Farewell Robyn Davis and Leslie Williams

Charlotte Central School teachers Robyn Davis and Leslie Williams retire this year. Photo by Rowan Beck.

Every year it seems Charlotte Central School says goodbye to teachers. This year is no different, with four retiring. A huge hole will be left by two teachers in particular, Robyn Davis and Leslie Williams, whose combined tenure stands 56 years. Davis came to CCS when Larry Ketchum was principal. She began subbing, then became a para-educator in the K-3 multi-age classroom before she became the physical education teacher 33 years ago. Leslie Williams joined the CCS family 23 years ago. She has mainly been at the grades 7/8 level in language arts but had a six-year stint at the 6th grade level.

Both have seen numerous changes in the school, the biggest being the population decline. With it came shrinking budgets, fewer teachers and changes in programs. “There seemed to always be a shift in initiatives every five years or so,” they agreed. “That’s why you need to find middle ground,” Williams said. “A lot of things change in education, but working with kids and making connections with colleagues is paramount.” Both felt very lucky that the faculty was so collaborative in working with the students.

Williams and Davis also reflected on their beginnings at CCS.

When Davis first began, the gym was located where the library is now. She tried painting it and putting things up on the wall to make it feel more like a gym. The stage was located where librarian Heidi Huestis sits now. Underneath the stage were large drawers for her to store balls and other equipment. During this time the famous Ethel Atkins was working in the cafeteria. Every morning she would come in and bake fresh bread. When Davis would open the drawers to get out her equipment, the smell of freshly baked bread wafted up into her face, and all the balls would be deflated from the heat. “Every day I blew up the balls.” Eventually the new gym and Multipurpose Room were built, and Davis no longer got the smell of freshly baked goods in the morning or needed to inflate balls.

Davis also fondly remembered the bike ride teachers and students used to take to Button Bay at the end of the year, as well as camping on Mt. Philo. During her tenure Davis created flash mobs, expressive art performances and a volleyball team. “I kinda grew up in this school professionally. We’ve had an administration that gave us a lot of rope and let us go where we needed to.” Davis spoke highly of former principal Monica Smith and all the support she gave throughout the years. “We took a lot of direction from the kids. That’s where the volleyball program came from. Kids wanted something to do during the cold winter months as an alternative to recess.”

Williams concurred. “Our core staff has been so strong, no matter what’s going on outside we have done what’s best for the kids.” For several years she did a puppet show on the Middle Ages with her students. The stage was built by former editor of The Charlotte News, Alex Bunten, when he was in the 7th grade, with the help of his father. The unit got a lot of excitement from the kids, and they would write their own scripts, some of which she still has. “I would get such a kick out of hearing them say things like….no, no my love, you mustn’t doubt my devotion….they would get so into it,” she said with a smile. “Kids need new experiences, they need projects that allow them to stretch, make choices and take safe risks. Our best teaching moments come when we push ourselves and the kids step up to the plate.”

Both are looking forward to retirement. Davis is most looking forward to not having to answer to a clock. She will continue coaching the boys volleyball team at CVU next year. CVU won the inaugural volleyball state championships last year. Williams is looking forward to spending time with her mom and doing some volunteer work in her Burlington community. She may also come back in the fall to help some of her colleagues get ready for the new year.

No matter what they do they will be missed, as they leave a large hole in the hearts of parents, faculty and students.