Welcome back to the POP QUIZ! This is a regular, yet totally unexpected,feature where we ask students, parents, staff, our friends, and partners toanswer a few questions about what they are learning, reading, and thinkingabout. Today we feature Julie Davis. As we’re on the heels of AdministrativeProfessionals Day and on the cusp of our 12th Annual Champs event, wethought it would be fun to meet up with this former KPS secretary and Champ (once a Champ, always a Champ as we sayat CIS) of ten years ago and see what she’s up to these days.
“The sound of men playing horseshoes was part of the soundtrack of my childhood,” Julie Davis says, recalling her “idyllic years” spent growing up in the farming community of East Lynn, Illinois. She smiles as she recounts formative years spent driving tractors and “helping” with baling hay. “And I was watching—without knowing I was watching—equipment break down and seeing someone use some random thing that had been laying on the ground to make it work.”
Without realizing it at the time, Julie was learning to make do with whatevertools you have—or don’t have—in any given situation. Her knack for makingthings work—no matter what life throws at her—has served her well, both in herpersonal and professional life. As a single parent, she raised two beautifuldaughters, Jodie and Abby, and happily watched as they got degrees from Universityof Michigan and Syracuse University, respectively. Throughout her 33-year careeras a school secretary for Kalamazoo Public Schools Julie made things work on adaily basis; eight years at Loy Norrix High School and then 25 years at ArcadiaElementary School.
Julie retired in June of 2017. Three months later she was diagnosed with twodifferent kinds of cancer, one in each breast. She underwent two differentkinds of treatment and is doing fabulous now (as you’ll see, she did fabulous eventhen). She enjoys traveling often to Washington, D.C. to play with her twograndchildren, Sam, seven, and Norah, four.
We almost didn’t meet up with Julie at Anna’sHouse. In fact, we walked right by her. While her trademark shoulder-lengthblond hair has been replaced by short, white hair, her smile, joyous spirit,and laughter haven’t changed a bit.
Alright, Julie Davis: pencil out, eyes on your own paper. Good luck.
It’s so different to see you sitting andjust relaxing. In your role as secretary at Arcadia Elementary School you werealways non-stop.
I loved every second of every day! I have so many fond and funny memories ofworking at Arcadia. And so many stories!
Will you tell us a story?
Sure. I’ve got thousands ofthem!
There was this first graderwho zipped his neck into his coat. Thankfully, it was a plastic zipper. I toldhim, “I’m going to get this unstuck for you but it’s going to hurt. But I’ll doit really fast.” He gave me the okay and I grabbed a bit of his neck and thecoat and we did it. And off he went. We were best friends after that. I stillremember his name. Eric.
And here’s another story. Athird grader wanted me to pull her tooth out. This was in the 90s. ‘It’s notready, honey,’ I told her, but she wanted that thing out. She was adamant andwouldn’t go back to class until I pulled it. I know anticipation can drive kidscrazy. So I put on a rubber glove, pinched as hard as I could and out came thetooth. It made that cracking sound when it came out, the kind of sound thatsays it wasn’t quite ready to come out! The next day, I received a percentageof what the tooth fairy brought her—a dime and three pennies.
And then there was a time….
Okay, bear with me. It’s going totake a minute, but there is a question at the end of this.
You received a Champ award back in 2009. Gulnar [Husain, who served as CIS Site Coordinator at Arcadia at that time] rightly described you as kind and compassionate. She wrote: “Her patience has no limits…when all the phone lines are ringing simultaneously, a deadline for a report has to be met, a sick child has to be taken care of, a dose of medicine, ice pack, or band aid has to be given to a student, visitors have to be greeted, or a teacher’s question has to be answered, Julie is there to take care of everyone’s needs. It would be understandable if she lost her cool, but she doesn’t! She remains calm and composed and has the uncanny ability to keep everything under control.” So, what’s your secret?
I think it’s not really even a secret. I’m just thankful I was in a job thatI was designed to do. If only everybody could be in that position! That is awish of mine. That everyone could get up, brush their teeth, go out and behaveas themselves, and accomplish something for others at the same time. I was designedfor my job. I loved my job. I was just out there being myself and it seemed towork for everybody. [She laughs.]
CIS partners would often comment howyou always made them feel at home. I won’t ask you what your secret is, but howdo you do that, make people feel at home?
I think, by nature, I’m relaxed most of the time. However, at a fairly youngage, about 14, I learned that if you act at ease, it puts others at ease. Havinglearned to be relaxed in any situation has served me well throughout my life,including my time at Arcadia, especially with regard to the daily interactionsI enjoyed with families whose language I could not speak.
As you know, Arcadia is a wonderfully diverse school. I’m so thankful I gotto be with people of diverse cultures because getting to know these familieschanged my life. It changed me for the better. When you are relaxed, it opensyou up. Because I was relaxed I could embrace and feel those differences. Iloved how those differences moved within me—and moved me.
