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Seffner Elementary educator honored for her devotion

Cassandra E. Davis, left, of Seffner Elementary gets a hug from Hillsborough School Board member Doretha Edgecomb.

EDMUND D. FOUNTAIN | Times

Cassandra E. Davis, left, of Seffner Elementary gets a hug from Hillsborough School Board member Doretha Edgecomb.

SEFFNER

Fourth-grader Jacob Yauilla stood on the stage, his presence a testament to his teacher's success.

When he started to speak, the expression and emotions of his introduction hinted at a personality that flourished with her guidance.

Jacob is one of the reasons why Cassandra E. Davis won the Ida S. Baker Diversity Educator Award from the Hillsborough Education Foundation last week. She has helped him transition from special education to self-sufficiency, her "special hero" and "little trooper."

Davis, an Exceptional Student Education specialist at Seffner Elementary School, had been nominated for the award in years past. Last year, her assistant principal said, she declined the nomination to let someone else earn recognition.

So this year, Davis was instructed to enjoy the attention.

"She's just always, always here," said Seffner Elementary assistant principal Rosanne Mennie. "For everyone."

To Davis, diversity means bringing together different parts of the school: general education and exceptional students, lower grades and upper grades. She has devoted 27 years to this, all at Seffner Elementary, first as a teacher and now as program coordinator.

Davis, 49, loves the flexibility needed to work with students with emotional and behavioral disorders, the challenge of having to try creative means to capture their attention.

"I can do more." That, she said, was the inspiration for working with students with special needs.

It encouraged her to spread her love for reading, co-creating Boys Booked on Barbershops, a program to stock hair salons with books. She never says "no," taking on safety patrol, greeting buses and making rounds just to see classes.

On Monday, the community she worked so hard to cultivate turned out on the Seffner Elementary lawn. Rows and rows of students, big kids and little kids, held handmade banners high and cheered her as she stepped out of a limousine, provided for the day as part of her award.

They plastered the walls of the school and the door of her office with signs: "Congratulations, Mrs. Davis."

Stephanie Wang can be reached at swang@sptimes.com or (813) 661-2443.

Davis' tips to improve reading

Cassandra E. Davis, winner of the Ida S. Baker Diversity Educator Award and an Exceptional Student Education specialist at Seffner Elementary, offers these suggestions for reading success:

• Provide background knowledge. When students understand the historical or cultural context of a book, they can make personal connections to the book or notice relationships between similar texts.

• Reinforce reading strategies. Remind students to use models learned in school to read. For example, with an unfamiliar word, encourage them to sound out the word or break it into syllables.

• Re-read books. Students gain fluency the more they read and are able to re-tell stories. They will often identify new details after returning to a text.

• Read for pleasure. Even reading comic books or magazines will engage students at higher levels because of their interest in the materials.

• Start discussions at home. Instead of asking, "What did you do at school today?" ask "What did you read at school today?" Talking about reading helps students' understanding of the text.

Seffner Elementary educator honored for her devotion 02/03/11 [Last modified: Thursday, February 3, 2011 3:30am]

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