Davison bidding Fairmont Area Schools farewell
Jim Davison has made a career of teaching and learning.
After spending the last 30 years as principal at Fairmont Elementary School, Davison will retire after the end of the school year.
While Davison has been in Fairmont for 30 years, he has taught for 41 years. Originally from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, he attended the University of Iowa and graduated with a degree in elementary education and special education.
He got his first teaching job in Cedar Rapids and later worked in Mount Pleasant, Iowa.
He went on to get his master’s degree in special education and a specialist degree in administration from the University of Northern Colorado.
Davison met his wife, Teresa, in grad school.
“I worked in a lot of different positions,” he noted. “I worked for the University of Northern Colorado for a while in their talented and gifted program as an administrator. I’ve taught every grade level, including high school, with the exception of kindergarten and fourth grade, but I’ve taught everything else.”
Davison was principal at an elementary school in Fort Collins, Colorado, for two years prior to moving to Fairmont in 1989.
“We moved here because our kids were very little and we wanted to be in the Midwest because the education system was a lot better for my own kids,” he said. “I didn’t want my kids to grow up in a sprawling urban area.”
The Davisons have three children.
When Davison first came to Fairmont, there were about 200 students per grade. Now there are about 130 in grades 3-6 and 110 in K-2.
“I don’t think that’s unusual for rural areas,” he noted. “Right now we’re pretty steady with our enrollment. We have a lot of kids who are open-enrolled here from other districts.”
When asked about some of the biggest changes he has seen over the years, Davison said, “Education now is based on factual research, and the procedures and curriculum we follow are based on strong evidence. When I first started, we had some evidence, but it was more like the flavor of the year. Now there’s so much research on what we do currently.”
When it comes to the students, Davison said, “The kids are still the same, but families are different.”
“Their needs are more significant than what they were, but I think in many ways a lot of our needs are more significant than what they were,” he said. “Technology has been a big player and it’s really helped us individualize instruction, but you still have to be very careful with technology because by itself, it doesn’t help kids. It’s only when technology is paired with good teacher instruction that it makes a difference.”
A third- and fourth-grade teacher at Fairmont Elementary School, Joice Forster, has been a colleague of Davison for years. The two moved together to the elementary school in 2003, after the closure of Lincoln School.
“Kids are always first with Jim,” Forster said. “Everything he does and decisions he’s made are always in the best interest of the kids. As far as staff, he always told us that, ‘Your job is very important, but remember to keep your priorities and your families first.’ I think that’s what has made him have a lot of really good teachers.”
She added that Davison has always been up for crazy stuff when students have special events for meeting goals.
“One year he went on a dunk tank. Another time the kids got to slime him and he wore a big wet suit and it was crazy. The best one of all is when the kids raised enough money for Kids Against Hunger and he dressed up like a princess,” Forster said, laughing.
As for what’s next, Davison has many interests and it is clear he has put thought into what he is going to do after retiring.
“I’m trying to be careful and dedicate myself to things I’m really interested in,” he said. “I’m really interested in good housing for people so I’m on the housing board, I’m in the Lions Club and I’m thinking of joining some other boards.”
He also plans to do quite a bit of writing.
“I love writing and I’m very interested in it,” he said. “I currently have 32 different topics and ideas I’ve accumulated over the past few years. Primarily, it will be more scholarly works in and out of education. They take a lot of research.”
Davison also plans to spend more time with his grandchildren. He currently has three, with another on the way. The couple’s three children live fairly close, with one in St. Paul, one in Iowa and one in Wisconsin.
Davison and his wife plan to stay in Fairmont. She is retiring at the end of the year from her position at Southern Plains in Winnebago, as Davison said they had planned to retire together.
“I’ll miss the kids the most and working with my staff and developing their skills,” he said. “One thing I won’t miss is the day-to-day work.”
A new set of administrators will be coming to both the elementary and high school as the district shuffles some staff. However, Davison believes everything will be left in good hands.
“It’s a good group of people taking over. New people always have new ideas and that’s really important because if you don’t have new ideas you can never grow,” Davison said.
While he is officially done at the end of June, Davison said he enjoys learning so much he never plans to stop.
“It’s not retiring, it’s retreading. I’ve done my due diligence as an educator and now it’s time to go explore other areas,” he said.