Davis incorporates experiences into teaching

March 23, 2010 — by Denise Lin and Christine Tseng

Ask physics teacher Kirk Davis about his work before becoming a teacher and he says he had worked as a trash collector for 20 years.

… After a long moment of silence, he laughs.

“No, I worked as an engineer for three years, and I worked on energy and environmental things,” said Davis.

One of his jobs was designing an ethanol plant and tackling issues regarding pollution control for a company called Acurex Corporation, which did research in all sorts of alternate energy technologies. For example, some of the research topics included solar, photovotaics and corn to ethanol. The company also researched pollution control areas such as improved efficiency burners/engines, and power plant emission control systems.

However, he later decided to change his career path and went back to business school.

“I wanted to work on some bigger picture things rather than the detail-oriented work of an engineer and I felt that if I went back to business school it would be easier for me to change directions,” said Davis. “I also wanted to get more background and education in the business world.”

Davis then proceeded to get a job with a consulting firm. He found the nature of the work appealing because of the exposure to many senior managers in various organizations.

“It was interesting because you saw different companies in different situations every three months,” said Davis. “You [were] all kind of in the same boat in terms of what you [were] experiencing,” said Davis.

He worked a variety of jobs afterward, including joining a large health care company, through which he was able to live in the UK for a while. He also worked on marketing, sales and management. Later he worked for two medical startup companies and eventually began teaching because he wanted a change of environment and also sensed a demand for more teachers.

“I decided that I could afford to teach. There was a need for more math and science teachers at the high school level, and so I thought I’d investigate that,” said Davis.

Davis did not start by teaching physics, however. He taught the Intro to Business for two years and, in the class, he used experiences he encountered in his work to relate the subject to students.

“I taught the Intro to Business class for two years and almost every day I could use some example of an experience I had during my business career to illustrate a topic we were talking about there,” said Davis.

Davis also uses his experiences to help students “appreciate how some theoretical concept applies to something in everyday life” in his physics class.

“In the physics class I will try to relate whatever principle we are talking about to an application that I may have seen or worked on in either my engineering job or my health care jobs—they both are full of examples of physics,” said Davis. “I also try to relate how the physics principles we are studying relate to real-world things that the students can relate to—whether or not I encountered them in work.”

For Davis, the best part about teaching is working with kids.

“I enjoy it, and it’s kind of fun being around all the young energy. Of course that’s frustrating at times, but certainly that’s the biggest kick for me,” he said.

Davis advises students to discover their talents and interests and use that to find a suitable career.

“Find a way to make money doing [something you’re good at], as opposed to [thinking] ‘I have to be this’ or ‘I have to be that,'” said Davis.

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