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Hero in Education- Crystal Davids: Building relationships is a key to success

William A. Fraser Middle School teacher believes first impressions are crucial
Crystal Davids has been a teacher for 20 years. (John Morrow/Abbotsford News)

Before the school year began at William A. Fraser Middle School, Grade 6/7 teacher Crystal Davids received her class list and student photos.

She set to memorizing the names and faces of her class so she could greet them personally as they walked into her classroom on the first day of school.

“This is the first year I did that,” said Davids, who has been a teacher since 2004 and at Fraser Middle School since 2007. “The kids were probably creeped out at first, but it made an impression. I knew all 30 names.”

Davids said she wanted to help the kids get to know each other and feel like they were Fraser Falcons, and knowing their names and faces was one way she could make them feel welcome.

There are approximately 670 students in Grades 6, 7 and 8 at the middle school. Five different elementary schools feed into Fraser Middle School, so the first day of school for children entering the sixth grade is new for everyone.

“They’re coming from these other schools and have an elementary school identity. Greeting them by name helps them have that sense of belonging quicker and the start of the year is smoother,” she said.

Davids has three core values she practises as a teacher: relationships first, consistency and accountability.

She said relationships are key in order for children to hold boundaries. Having consistent expectations and maintaining the same rules as her teaching partner allows them to be successful as teachers, and holding each other accountable sets expectations and gives the children something to model after.

“It’s OK to hold students responsible. They know we care when we set boundaries and we hold them to that,” she said.

Davids said while relationships with her students is key, it’s also important to have good communication with parents.

“I view our relationship as a partnership, and I always sign off emails with, ‘Thanks for supporting this at home.’ I believe in open communication and making parents feel like their questions matter and we can work together.”

In addition to parents and teachers, there are youth care workers, Indigenous support workers, and educational assistants who support the adolescents as they navigate their middle school years. Davids said she’s able to do good work because she has great help behind her, including a student teacher from UBC for the third year in a row.

Having a student teacher is one of the ways she gives back to the teaching community, but Davids said she also gains from the experience.

“I know that what I’m passing along is great, but I’m learning 2024 education philosophy too. I’m a lifelong learner,” she said.

The motivation for helping others is what drew Davids to teaching, and she always knew she wanted to be in education. She chose middle school because her Grade 6 and 7 teachers were influential and memorable in her life. She recalls feeling like she mattered and knowing she could make a difference.

“Kids at this age really need a cheerleader, someone on their side saying, ‘You can do this one day.’ They’re starting to think about education, electives, careers, etcetera and I love seeing their growth. At the beginning of the sixth grade, they’re babies and when they leave in the seventh, they’re cool. They’re doing their hair, wearing deodorant, and caring about their appearance.”

Davids said it’s not what she teaches (the facts, dates or curriculum) that’s important; it’s the life skills – problem solving, critical thinking, social and emotional work – that matter.

READ MORE: Heroes in Education 2024