The makings of a teacher—49 years and counting

As Scott Davison, an English teacher at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, is getting ready to start his 50th year as a teacher next fall, he looks back at the wealth of knowledge, experiences and fascinating stories he has amassed and recalls education wasn’t always his first choice.

In fact, he said he “sort of stumbled into it.” 

Growing up in Oak Cliff, he dove into the arts at an early age. He became a child actor at 6, but he never limited himself to one discipline, also pursuing dancing, singing, playing numerous musical instruments and athletics. By the time he was 16, he enrolled at the University of Dallas to pursue a major in visual art. By the time he was 20, he accepted his first teaching job at the Center for Writers at the University of Southern Mississippi. There, he met the students who sparked his passion for teaching for the first time.

“They would go through the motions, but they had no intellectual curiosity, and their imaginations had just been crushed,” Davison said. “I started asking myself, ‘Where is this process of not being inquisitive starting? Where can I make a difference?’ It seemed to me that high school was where it happened most profoundly. That’s also where I could turn things around before it was too late.” 

So when Davison received a letter from Paul Baker, the founding director of Dallas’ arts magnet, asking him to join the team and to spread the school’s philosophy of “unique, creative imagination,” he left behind a scholarship to the renowned Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and accepted. This was back in the late ’70s, and Davison still recalls helping select the school’s Pegasus mascot and painstakingly creating the first yearbook in his free time with the help of a typewriter, a mimeograph machine and a few student volunteers.

“We would type every student’s name and then have to hand-cut them out,” he said. “We then had to take every photo and physically paste it on the page. If you made a mistake, you made a mistake, and you’d have to cross it out or redo it. It was a lot of work.” 

He continued to make a difference at the school for over a decade, teaching a variety of subjects from creative writing to speech and supporting philosophy clubs and student publications. He also co-wrote two original musicals that had their world premieres at the Arts Magnet in its early days. Eventually, he decided to move to Los Angeles, California, to work in Hollywood as a director and playwright, ghost writer and teacher—first at an arts school in Santa Monica and then at an Orthodox Jewish school near Westwood. 

Some of his students there included Emily and Zooey Deschanel, Kate Hudson and Max Brooks, the bestselling author of “World War Z.” During parent conferences, he would meet with celebrities like Goldie Hawn, Kurt Russell, Jackson Browne, Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft. Davison said it was an “interesting place,” but family brought him back home to Dallas in 1998 and to David W. Carter High School, where he worked for a year until a position opened up the following year at the arts magnet. He has been there ever since. 

While he may not meet with as many celebrities as a teacher in Dallas ISD, Davison’s passion for transforming students’ lives has kept him coming back to the classroom year after year. 

“I could have had multiple careers, but teaching always seemed to me to be the most important,” Davison said. “We take kids of every background and level, and in four years, we transform their lives.”

Staying power

Davison has experienced countless ups and downs in his 49 years of teaching, and he identified two support systems that have helped him through the hard times. The first is staying connected with his former students and getting to hear how his teaching changed their lives. Not only does he run two alumni Facebook pages where he posts updates on their achievements, but he has also kept up with former students like Grammy-winning blues and soul singer Erykah Badu, Edie Brickell and others. 

The second is his dedication to revitalizing himself every summer. He does this by traveling and engaging in creative projects like translating Italian and Swedish poetry or writing, which all help him find renewal and motivation for the upcoming school year. 

“Every class is a new challenge with new students,” he said. “Just because I’ve done it or taught something before, this is their first experience, so it has to be fresh and new and exciting.”

At the end of the day, fueling students’ creativity is what propels Davison forward. He is passionate about bringing his love of the arts to students and finding innovative ways to get them interested in poetry, literature and critical thinking. While teaching has not always been easy for Davison, it has been fulfilling. 

“When I was a kid, I went to Catholic school for a couple years, and I have a really strong sense of service,” he said. “Getting into high school, I felt like that was where I could make a real difference and keep students’ lights shining. I could have retired a number of years ago, but I don’t want to lose any time with the students.” 

Beat the heat with summer self-care tips

Now that summer is here and the heat is picking up, Dallas ISD is encouraging all staff and community members to take precautions to stay safe. Jennifer Finley, the executive director of Health Services, shared several quick tips to help everyone out. 

Stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of water helps keep body temperatures cool, so watch out for yourself and those around you. Learn to recognize the signs of overheating, which include muscle cramps, pale or clammy skin and confusion. Pay close attention to vomiting, as that can be a sign of someone going beyond heat exhaustion into heat stroke. As for what to drink, Finley said “water is best” over sports and energy drinks. 

