Annette Davis wears many hats, but being a relationship-building educator is the one she finds most important.
“If I can pull that off, I’m guiding my students to be their best selves,” she said. And as an education assistant in a center-based special education setting at Cooper High School, she builds those relationships with students in a lot of different ways. She builds trust with students, and demonstrates she, as an educator, is someone dependable to them.
“They see that I am genuine. They see that I truly care about them because I am being kind, helpful and respectful,” Davis said.
That building of relationships with students, and her colleagues, has garnered some recognition across the district. Davis was recently named 2021 Education Assistant (EA) of the Year by the Robbinsdale Federation of Teachers.
“I am very proud to have been chosen for the award,” she said. “It brings me joy to be recognized for doing the work that I do for our students and their families.”
Peter Eckhoff, president of the Robbinsdale Federation of Teachers, said Davis is an amazing educator, and most deserving of recognition.
“All of our education assistants work tirelessly to help meet the needs of each and every student in Robbinsdale Area Schools,” he said. “Ms. Davis is an amazing educator, and represents the best-of-the-best that our district has to offer. We’re so proud of her.”
Davis, who has worked for Robbinsdale Area Schools for 13 years, the past eight of which have been in her current role at Cooper, said she was surprised to learn she had earned the award, but immediately shifted into thinking about what she’d do with the recognition. “I began to pace myself in my thinking, and realized that I need to focus on all the great actions I can bring to Robbinsdale that will encourage my colleagues to join me in the fight for equity and social justice, not just in our school district, but throughout our community.”
And for Davis, that’s important. She’s active in the community as a champion for equity and racial justice, as well as civic engagement and unionizing. She volunteers as an Executive and Cope Board member for the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation, an Executive Board member for Education Minnesota’s Governing Board representing Election District X, and Co-Chair the commission for the People of Color Union Members and the African American Educators Forum. That’s all on top of her work as an EA at Cooper.
That incredible portfolio of work and giving back to the community is one of the many strengths Davis brings to Cooper High School, according to Principal Dr. Frank Herman.
“She’s a wonderful role model, not only to the students she works with, but also our staff and the greater community,” he said. “She’s an amazing voice for public education, and an outstanding educator who deserves this award.”
In earning the award, Davis said she hopes to be able to convey just how important it is for the community to accept all students for who they are. “Accepting that a child speaks a dialect that is different from your own, and recognizing that it is their culture and not an improper form of expression -- that is a part of being genuine and accepting, and meeting people where they are,” she said.
Typically, the winner of the EA of the Year award would be recognized during an in-person celebration co-hosted by the Robbinsdale Federation of Teachers and the Seven Dreams Education Foundation, both of which present the award-winning EA with $750 worth of prizes -- $250 coming from the federation, and $500 coming from the foundation. However this year, the event has been canceled due to COVID, though Davis will still receive her prizes.
Eckhoff said there were three other finalists for this year’s honor. They included: Andrea Boss, Cooper High School; Lisa Boss; Sonnesyn Elementary School; and Diane Perryl, Neill Elementary School.