Since she began her career thirty seven years ago, Genrose Davis has been working to help foster a love of reading in students all the way up to the eighth grade at DeKalb West as the school librarian. But with the close of this school year, Davis will be turning in her own library card, deciding the time has come to retire.
Family, friends, students, and co-workers came to bid Davis a fond farewell during a reception in her honor at DeKalb West School on Thursday.
"I have had one job my whole life and this has been it," said Davis in an interview with WJLE. Davis began her career as an educator at DeKalb West in 1975, one year after the school opened , consolidating the old Alexandria, Liberty, and Dowelltown schools into one facility.
"When I was hired there were four other people in front of me and they got the classrooms," said Davis. "The chapter job was left open and they wanted a half time librarian. It was about three to four weeks into school. I was hired for that job. I taught reading and I did the library the other half. My official pay was divided between federal programs and the county," she said. A few years later, Davis became the school's full time librarian.
Growing up, Davis attended the old Liberty elementary school and then DCHS. She furthered her education at MTSU where she received a BS degree. Davis said while she did not originally intend to become a librarian, former DeKalb West School Principal Woodrow Frazier convinced her that she was right for the job. "I went to school to be a physical education teacher and had an elementary endorsement but Mr. Frazier said I would have one of the best jobs in the school (as librarian). His wife was a life long librarian. She loved the library and he did too so that was my start in the library," said Davis.
"The first year, they brought somebody in from the state department and showed me how to do the cards for the card catalog and by Christmas, he (Frazier) asked me if I would go back and get the endorsement for the library service. I went back to MTSU and got my endorsement and I've been here for 37 years now," she said
As the school librarian, Davis gets to see all the students at one time or another. " I have around 450 students. I've seen them all. I have them for nine years. Initially I did reading in grades 3, 7, & 8. I had library classes where the kids came once a week. Now we're on a three day rotation. I have the kids in the school everyday. Most of them come twice a week, but every three days there's a day 1, day 2, and a day 3 schedule and we just rotate all through the year so that they're in the library almost two times per week besides the open times," she said.
Davis points to the introduction of the accelerated reading program as perhaps the most revolutionary change she has seen come along as librarian. Under the AR program, students choose books at their appropriate reading levels and read them at their own pace. The students then take a quiz by which the librarian and teachers can monitor reading performance and vocabulary growth. As a motivator, students can earn points and win prizes for their efforts. " Mr. Eddie Hobson (former DWS principal) bought the accelerated reading program several years ago. Our county system of computers did not have the server to run that program back then because it was networked in the whole school. Once we got a server that would run that, we were able to do accelerated reader in the classrooms and the library. There is a quiz on almost every book. The kids can read the book and then they can go to the computer and take the quiz. When that came along that revolutionized this library. We have about 9,500 AR quizzes that go from primmer up to 8th, 9th, and 10th grade level books," said Davis
"I reward the points. When I do my AR prizes we reward two students in each classroom. We do yearly points and cumulative points. I've managed the points since they came into kindergarten then from first grade all the way to eighth grade, I keep up with all their points. We have a prize chart we developed. We have prizes for 50 points all the way up to 3,000. When the kids get to a particular level, they have that particular prize," she said.
Another successful program has been the after school read night program. "I have done extended contract for six years. We open up the library for parents and grandparents and older siblings to come in and read to or with the younger students. If you can get the kindergartners and first graders reading, they will be successful in most everything else in their class work." said Davis.
Davis said while she is looking forward to retirement, she will miss all the students, but especially the younger kids. "I'm going to miss seeing those kindergartners and first graders faces when they pass that first test. When they can begin to read and do it on their own and go to the computer by themselves and pass a quiz, its really exciting," she said.
(Pictured above: DeKalb West Principal Danny Parkerson, Director Mark Willoughby, and Assistant Principal Sabrina Farler Present Librarian Genrose Davis a plaque for 37 years of service. Davis is retiring)