Get enough sleep. Sleep is important all year round, and Finley recommends aiming for a minimum of six hours and, ideally, eight hours. 

Use sun protection. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays can put you at risk for skin cancer, so take advantage of sunscreen, hats and sunglasses to protect your skin and eyes. Finley explained that no SPF blocks out 100 percent of UV rays, so the American Academy of Dermatology recommends an SPF of at least 30, which will still block about 97 percent of UV rays. 

Watch out for insects. The Health Services Department has already received messages from Dallas County with West Nile safety tips, so Finley is encouraging everyone to wear some kind of product that protects against mosquito bites, whether it contains DEET, citronella or something similar.

Move your feet. Especially for those who are spending long days in the office, it is important to get up and move around. Finley recommends setting a timer or a reminder on your phone so you do not sit for too long. You can also take a lap around the hall, head up the stairs or walk in an underground parking lot to get out of the sun. In addition to preventing swelling in the ankles and feet, regular movement has great mental health benefits. 

You matter and so does your health and well-being! In Finley’s words, “Take some time to take care of you so you can take care of and give back to others.” 

Make your workspace more effective

Summer is finally here, and we are looking forward to all the district opportunities for personal development. The Professional & Digital Learning Department is excited to host a Microsoft Effective Workspace Series, which is available to all staff through June and July at no cost.

If you are looking to get to know Microsoft Planner or Bookings, dive deeper into Excel or learn more about the collaboration, communication and productivity tools available to you in Office 365, these trainings are for you. Registration is available in Cornerstone at

The following sessions are available in June: 

Scheduling: Outlook & Bookings

  • June 14, 2022 at 10 a.m. or 1 p.m.
  • Want to find an easier way to schedule meetings without back-and-forth emails? Learn how Scheduling Assistant and FindTime in Outlook can help you schedule meetings more efficiently. Bookings gives you a faster alternative to time-consuming and repetitive scheduling tasks, all while optimizing your organizational resources

Communicate in Microsoft Teams

  • June 21, 2022 at 10 a.m. or 1 p.m.
  • Learn best practices for chat, channel posts and meetings. Take a closer look at notification settings and status updates, as well as how to customize your status messages and set automatic replies for when you are out of the office.

File Sharing: One Drive, Teams, SharePoint

  • June 28, 2022 at 10 a.m. or 1 p.m.
  • Learn the differences between cloud storage and sharing in Microsoft’s OneDrive, Teams and SharePoint. Learn how to organize, collaborate and share documents, as well as how to navigate document libraries.

The following sessions are available in July: 

Microsoft Excel 101

  • July 12, 2022 at 10 a.m. or 1 p.m.
  • This is an introduction to Excel. Learn basic navigation, cell formatting, general formatting, printing and basic formulas. 

Collaborate in Teams:

  • July 19, 2022 at 10 a.m. or 1 p.m.
  • Learn how to collaborate more efficiently using the tools built into Microsoft Teams. OneNote is your shared digital binder for your notes, plans and research. Use Whiteboard for brainstorming using ready-made templates.

Diving Deeper into Excel

  • July 26, 2022 at 10 a.m. or 1 p.m.
  • Take a deeper look at formulas, functions and other features in Excel. Learn how to analyze data quickly using built-in tools and how to protect your data in Excel.

Contact Dina Perez at with any questions, and don’t forget to register in Cornerstone at

The SMART way to healthy habits

SMART goals are used to show progress on the job, but did you know they can be equally beneficial in your personal life? Setting specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic and time-limited objectives can help individuals determine where they are headed and how to get there, which is why they are a useful tool in breaking bad habits and creating healthier outcomes that can lead to better mental and emotional health.

Bad habits take many forms. Perhaps you struggle to get enough exercise or sleep, or maybe you have a hard time following a budget. Whatever you are facing, defining realistic goals and committing to them will support you in forming positive habits. Having a clear and manageable plan can often relieve some of the pressures that cause stress and other disruptions to our mental well-being.

Setting a SMART goal to break a bad habit may sound something like this: 

  • Every day this week, I will put my phone away 10 minutes before bed. 
  • Starting now, I will park my car farther away from my home and office to walk an additional five minutes a day. 
  • Tonight, I will spend an hour examining my budget to determine my strengths and growth areas. 

Remember to write down all of your goals, actions, measurements and time frames, and regularly read over them to assess your progress. Whenever you are setting a new goal, consider your past experiences to identify the objectives or practices that are most likely to motivate you. If a past goal did not work, what can you change this time to stay on track? 

