By David Fong
Regional Sports Content Manager
TROY — In a few short weeks, Chris Davis will pack up his guitar, sling the case over his shoulder and walk out the doors of Troy High School for the final time.
After 30 years, the sweet cacophony of folk music and student laughter that emanated from the classroom located next to the school cafeteria no longer will fill the hallways.
The hallways won’t be the only thing empty, however … so, too, will the hearts of the thousands of students who have delighted in the unorthodox teaching style of one of Troy High School’s most beloved teachers for the past three decades.
“I’m going to miss it,” said Davis, a Troy High School English teacher who is set to retire at the end of this school year. “I think Troy is a special community and Troy High School is a special place. I think the parents in the Troy community have a genuine love for their children and want to see them succeed. That is something that impressed me then and still impresses me now. Parents in this community truly care about their children.”
And those children, in turn, have truly cared for Davis, who has used whatever methods necessary to reach his students and impart in them a love for the written word. Frequently, that has involved pulling out his guitar once a week and using it as a teaching tool. Davis has been Troy High School’s own “Pied Piper” during his tenure — but rather than leading the children out of the town of Hamelin like his fictional counterpart, Davis has used his guitar and his music to lead children to the world of literature and his beloved poetry.
“It’s funny, because when I first started, I would pull out the guitar four times a year — the day before Thanksgiving, the day before Christmas break, the day before spring break and at the end of the year,” Davis said. “But students would always say I played the guitar all the time. I would try to tell them I only played it four times a year, but they would always say, ‘No, you played it all the time … I remember.’ But it really wasn’t that way.”
Over the years, however, Davis saw what a profound impact the music he played had on his students, and the guitar has become a more frequent part of his class curriculum. He now plays the guitar roughly once a week for his classes.
“It had such an impact on them,” he said. “It was a way to reach students. You could see how captivated they were once I would start playing. As I played, I was able to establish a human relationship through music.”
Davis’ own English background followed a far more traditional path.
The son of now-retired Ohio University English professor James E. Davis, the younger Davis remembers his own classroom career toeing a much straighter line.
“I learned a lot about revision,” Davis said of the English papers he would give his father to read in high school and when he took James E. Davis’ class in college. “When I was dumb enough and gave my dad a paper to read, I knew I was going to have to go back and redo it at least six times. I learned by my senior year in high school to do my own editing. I remember my sister cried the first time she gave him a paper to read. But when I took his class, I never worked harder in my life.”
One of James Davis’ students at Ohio University was former Troy High School assistant principal Mike Bennett. In the 1980s, Bennett called upon his former college professor when Troy High School had a position to fill.
“Mike Bennett had called my dad because Troy was looking for an English department chair,” Davis said. “As it turned out, Troy also had another position open at the time and my dad suggested he talk to me about that position. That’s literally how I got the interview. But I wasn’t handed the job. I interviewed well and they obviously liked what I had to say. I had also been published in my field before I even started, which didn’t hurt.”
Davis was offered the job and soon after made his way from Southeast Ohio — where he had lived his entire life — to Troy, a city he had never even heard of before being offered the job.
“Honestly, the first time I drove into Troy, I came in on (State Route) 202 and my initial impressions as I drove in on main street were that there were a lot of lawyers’ offices and churches,” Davis said with a laugh. “It seemed like every other building was either a church or a lawyer’s office.”
It didn’t take him long to fall in love with Troy — particularly Troy High School — however.
“I loved the campus,” Davis said of Troy High School. “I loved all the trees and all the green spaces. I loved the beauty of the campus. To me, it was a building filled with huge, inviting classrooms. I loved the fact that after school every day, the building was filled with kids everywhere doing stuff. It felt like all the groups of students — whether they were involved in athletics or drama or clubs or whatever — were working together for the school community.
“I was impressed with the passion of the other teachers. There was an unquenchable passion to develop students’ passion for learning.”
Davis fit right into that mix immediately … even if he did it in ways other teachers didn’t; and even if he did it in ways that were different from his father.
And what would does his father think of Davis’ teaching methods?
“He’s fully supportive,” Davis said with a laugh. “He supports anything you can do to reach students.”
Contact David Fong at (937) 440-5228 or firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong