On September 5, 2021, Dean of Faculty and English teacher Mrs. Rebecca Davis, better known as Becca to her colleagues, passed away after a battle with cancer. In her wake lies the people she touched, the school she changed, and the educators she mentored.
Librarian Ms. Cinnie Slack was one of Mrs. Davis’ closest friends. They first met as colleagues at the Kent School in Connecticut over thirty years ago. In addition to their shared passion for teaching English, they had a familial bond as they socialized, lived together, and even shared parental duties.
“We used to have to teach on Saturday mornings, and that was always a challenge,” Ms. Slack said. “And we’d wait to see who had a free period, and whoever of the four of us [Ms. Slack, Mrs. Davis, and their husbands] had a free period would get stuck taking all the kids to soccer.”
They eventually parted ways when Ms. Slack and her family moved to Haverford while the Davises went to Virginia. But a few years later, Mr. Slack, then English Department Chair, persuaded Mrs. Davis to join Haverford, reuniting the two friends.
For Ms. Slack, the best thing about working with Mrs. Davis at Haverford was the conversations they had.
“She would come in [the library] pretty much every day [last spring] to have lunch,” Ms. Slack said. “ And we’d have lunch and talk, and it’s a wonderful thing.”
The topics of their talks had no bounds. Smartphones were Mrs. Davis’ Achilles’ heel, so Ms. Slack was always there to help sort out any issues. Mrs. Davis also discussed her work, asking if something sounded good or if Ms. Slack had any thoughts.
“She [Ms. Davis] was a great connector of people, to all kinds of things, different ideas to people to people. ”Ms. Cinnie Slack
“She was a great collaborator with everybody, with her students, with her colleagues,” Ms. Slack said. “She was a great connector of people, to all kinds of things, different ideas to people to people. ”
Mrs. Davis served as a steward of the faculty evaluation program. Every three years or so, a team consisting of the head of upper school, the appropriate department chair, and a peer evaluates a teaching faculty member. The program gives teachers a better picture of the good and the bad of their classes.
As the Dean of Faculty, Mrs. Davis constantly looked for ways for the faculty to be the best versions of themselves.
“She was on the front line of making sure the faculty were reflecting on their craft and making sure there was a constant improvement in their instruction.”Mr. Mark Fifer
“She was on the front line of making sure the faculty were reflecting on their craft and making sure there was a constant improvement in their instruction,” Head of Upper School Mr. Mark Fifer said. “And she was also really on the front line of providing support to faculty members for various professional development opportunities.”
One way Mrs. Davis helped was through the SIGHTS program, which helped faculty find summer professional development opportunities.
Aside from her contributions to the institution, Mrs. Davis spent much of her time building relationships with other teachers. From the start, English teacher Ms. Taylor Smith-Kan felt welcomed by Mrs. Davis.
“She [Ms. Davis] saw me as a human being who also had needs outside of the school…”Ms. Taylor Smith-kan
“When I first started working here, she told me where I should go to church in the community,” Ms. Smith-Kan said. “She saw me as a human being who also had needs outside of the school, and she wanted to make sure I was in the community of Haverford and Havertown.”
Mrs. Davis always offered support to faculty and helped whenever possible. For Ms. Smith-Kan, weekly chats were the norm last year.
“She would just give me a call, and we’d talk about Hamlet for like five minutes because we were both teaching Hamlet,” Ms. Smith-Kan said. “And then we would just talk about her kids and what they were doing, and she would ask about my pregnancy, and we would just talk about our lives.”
Her commitment to helping others was a large part of who she was as a person, positivity being another big piece of Mrs. Davis’ personality.
“She had such a positive outlook,” Ms. Slack said. “She was one of the great optimists. She could find great things anywhere, anytime, and I loved being able to see the world through her eyes sometimes.”
Mrs. Davis was a great mentor, friend, and colleague. Her job was her calling.
“She loved teaching,” Ms. Slack said. “She saw it as her vocation, and she couldn’t stop.”