Changing bad habits takes time and effort, so do not be discouraged if you fall behind your goals at times. The following tips will help you make sustainable adjustments and stick to them even when life gets busy: 

  • When a SMART goal begins to feel easy or natural, create a new one or edit your original objective to challenge yourself. 
  • Use preexisting healthy habits to make new goals easier to follow. For example, take advantage of your lunch break by going on a walk. 
  • Predict obstacles. Examine the roadblocks you have faced in the past and consider how you will overcome them when they appear this time. You will never have all the answers, but you can still be prepared. 
  • Set goals that empower you. If your goals are too ambitious, you are far more likely to get discouraged and quit. Your short- and long-term objectives must be achievable—not by those around you, but by you. 
  • When working toward a long-term goal, define smaller milestones so you can get started right away. The shortest step is still progress.

Rome was not built in a day, and neither are healthy habits. Take time to define your SMART goals and get started now. You will be amazed to see how much progress you can make when your actions are specific, measurable, and realistic. 

If you are feeling stuck or overwhelmed, Dallas ISD’s confidential, secure Employee Assistance Program by LifeWorks offers 24/7 counseling as well as CareNow training programs that focus on topics like substance abuse, work-life balance and achieving financial well-being. All Dallas ISD employees can access the EAP, no contribution required. 

Learn more by reaching out to LifeWorks at (972) 925-4000, or visit and click on Benefits Resources to access online EAP information.

*Source: LifeWorks 

New bell schedule

Following feedback from campus administrators, staff and parents/guardians, Dallas ISD has finalized the school hours for the 2022-2023 school year. 

The schedule will be:


8 a.m.–3:15 p.m.: Elementary schools, Solar Preparatory School for Girls, Solar Preparatory School for Boys, Biomedical Preparatory at UT Southwestern, Jesus Moroles Expressive Arts Vanguard, and Eduardo Mata Montessori School


8:35 a.m.–3:55 p.m.: Middle schools, vanguards, Dallas Hybrid Preparatory at Stephen J. Hay, George Bannerman Dealey Montessori Academy, William B. Travis Academy/Vanguard for the Academically Talented and Gifted, Harry Stone Montessori Academy, Sudie L. Williams Talented and Gifted Academy


9:10 a.m.–4:30 p.m.: High schools, magnet schools




8 a.m.–3:40 p.m.: Kathlyn Joy Gilliam Collegiate Academy, Trinity “Trini” Garza Early College High School, North Lake Early College High School


8 a.m.–3:55 p.m.: Ignite Middle School, D.A. Hulcy STEAM Middle School, West Dallas STEM School, Dr. Frederick D. Haynes III Global Preparatory Academy at Paul Quinn College


8:50 a.m.–4:35 p.m.: Barack Obama Male Leadership School


9 a.m.–4:50 p.m.: Dr. Wright L. Lassiter Jr. Early College High School

Melba Marshall

Substitute helps by taking more than 100 assignments

Melba Marshall has been a regular substitute teacher with Dallas ISD for years, and it was during the pandemic that she showed just how committed she is to the district’s students, working more than 100 days both this school year and the last one.

And at 96 years of age, Marshall is not slowing down.

“I have a different way of thinking about life,” she said while substituting at Bayles Elementary School on the last day of class. “I don’t think it’s good for you to stop as long as you can keep going. I set no limitations because of my age. As long as you’re living, you should be contributing and that’s what keeps me going every day.”

Substitutes are required to work a minimum of five assignments per month to remain active, and the district did see a decline in available subs during the 2020-2021 school year. While there has been a 21% increase this year in the substitute working pool, few come even close to matching Marshall’s workload.

“Our substitute teachers have always made a big difference in making sure that students have someone in the classroom who can guide them through the learning process,” said Chief of Human Capital Management Robert Abel. “The past few months, we have needed all hands on deck to make sure students are successful. Substitute teachers like Melba Marshall have stepped up for the students of Dallas ISD, and we are grateful they are part of our team.”

Marshall saw the need and enjoys being around children to see them grow as they learn, she said.

“I like the children and like to see them learn,” Marshall said. “It’s interesting to me to see how they connect with iPads and computers, and I’m learning from them. I have to learn from them because these things are not of my generation.’’

Marshall was born in Texas but moved to Chicago as a young woman. She moved back to Dallas in the 1960s and worked in the U.S. Postal Service until the early 1990s when she retired. Around that time, her husband passed away, and Marshall started subbing sporadically at first and more regularly the past six years or so.

Marshall attended what was then the Chicago Teachers College and DePaul University, but while she never became a teacher, she does enjoy the give and take of learning that takes place when working with students and other teachers.

