I was fortunate to have Barbara as my upstairs LS neighbor. Above our raucous KX classroom, Barbara worked her magic with the fourth graders. Throughout the day, she would lead her happy class up and down the nearby staircase, always poking her head in to say hello. Have you noticed that there is always a twinkle in her eye? After one of her visits, a hopeful five-year-old announced, “I want to be in that class when I am in the fourth grade!”
A teacher’s school day is a flurry of motion. We have a few quiet moments though and it was during the early mornings that Barbara and I often had our chats, that magic hour before the students arrived. Although we had served on various committees together over the years, it was during those transitory moments, when Barbara would stop by on her way to start her day, that we actually had a chance to talk about the important things in life.
We talked a lot about food. Once we discovered our shared appetites for things delicious, it was a constant subject. Barbara is a gourmet in the most delightful and lifelong way. We teachers should be creatures of appetites. It is our job to entice, to entrance, and hopefully, keep our students wanting more. To do this, we must keep ourselves fed and to nourish our own appetites. Hopefully we are always a little hungry, ready for the next meal. Ask Barbara about her latest great meal and watch her light up. Her equally dedicated partner in dining is her husband Dennis. They met at age 19 in geology class and have been happily married for “a really long time”.
Where did it all begin? New York native Barbara Davison spent most of her childhood in Yonkers, NY until she came to Washington DC to study at George Washington University. Of her earlier years, the “highlight” was the 7th-12th grade years spent at the Ethical Culture-Fieldston School. As Barbara says, “I made life-long friends and developed a strong work ethic and moral compass.” Like many teachers, Barbara was inspired by her own “dedicated and caring teachers”. There was her geometry teacher Mr. Reed with whom she met almost every day to deepen her understanding of complex geometry. There was Pat, the field hockey and basketball coach who became “an amazing friend and champion-we stayed in touch for many years after I graduated.” In the 7th grade, Barbara became attached to her French teacher in more ways than one: “Mrs. Sondheim was very warm and affectionate. One day she was hugging me for making a funny mistake and my braces got caught on her sweater. We were attached for at least 30 seconds!”
Barbara’s SFS stay began in 1983 as a parent. Her children Nicole and Ben were “lifers” at SFS and they “loved it so much that I decided I had to go to LS too!” She then became a tutor and long-term sub in 1995, and finally full realization as a 3rd grade teacher in 1998. Team teaching is an essential part of the LS experience, a working marriage of sorts. Barbara has been blessed with two happy unions. She shared a third-grade classroom with Barbara Szoradi for 17 years. Together, the pair was known for bringing colonial America alive through their social studies program with the help of Barbara S’s extensive collection of artifacts. In 2015, Barbara “was promoted to the fourth grade, which I really love.” She has shared the 4X class with Edith Zhang since 2015.
Teachers often have special subjects. For Barbara, it is a passion for math, “my favorite since I have been in grade school!” It is her goal to help every child love math. As she says, “every child has math potential” and she focuses on helping children to find their own solution before guiding them to a more efficient approach. “The math has to make sense to them” and once achieved, “they are more open to looking at another approach.” Even when there are errors, she tries to find something right and everyone gets their chance to explain their thinking. As she says, “there are no gold medals for speed in math.”
When looking back at her time as a parent and then a teacher at LS, Barbara spoke of Richard Lodish, the longtime LS principal and the man who helped her make that transition. Barbara recalls “a love for his teachers that was palpable…and made you want to live up to it.” She reflected on the importance of leadership and said, “Rich was never a boss-he was like a kid in a candy store.” His devotion and passion for education was inspiring to Barbara: “He saw the inner light in every teacher and helped me to see the inner light in every child.” In sum, Barbara says, “They have it, it’s your job to find it.”
Who doesn’t want to have Barbara stick around? She tried to retire a couple years ago, but luckily for us, she stuck around. We are grateful to have had her calm, able and good-humored presence during these last couple years of pandemic teaching. As classrooms and teachers were kept separate, I know that many of us miss our transitory chats with Barbara. She has been a good friend, colleague, and mentor to many. Now that it is time for her to leave, those of us who loved her, students and colleagues alike, cannot help but feel a sense of loss. Yet it will be a time for our friend to feed herself described “varied” interests. “I love to spend time with family, travel, watch movies, exercise, practice yoga, play golf and bridge. On vacation I love to read, take long walks, cook and catch up with friends.”
Farewell dear Barbara! May you continue to shine your light and seek the light in others wherever you go. Let’s have dinner soon. Bring Dennis. You pick the place.