I grew up in a farming community where the only diversity was the age of thefarmer. To have the chance to meet people from other countries and cultures wasso enlightening. How I grew! That is something I miss, not having an opportunityto be in regular contact with these enriching relationships.
From your perspective as aformer secretary, what was it like to have CIS in your building?
I can’t separate what CIS does from the people. People like Gulnar, of course, who was CIS. I think of Gulnar, and even before and after Gulnar—of the character you need to have to be really committed to the CIS mission. The CIS people worked with students who had needs. Their time and energy spilled over to everybody, not just those on a “list.”
Everyone I know whose been involved with CIS has fit. They’ve shown acommitment and dedication to children and their families, and that stood out tome. I’ve seen that commitment in those who didn’t have to be there, such as thecollege students volunteering through CIS. When I was their age, I couldn’timagine being committed to something other than trying to get through myclasses. These young people could have been home and enjoyed spring break, but insteadthey wanted to stay and work with kids. I loved seeing that kind of dedicationin the CIS staff and all the volunteers and partners. They were in school with us wanting to do thisbecause of their love for children and watching them succeed.
What have you found to be the mostsurprising about retirement?
I’m really good at being lazy. I was so busy every day at Arcadia; who knewthat lazy would work for me so well! So lazy is what I’m doing at the moment.
Do you have a pet peeve?
Oh, yea! Tailgaters. And let me tell you, pet peeve isn’t the word for it.Because I wouldn’t say to a pet what I would say to a tailgater.
What are you curious about?
[Starts laughing.] I’m curious about thousands of things, but a funny one,just sprang to mind. I was working at Loy Norrix. This was before cell phones. Ihad to be there at seven. And there was a girl at the payphone every morning. Backthen, Loy Norrix had a phonebooth inside the building, in the hall just downfrom the office area where I worked. I was always curious about who she wascalling.
Maybe your curiosity can finally besatisfied. Maybe there is someone reading this right now who knows something!
Wouldn’t that be something? Let’s see, it would have been between 1984 and 1992that this happened, practically every day during the school year.
What is something interestingyou’ve recently learned?
[Laughing.] I’ve learned that after a certain age you can come acrosssomething that is really interesting, something that you didn’t know, and a fewday later, somebody asks you, “What is something interesting you’ve recentlylearned?” and you can’t recall what it is. I’ve learned lots of interestingthings since I’ve retired, but can’t recall one of them now!
Can we talk some about yourexperience with cancer?
Sure. I’m open about it. You know, when I received the diagnosis, the firstthing out of mouth was, “Lord, I’m pretty sure you’re going to get some gloryout of this somehow.” I tell you, when you have peace and joy, life is good. Itdoesn’t matter what comes your way. With faith, you can say, “Well, this isunexpected” and you move forward.
I was going to ask, “How and inwhat ways did the cancer diagnosis change your perspective?” But it sounds likethis experience hasn’t changed your outlook on life in any way.
My outlook has remained the same. It didn’t rock my faith foundation. Ithought, “Okay, so I have cancer. That’s what’s happening now.” I knew God wasgoing to walk me through it. The biggest challenge came with handling the sideeffects of some chemicals and that gave me insight into other people’s experiencesand I’m thankful for that empathy.
What are you currently reading?
I’m reading my Bible in the book of Acts. I’ve read it a billion times, butnow, suddenly going through it this time, it’s like oh, my gosh! I’m relatingto what the first Christians experienced… We come at it knowing how it ended.When you know the ending, you don’t get all anxious. But they didn’t know theending.
Although I’m reading the Bibleexclusively right now, I really enjoy reading a variety of genres. I think myall-time favorite is Ciderwith Rosie by Laurie Lee.
What is your favorite word rightnow?
Since you want just one word, itwould be content. If you wanted to know why I’m content, that would take lotsand lots of words.
Behind every successful personis a caring adult. Who has been your caring adult?
My parents, George and Helen.
Here’s one story about them. Everybody that crossed their path was drawnto them. They married in 1933 and lived in a little house in the country…Dadhad a job with A&P in their warehouse, He went to work one day and the ownerpulled him and the one other employee, Joe, aside and said, “I have to cut youboth back to half time.”
Dad came home that evening and told my mom, who was pregnant at the time,that he lost his job. He had given his half to Joe so he could have full-timework. How he explained it to her: “Joe has two kids. We have a cow, chickens,and a garden so I feel we’ll be okay.”
That’s who they were. That story is as much about my mother. They justboth shook it off, said okay, andwent on.
Sounds a lot like you!
Thank you, Julie Davis, for hanging out with us at Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids.
Tags: Administrative Professionals, Anna's House, Arcadia Elementary School, Champs, CIS, Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo, Gulnar Husain, Julie Davis, Kalamazoo Public Schools, Loy Norrix High School, Secretaries