“I like to go from day to day [as a substitute],” she said. “I don’t like to stay in one school all the time because I like to be around different children. When I get stuck, I can’t think. I like to see new people and see the different ways children act and learn. I like learning from them and learning from the teachers. It’s hard for me and my generation to learn a new way of doing things, so it’s interesting to see it.”

In addition to learning from the children, Marshall also enjoys interacting with the teachers she encounters. In all the schools she has been, teachers have been “100% helpful whenever I ask for help. Once I get the lesson plan and the attendance sheet, that makes my day,” she said.

Mental health first aid classes

Mental Health Services is sharing a learning opportunity for educators offered by the North Texas Behavioral Health Authority this summer so they can better help youth who may be experiencing a mental health challenge or are in crisis.

The Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) Educator classes introduce participants to the unique risk factors and warning signs of mental health problems in adolescents, builds understanding of the importance of early intervention, and most importantly – teaches individuals how to help a youth in crisis or experiencing a mental health or substance use challenge.

These classes tend to fill up each year and we hope we see the same great response this year, as well!  The links are not searchable. Educators can use the links below to register for educator-only or community classes.  Class size is limited, so please reserve your spot today.

Mental Health Services is scheduling classes now for the 2022-2023 school year, so be on the lookout for additional opportunities to sign up later this summer.


Educator only classes:

June 28 • 8:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.

Youth MHFA Virtual Class

 July 14 • 8:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.

Youth MHFA Virtual Class


Classes for the general public:

June 11 • Youth MHFA • 9 a.m.–2 p.m.  SATURDAY CLASS

 June 14 • 8:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.

Youth MHFA (for adults that work with youth) Virtual Class

 July 20 • 8:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. 

Youth MHFA (for adults that work with youth) Virtual Class

Living a more energetic life

Energy contributes to our happiness, health and overall productivity, but we often find ourselves with far too little of it. For those who endlessly rely on caffeine or simply feel exhausted all the time, learning to monitor energy levels and mindfully care for daily needs can be a game changer. 

Start by taking your energy “temperature” at several points throughout the day. Notice when you have the lowest and highest amounts of energy, and identify the interactions or events that affect you the most. Next, set a realistic goal to manage an area that regularly drains your energy. For example, if your to-do list is a constant source of stress and distraction, aim to cross off one task that feels manageable. When that is finished, take a break if needed and then start on a new goal. It helps to plan your goals around your internal clock. Pay attention to when you tend to have the most energy and take advantage of those moments. 

You can also use the following five tips to increase your energy and live a happier, healthier life. 

  • Care for your body. This means eating healthy foods, prioritizing sleep and getting regular exercise. A balanced diet of protein, fruits and vegetables, dairy and whole grains is just as essential to reaching optimal energy levels as getting at least seven or eight hours of sleep. Meanwhile, frequent exercise will relieve stress, boost your endurance and fight off feelings of sluggishness. 
  • Focus on what means the most. Take a moment to remember what fills you with passion and joy. Make time every day to pursue that hobby or get involved with your community, and bring meaning into your routine. It can be as simple as trying a new recipe or spending time in nature.
  • Surround yourself with good people. Have you ever noticed the way some interactions drain you while others energize you? Maximize the time you spend with people you actually enjoy. Individuals who focus on positivity and authenticity or who share common interests with you will recharge you. Be selective when it comes to the relationships you prioritize.
  • Avoid burning out on bad news. Keeping up to date on current events is important, but too much can leave you with a negative perspective on the world. If you begin to dwell on your worst fears or recognize other signs that the news is affecting your mental health, set boundaries. You can stay informed while still controlling your intake. The goal is not to lose sight of the goodness around you.
  • Spread kindness. Having compassion for others is a great way to connect with the world and feel energized. The simple act of smiling at a stranger and wishing them well can help you focus on the positive and avoid judging yourself or others. You can take this even further by performing small acts of kindness to build up your community. 

By committing to these healthy habits, you can build up your energy and happiness at the same time. If you start sliding back into sluggishness and exhaustion, step back and take your energy temperature again. While you may never be perfect, you can always grow and develop. Best of all, you can get started right now by putting these tips into practice!  

If you find yourself needing additional support, help is available. Dallas ISD’s confidential, secure Employee Assistance Program by LifeWorks has countless health and wellness resources available online and requires no contributions. From on-call counselors to practical tips on subjects like depression, communication and relationships, employees can find what they need, when they need it. 

Contact LifeWorks at (972) 925-4000 or visit and click on Benefits Resources to access online EAP information.

Source: Mayo Clinic Health System