Washington State University education major Kayla Davis probably never imagined homeschooling her younger siblings and working at Chuck E. Cheese for five years would help lead her toward a career in education. And yet, Kayla said the leadership, organizational, and communication skills she gained from both experiences carried over easily into her dream.
Despite being born and raised in Longview, Washington, she calls herself a “Kelso kid” having attended school in nearby Kelso. Kayla always knew she would attend college. Her mother earned a bachelor’s degree in biology and is working on her master’s in Marriage and Family Counseling, and her father earned bachelor’s degrees in both business and finance. He reviews appraisals for banks.
As a child, Kayla had aspirations of becoming a singer, and music remains an important part of her life. “I sing all the time,” she said, “even just around the house. I also go to the local ‘open mic’ nights and make videos that incorporate rap, singing, and music.” After she becomes a K-12 teacher, Kayla plans to incorporate music into her lesson plans.
Joining the Coug Family
Kayla graduated from community college with an associate’s degree in general studies and then took time off. She worked part-time at Chuck E. Cheese and homeschooled three of her younger siblings. When asked about taking a break from school, Kayla said, “I would not change a thing.”
Kayla had always liked working with children, but wasn’t sure teaching was what she wanted to do. “When I first started homeschooling my siblings,” she said, “we used books and other curricula.” A couple weeks into the process, Kayla got the idea to shake things up. She set up a “classroom” in the house with posters and desks, and ran the day as if her siblings were at school, even having recess and lunch. Kayla took her siblings on field trips and instituted service-learning projects.
“I discovered a lot about how children learn differently, and I had fun finding ways of presenting various topics in engaging ways—puppets, songs, drama. The overall experience helped me realize I wanted to be a teacher. I love teaching and can see myself doing it as a career.”
In 2014, Kayla started attending WSU. During her first semester, she volunteered with the YMCA of the Palouse After School Program for a teaching and learning course. She worked at the YMCA through the end of the summer. “The YMCA is very service-learning oriented. The experience helped me grow and gave me valuable teaching skills.” These skills included flexibility, leadership, communication, working with diverse individuals, and incorporating service-learning and partnering with the community in valuable ways.
Kayla spent her first year in Pullman completing the remaining courses she needed to gain acceptance into the College of Education Teacher Education Program. “It was great timing,” she said. Her sister was transferring to WSU on a track and field scholarship, which helped Kayla choose WSU. “Family is very important to me,” she said. “I have four sisters and three brothers. We are a tight-knit group.”
Although Kayla spends most of her time in the Education Building, she said, “I really like the Pullman campus. It’s so big and pretty. And there’s always music and events going on.” The Pullman community, she said, is one of the safest communities she’s lived in, and she loves that she can get to most places by walking. “I also like the green bikes,” she said. “During the summer I checked one out and did the trail to Moscow, Idaho, a couple of times.”
Kayla started to enjoy WSU even more after being accepted into the Teacher Education Program. “I love seeing the same people every day,” she said, “and how close we are.” Every semester approximately 60 students enter the Teacher Education Program cohort and are divided into two sections of about 30. In addition to her academic life, Kayla plays intramural basketball and softball with her friends from the Education program. She enjoys attending WSU basketball games and her sister’s track and field meets when the events are in Pullman.
Uncovering her Teaching Philosophy
Kayla has enjoyed learning from the instructors at the College of Education, especially hearing about their experiences in the classroom. Kat Overhauser teaches early childhood literacy. “She’s really down-to-earth and up front about her own experiences,” Kayla said. “I learned a lot in her class.”
Scott Wilson, who teaches math and fine arts, has also been an important part of Kayla’s journey. “He’s a fantastic instructor,” she said. “He did a great job encouraging and affirming our skills as teachers along with giving us valuable tools we can use with future students.”
Kayla said she’s had opportunities to role-play being both teacher and student. “As students, we got to dance, ride P.E. scooters, and play tag,” she said. “Everyone’s a good sport, and we get a chance to figure out our teaching style and how best to engage students.”
In addition to helping her discover her teaching style, the WSU College of Education helped Kayla solidify her teaching platform, and she became more aware of her strengths and weaknesses as an aspiring teacher. She’s enjoyed meeting and learning from people of diverse backgrounds and cultures, and one day, hopes to teach abroad. “The instruction, practicums, and learning experiences have been great,” Kayla said. “Being in the education program affirmed my decision to be a teacher.
Kayla believes strongly in teaching the whole student and making learning relevant to daily life. Also, she tries to find ways to incorporate service-learning into education to encourage students to become good citizens. “The general subjects are very important,” she said, “but so is teaching a student to be a well-rounded person who can give back to society.”
“I really want to become a game changer in the field and do something different, creative and fun that helps students become well-rounded individuals in every arena of their lives, not just their educations.”
After Kayla graduates, she plans to seek full-time employment in the Longview/Kelso area where she will complete her student teaching, but she’s open to looking in other cities. “Once I get a couple years of teaching under my belt,” she said, “I’d like to go to graduate school, either to get a master’s in teaching or perhaps, counseling.”
Scholarships change our stories
Scholarship support plays an important role in the quality of Kayla’s WSU experience. She is the recipient of several scholarships, including the prestigious R.H. and Jane Logan Scholarship, which began as a $16.5 million estate gift from San Francisco Bay area developer, philanthropist, and alumnus Roscoe “Rock” Logan and his wife, Jane. Awarded annually to high achieving WSU undergraduate and graduate students who plan to pursue careers in teaching and demonstrate financial need, the Logan Scholarship is WSU’s largest endowed scholarship program.
“I was really excited to get a scholarship for my field,” she said. Kayla is among the first 18 cohort of Logan Scholars to receive the award.
Kayla also received the Mary Alice’s Scholarship Fund: Ensuring Teaching Excellence for the Future, awarded to certified elementary education majors who embody the passion and professional commitment of Mary Alice-Vaugh. In addition, Kayla also received the Denise K. Bahr (Summers) Memorial Scholarship.
“These scholarships have made a positive impact on me,” she said. “With donor support I was able to worry less about paying for tuition and fees, books, even gas.”
“Sometimes we don’t always see the impact gifts have, but they make a huge impact. You have to think about not only me, but all the other people who are also getting scholarships. How would our stories change without this support?”