Spotlight: Justin Davenport
January 09, 2023
Name: Justin Davenport
Graduation Year: 2014
Degree: Chemistry, Concentration in Secondary Education
- West Feliciana High School Chemistry/Physics Teacher: AP Physics, AP Physics C: Mechanics, Honors Chemistry, Physical Science, and Gifted Coordinator
Q: What do you do in your current position, and what makes you happy to be doing it?
- I teach 3 preps: AP physics, AP physics C: Mechanics, and Honors Chemistry. At this point I teach all honors classes which I think is where I shine. I really like pushing kids to their limits and working past them because kids think their limits are a lot smaller than they actually are. Being able to work them through that and watch them grow is really a joy for me. That's one of my favorite things to do. I really enjoy working with kids like that.
- It's funny. Because when I think to myself, I'm like, ‘I'm going into my 10th year [of teaching].’, and I constantly say, ‘Just 31 more years.'…I don't plan on leaving teaching, even though a lot of people are right now, because of various different things. It's hard to put a finger on exactly what it is about it. I love the kids. I love this age range. I love being able to work with high schoolers as they transition into being adults. I like seeing all the growth that goes on there. I like the rewarding nature of watching them finish and then move on to hopefully bigger and better things whenever they leave. I love my coworkers. I think that's really important. I think that having a little support system around you is super vital.
- In first year teaching, we did teaming which meant that all freshmen had the same 4 core teachers...I was on one of [the teams] with 3 other teachers. We'd meet every day as teachers to talk about the kids, be able to pull in kids that were having trouble, and be able to praise kids who were doing really well. Having that little support group around me, I was able to ask so many questions that I would have been afraid to ask anybody else. I just wanted to know how things work, how I could do better, how to deal with ‘X’ problem in the classroom, etc…I don't think I would still be here if I hadn't had that along the way. It's an interesting journey.
Q: What are some highlights that you have experienced in your career?
- I think if '1st year me' saw everything that '10th year me' was doing now, they would probably be a little shocked and surprised because I: teach 3 different classes, am in charge of the gifted program with 40 gifted kids and do all the IEP (individualized education program) meetings, am in charge of the Beta Club, run the camera system at our track and field meets, and am our department chair for our science department…I can do a lot more than I ever thought I could do. I remember being overwhelmed with 2 preps my first year. And now I've got all of this, not to mention, you know, my 3 year old girl at home who just wants to say, ‘Hi.’ while I'm on the computer. So I think I can do a lot more than I expected I could do, even though it's a struggle sometimes. I'm very much the type of person where I'm gonna try to leave work at work. Work is great. I love work. I love my job. And at the same time, I have a family, and I have a personal life. I need to make sure that I maintain that boundary because it's really important. I wanna make sure that I can take care of my family. I want to make sure that I have time for me.
- In my career, I really think it's been a highlight for me to stay in the same district for so long. I think that I was really put in a good position by getting hired on at West Feliciana. It was a really good school district. It was interesting to get put into such a good district so early. And it's been fun to watch how things have kind of changed over that time. I started in my very first year teaching physics. I started a cardboard boat building competition in my physics class where [students] are only allowed to use cardboard and packing tape. Then, they have to get on the boats, and they have to float for at least a minute. It started in a student’s pool at their house the very first year that I taught, and now it has evolved into a race in a pond where kids sabotage each other along the way, and about 100 people come out and watch. It's turned into this big deal. But that's actually the reason why some people take physics now. [They] want to be a part of that, the project based learning, and the experience of putting their hands on something, making it, and seeing the content happening in front of them. It has been fun to watch. They also make catapults in the other semester to launch eggs which is fun, but it doesn't have anything on the boat building. That's always my favorite day of the year, the day that we get to launch boats. It's definitely one of the biggest highlights for me with the kids.
Q: What were the most significant takeaways or benefits you gained during your undergraduate experience?
I don't know if this ties in with the question as well, but I think it's important. I appreciated that the GeauxTeach program allowed me to get a content degree while also getting an education certification. One of the things that comes up the most often in my observations is that I am a master of my content. I know what I'm talking about. The kids know that I know what I'm talking about, and I'm able to break it down for them, help explain it to them, and walk them through it. I don't think that's something I necessarily would have gotten if I hadn't been able to major in chemistry while getting my certification at the same time. I think students typically expect that I majored in teaching or something like that. Being able to tell them, ‘No, I I majored in chemistry.’ allows them to trust that I know what I'm talking about, and I think that gives them a level of respect and a level of trust that might not otherwise be there.
Q: What did you learn in GeauxTeach STEM that informs how you think about teaching or how you approach your job? What skills did you learn in GeauxTeach STEM that have benefited you in your career?
I remember whenever we went through GeauxTeach, we did 5E (Engage, Explore, Explain, Extend/Elaborate, and Evaluate) lesson plans…Extend always stuck with me because it reminded me that when I'm doing lessons, I always need to connect to a bigger picture. I always need to connect to something else. I need to show the context behind things. I want to try to answer that elusive question that kids always have of, ‘Why is this important in the real world?’ That's an important thing to do. So, while I maybe don't do the 5E lesson plans anymore, I think the spirit of elaborate has stayed with me…
Student teaching stuck with me a lot. Being able to actually get in the classroom and most importantly, manage [student] behavior for an entire semester, which is something that's really hard to do in the actual classroom, is a different thing than learning about behavior management. That stuck with me a lot as well.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
I'm always grateful that I did the GeauxTeach program. I really enjoyed the GeauxTeach program. I thought it was really accessible. I especially thought Step 1 and Step 2 (GeauxTeach classes) were really accessible…I really enjoyed the program. It wasn't too strenuous on me. It was nice to feel whenever I went to a GeauxTeach class that they were a little bit more relaxed. It kind of felt a little like high school, like an environment where you really knew the teachers. You knew your classmates because they often were going up with you through the years. It made it a really good environment to learn in. I always appreciated doing it, obviously, now I'm teaching.
I think it's a good program for people who maybe don't know what they want to do because whenever I first got into it, I wasn't sure if I wanted to do something in a chemistry lab or if I wanted to teach. Teaching was on the table…and it was through the first couple of classes that I realized that it was something that I really liked and something that I really wanted to do. I think that was how I got here. If for nothing else, I think it's a really good pathway just to keep your options open.