Special ed teacher retires, now able to focus on own special needs child
Pam Davis, a special education and E2020 teacher at Los Lunas High School is retiring after 25 years. She has 31 years in education, having also taught in Lovington for six years, but now she is looking forward to devoting more time to her 27-year-old son, Richard who was in a car crash nine years ago.
Richard was a basketball player at Eastern New Mexico University when he fell asleep at the wheel on a drive home for the weekend. He suffered severe brain injuries that have affected his motor skills. Davis plans to be her son’s full-time teacher now that she is retired.
Early in her life, Davis wanted to be a newspaper sports writer. All her brothers were involved in sports, and she was too, but she fell in love with teaching because of her grandmother, Odessa Dunlap in Oklahoma.
Dunlap was a foster mother of a young girl named, Michelle who had cerebral palsy. The care and tenderness she showed the child inspired Davis.
“I watched my grandmother take this little girl out of her wheelchair, wash her, dress her, comb her hair,” Davis said. “Grandmother would braid her hair every day, and I was just so touched by that, I was so moved by that.”
She made up her mind then, as a junior in high school to be a teacher.
“I’m inspired by kids,” she said. “I’m inspired to do well because I know those kids are looking at me — they’re looking for someone to look up to. I want to be good, I want to be the best for them, because I want kids to look at me and always say, ‘Miss Davis showed us, Miss Davis did this by the way she was.”
She loves being in an atmosphere of learning.
“Everybody thinks school is just about academics, but it’s so much more,” he said. “It’s about life and life skills. I learn so much.”
Students flock to her. It’s clear there is a deep, mutual respect and affection.
“I think it is truly a gift,” Davis said. “I think that God has blessed me. I just have that ability to connect. I think they see the realness in me. I can’t pretend, I don’t know how to pretend to be something I’m not.”
Nor does pride stand in the way of admitting when she’s wrong or offering an apology.
Her father, Willie was known and loved far and wide, she said. Everywhere the family went someone would approach him to say hello. It’s the same with Davis, in state or out of state, she encounters students she has taught.
Flying to Disneyland, she met a stewardess who was a former student, then at Magic Mountain she hears her name being called and it’s another former student running the rides. At the airport in Orlando, Florida another encounter with a former student at the ticket counter. It’s like that everywhere she goes, she said.
“Our kids are everywhere,” she said. “That’s just a blessing of this job.”
One of her favorite memories was when she was teaching AVID and was very stressed out on the job. One of the students gently reminded her to relax.
“A little girl just looked at me and said, ‘Miss Davis, ooh sah,’ just out of the blue. I will never forget that little girl. She made me focus on what’s important here, now. This is alright, you’re going to get it together. Just chill. She just looked at me and said, ‘Ooh sah,’ whatever that means, it calmed me down.”
Davis was born and raised in New Mexico and grew up in the South Valley.
She went to Los Padillas Elementary School and graduated from Rio Grande High School. She earned her teaching degree at ENMU.
“I’ve been teaching at the high school 25 years, and I’ve taught summer school for 23 years,” Davis said. “This is my first summer without teaching. I’m about to go crazy!
“I keep thinking, am I going to adjust, but I will adjust,” she said smiling broadly. “Because I’ll see them out in the community, I’m not going anywhere I keep telling people. I’m going to be like Cher, you know how Cher retired, and she keeps coming back and coming back? I’m still going to be at the games. I’m still going to be in the stands, I’m still going to be at the academic awards and graduations.”
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