Richard “Scott” Davis, often known as “Old Mr. Davis”, spent over three decades at Champaign Central High School, as a student and an educator, interacting with all groups of students that meandered the hallowed halls. He was an athletic coach for a myriad of sports, a beloved educator, and friend to many faculty and staff. He has witnessed events at Central that hold massive community importance and remain engraved into the history of this school. He is a wise man and is able to give his first-hand experience into iconic moments at Central and show how the student body has grown and developed over the decades through culture, society, trends, and the education system itself.
When asked to describe his years at Central in three words, he chose “Very wonderful experience,”. He praised his fellow social studies department teachers for giving him such a wonderful experience.
Mr. Davis began teaching at his alma mater in the 80’s and was suddenly colleagues with his former teachers. He described himself as “the new kid” in that environment. “I was odd… and I listened a lot. I thought [they] had a lot of wisdom that I could share or take advantage of.”
He spent his first years as a student under his fellow teachers. “I tried to be that fly on the wall and listen to everything and just absorb it.”
Throughout his time at Central, Mr. Davis saw tremendous change. “By the end of my career, I was now the old veteran… I would come in being surrounded by a very old, veteran staff and I left Central with a young, much newer staff.”
He also saw significant transformations in the way the district governed over teachers. “When [I] first started teaching, teachers had a lot more autonomy. It tended to be that the Central office administrators had left us alone and trusted us to be the professionals and do what was best for our students and for our class.”
By the end of his time, the administration had started to assert its authority over the teachers. “[A] lot of things were being set down to us from the Central office administrators telling us what we should do.” He described this as one of the biggest changes over the years.
As every one of his students know, Mr. Davis has a passionate hatred for smartphones, and noted that as a significant disparity from his first year to his last. “Smartphones were the bane of my existence… you obviously were competing with all of the entertainment that’s available on smartphones.”
The moments that defined Davis’ teaching years were teaching his favorite class and coaching basketball. He co-taught American Studies, a joint, two-hour history and English course with former Central teacher Susan Weber, which he recalled as one of his fondest memories. He enjoyed the flexibility of the course along with seeing his students enjoy the class.
Coach Davis brought his teaching skills to the court as well and brought the Maroons to a third-place finish in state. “Central was very excited and it was nice to see the all kids and the faculty and even the community get so excited about what we were doing as a team… that was fun.”
When asked to recall his favorite memory, he made no hesitation in saying “the people.” “Over the years, I met so many incredible students…” The fondness for his students didn’t end after graduation day for him, “There’s kind of a mixed feeling about that because I get to meet [them] when they’re a sophomore or a junior, and you get to know these young people and you really become very fond of them and then they leave!”
The bittersweet feeling of knowing that he and the people he met may never cross paths again plagued him. “It’s kinda sad to see people move on, but on the other hand you know that there are a lot of new people coming in behind them.”
Even after thirty-three years, he can’t stay away from Central. He subbed for a teacher on paternity leave in December and plans on helping coach the boys tennis team this spring.
With the recent construction on campus, the historical significance of Central’s edifice may be lost. “I loved the old part of Central where I was… but honestly, we wished that they would’ve built a new school from scratch, but I’m hopeful.”
While Central’s future is unknown, the Maroon community can learn from the experiences of former staff and students. Lessons like having a career that you love, like Mr. Davis, and to value your time with the people around you while you have them.