for animal sciences major, and I do have degree in that. I was leaning toward becoming a veterinarian, and I took some courses with my wife, and decided I liked it, and here I am 31 years later.”
The first five years he taught in Hillsborough County, the past 26, at Buddy Taylor Middle School.
He knows the Flagler area better than most, because he grew up on the west side of Ormond Beach.
“I used to fish where BTMS is,” Davis said. “I can remember when this was woods. As a kid we came up here a lot for fishing.”
He says the students, and community, is what has kept him here for more than two and a half decades.
“You have to love kids if you are going to teach this age group, for sure,” he said. “We’ve got some good kids in this county.”
He likes seeing kids when they have that “ah ha” moment and grasp something he is teaching. He talked about the first time he witnessed such a moment, when one of his students grasped parliamentary procedure.
“You could see it click in his brain,” he said. “That was 1998, and I still get chill bumps thinking about it to this day. I’ve seen it happen since, but that was the first one.”
While Davis grew up with farming and animals, he knows some of his kids have never even planted a vegetable, and said there are “eureka” moments because of the newness of the experience.
“They don’t know where the food comes from, and you have to back track to get to it,” he said.
His agriculture science classes are about more than farming and animals, the students learn leadership skills, and have to make mini speeches, write, and learn about history.
“We cover just about everything they are doing in the rest of the school, and they have to apply it a lot of times in their classes,” he said.
He’s never stopped being a student himself. When the students go to COLT, Chapter Officer Leadership Training, the teachers are attending classes, getting updates.
“DOE (Department of Education) keeps us updated,” he said. “We also have mid-winter and summer conferences we can attend.”
Getting up before daylight and home late, Davis and his wife manage to find time to be involved in the community, with a recent fundraiser Open House at Whispering Meadows, the nonprofit organization with equine assisted programs that work with those with disabilities.
They are also involved in the Flagler County Fair and Youth Show, Cracker Day, and the FFA.
Davis said he tells his students that he believes his class is one of the most important they will see in the next 30 years.
“Our population is 6 billion now, and it’s going to be 9-10 billion in the next 30 years,” he said. “We can’t feed all of the people now, how are we going to do it then? It is going to take this generation to figure that out.
“This class is going to get more and more important as time goes on, and I think you are going to see a big change in agriculture land, figuring out ways to grow stuff with less land.”
He introduces his students to the growing options together with STEM, working on hydroponic systems.
“By the time we get done, we will have the building, so the kids have about five different ways to garden.”
Some of his former students have used their education in agriscience to pursue a variety of careers.
“There are over 300 different careers related to agriculture, and only one is farming,” Davis said.