Published on April 18th, 2015 | by Millennium Magazine Staff0
Athena Davis Honored as a National LifeChanger of the Year
Pictured from left: Richland One administrator Ernest Dupree, Athena Davis, Jeannetta Scott, executive director of schools; and Marilyn Davis, executive director of special education.
Pendergrass Fairwold School teacher Athena Davis is the kind of teacher every student hopes to get: smart, caring and willing to go the extra mile to make a difference in their lives. Even now after 30 years of teaching in Richland One, many of her former students still call, write or come to visit her.
On April 17, Ms. Davis was named one of 10 National LifeChanger Award winners during a surprise ceremony held in her honor at Pendergrass Fairwold. LifeChanger of the Year is a national program sponsored by the National Life Group that annually recognizes and rewards K-12 school district educators and employees who make a beneficial difference in the lives of students by exemplifying excellence, positive influence and leadership.
Ms. Davis, who teaches physical education to disabled students, was presented with a personal cash award of $1,500. An additional $1,500 award was presented to the school in her name. She was selected as a LifeChanger of the Year from more than 600 teachers, administrators and school district employees nominated for the award.
She never suspected that she was the one being honored until students and staff cheered when her name was called during the school assembly in the cafeteria. “I am totally stunned and overwhelmed,” said Ms. Davis. “As teachers we don’t think anyone cares or pays attention to what we do. It feels great to be recognized. I consider these kids as my children and that’s how I treat them.”
Pendergrass Fairwold Principal Faythe Redenburg, who arranged the surprise ceremony, even managed to sneak in Ms. Davis’ mother, Lillian Edney; her sister, Cynthia Edney; and her daughter, Kaetrena Kendrick, and other family members without giving away the secret.
“Ms. Davis provides an opportunity for our students to succeed. She provides extra attention to help them to participate to their full capacity. It brought tears to my eyes when she realized the assembly was for her,” said Ms. Redenburg.
In the beginning of her career, Ms. Davis taught physical education and human growth and development classes to high school students. For many of the young girls she coached at that time, her home became a haven where they could go to feel safe and wanted.
Since the mid-1990s, she has been teaching physical education to disabled students, traveling daily to seven locations to work with 78 special needs students within the district. Teachers have noticed a positive difference in their students because of her efforts. Not only are the students more focused in the classroom, they also have gained a sense of accomplishment and well-being and learned the importance of persevering. Through her coaching and teaching, Ms. Davis has touched countless lives.