'Humbling': Durham Public Schools Teacher of the Year uses daily affirmations to encourage students

Akilah Davis Image
Friday, May 12, 2023
Durham Public Schools announces teacher of the year
The announcement was made on Thursday night where a teacher from Hillside High was given the honor.

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Jahara Davis starts class each day at Hillside High School with affirmations that encourage students to imagine and believe what's possible for them.

"It started eight years ago when I was teaching at EE Smith High School. I had a student who felt he was going to be nothing. I didn't want him to feel that way as a ninth-grader. It was important to me that he had something to speak over himself every single day," said Davis.

The English teacher calls herself Professor Davis and her class "Village University." She's created a culture of confidence that inspires students to dream big and prepare for college.

"The way she teaches, she tries to engage every student. She's really creative," said Bryan Aldana Armas. "To me, she's like my second mom. She does a lot for me. We're really close to her."

On Thursday evening, Durham Public Schools named Davis as Teacher of the Year. It's something she called a big shock.

"This morning I still felt like last night of did I really win? It's a humbling experience. You put in this work and I don't put in the work for the accolades. I put it in because I truly love my students," she said.

Davis has been teaching for almost 10 years. It's a career she never saw for herself. Instead, she was heading to the military to continue the family legacy of service.

"I just knew that once I graduate from college, I'll join the military and become a JAG officer, but that wasn't my purpose. After I substituted, and I fell in love with it," she said.

Last November, ABC11 was there as Davis surprised students with tickets to see the "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" movie. It was a life lesson on representation and respecting one another's differences.

"In here, we're going to respect each other and love each other authentically. Here at Village University, everyone is accepted," said Davis.

ABC11 Meteorologist Kweilyn Murphy served as the mistress of ceremonies for the award.