Annette Davis wanted to fill a vacancy left in her education; 42 years later she’s still helping

Davis grew up wearing hearing aids and in need of education for hard of hearing services

Annette Davis scans a library book on Tuesday, March 28, 2023 at Putnam County High School.

Some teachers have always wanted to work in schools, some come from a long line of educators before them and some found teaching as a second career. For Putnam County’s K-12 media director and teacher Annette Davis, who has a hearing impairment, her career in education came from wanting to fill a role vacant in her own education.

Davis grew up wearing hearing aids and in need of educational hard of hearing services.

“I wish I would’ve had someone like me around when I was growing up,” Davis said. “I want to be to them what I could’ve and should of had. Back then it wasn’t there and we didn’t have that kind of support system. It’s an honor to be able to give back and help realize what they need.”

Davis began her higher education wanting to be a social worker to “save the world.” One of the first friends she made knew sign language that peaked her interest in learning from him.

“I thought, ‘Wow, this is really cool. Maybe I want to be a teacher for the deaf and hard of hearing,’” Davis said. “So I switched my major and transferred to another college and graduated with a teaching certificate.”

This move for Davis kicked off a teaching career that has spanned 42 years including 17 years in Florida, two years in Joliet and now 23 years working in the Putnam County School District.

It’s been like a roller coaster and I never want to stop learning.”

—  Annette Davis, K-12 media coordinator and teacher at Putnam County Schools

Davis first began as a self-contained deaf and hard of hearing teacher but after returning to Illinois, saw a decrease in students in need of her specific services. This led to her accepting a position as an itinerant teacher at Putnam County, where she was shared with other local districts.

“I would travel,” Davis said. “I had students over in Hennepin, Tonica, Grand Ridge and Lostant so that’s how I would spend my days. The further I’ve ever been east is Seneca, the furthest north was Mendota and the furthest south was Streator.”

As the number of her deaf and hard of hearing students dwindled, Davis took classes to qualify herself to become a school librarian, a title that has since evolved to include the responsibilities of a media director for the school district.

Davis manages the library at the Putnam County High School and helps the paraprofessionals in charge of the libraries at the other district buildings.

“They are amazing and wonderful people,” Davis said. “I couldn’t live without them. They do so much more above and beyond what they get paid to do.”

As the media director, Davis said the role has grown far from the traditional librarian and her passion for books. The job now encompasses a wide variety of technologies from computers, learning aids and much more.

“It’s been like a roller coaster and I never want to stop learning,” Davis said. “I want to keep learning, too, and I think that’s part of what has made me want to be a teacher and what has inspired me to help the kids as well.”

While transitioning to her new title as media director, Davis also has continued to help the district service deaf and hard of hearing students when it has been needed. She still works with one student who will be graduating this year.

Mrs. Annette Davis hands student Brian Ochoa a library book on Tuesday, March 28, 2023 at Putnam County High School.

Working with those who are hard of hearing always has been close to Davis’ work as sometimes it can be as simple as not facing the board while teaching or can require a more intensive one-on-one level of helping.

“When I first started learning sign language I thought, ‘I’ve found my people,’” Davis said. “I found my language and it’s still a big part of who I am and I can’t stop. Sign language helps me find the words that I need to express myself.”

Over her years in education, Davis said, she has continued to see herself in the students she services and also serves as a voice for them when communicating to their classroom teachers about what may help them learn more effectively.

“I love it when that light bulb comes on,” Davis said. “They see, ‘Oh, this is how to do this skill.’ Just for them to realize that this is what I need and it’s OK to keep learning. The skills that we are giving them are preparing them for life.”

For Davis, these educational collaborations don’t just come from the teachers in the classroom and the parents. Large roles also are played by everyone the student interacts with daily from paraprofessionals, cooks, bus drivers and janitors.

Being there for the students she served is something Davis has close to her heart throughout her teaching tenure.

“Just to know that those kids are relying on me is important,” Davis said. “They need me and I need them. They just challenge me in different ways to grow and things to read. I’ve had students recommend books for me to read and I just cherish that. The students really make the big difference.”

While the students have made the difference for Davis, Assistant High School Principal Chris Newsome said Davis has made a difference for many of the students and faculty that work and attend Putnam County.

“She does a great job of unifying the schools, not only as just a librarian or media director, she goes way past that,” Newsome said. “She provides so many resources for kids and instructors. She’s just a great individual to feature and she’s one of the good ones.”

Davis plans to retire from the Putnam County School District after the 2023-24 school year after a total of 43 years in education and helping those in need of hearing services.

“I’m here in Putnam County and I’m honored to work here,” Davis said. “It’s really a wonderful district with great people to work with. The community, staff and students all make it a blessing to work here and finish my teaching career here.”

Annette Davis poses with a library book on Tuesday, March 28, 2023 at Putnam County High School.