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UMHS Teacher Named 2021 Outstanding Earth and Space Science Teacher

Davis honored by the National Association of Geoscience Teachers

Katerina Berezina Gail Davis of Oxford was named the 2021 Mississippi Outstanding Earth Science Teacher of the Year by the National Association of Geoscience Teachers. Davis teaches geology for the University of Mississippi High School and serves as a 5th grade math and science teacher at Lafayette Upper Elementary School.

OXFORD, Miss. –  University of Mississippi High School (UMHS) instructor Gail Davis of Oxford was recently named the Mississippi Outstanding Earth Science Teacher of the Year by the National Association of Geoscience Teachers.

Davis teaches high school earth and space science online for 9th-12th graders in the UM High School online program. She also teaches science and math at Lafayette County Schools in Oxford where she has worked for the past 17 years.

Davis said that growing up she was actually afraid of science courses.

“I did not want to dissect anything,” Davis recalled. “When I went to college, I realized that not all science exploration was biology, and there were other types of science and experimenting that could be done through geology and geoscience.”

Davis holds a bachelor’s degree in education from UM as well as a Master’s in Teaching Geosciences from Mississippi State University.

“I enjoy studying and teaching geosciences because it is very active and hands-on where students can explore the world around them and be curious.”

While working on her graduate degree Davis participated in the “Great Plains Storm Chase” field methods course that gave her a first-hand opportunity to encounter the power of the atmosphere while she learned more about weather analysis and storm interception techniques.

Although Davis said she didn’t get to witness a tornado on the ground during her research, she did get to study a supercell that included intense hail, rain, thunder, and lighting. During this weather event, she practiced looking at radar, thermodynamic diagrams, and satellite imagery.

Davis brought her passion for how the earth works back to Mississippi and helped implement new standards for how the subject is taught in Mississippi public schools.

She served as a leader in earth and space sciences for the Mississippi Science Standards Revision Task Force from 2015-2017. The standards helped provide fellow science teachers with a quality, integrated set of standards across grade bands for Earth and Space Sciences.

Renee Clary is a professor of geology at Mississippi State University and worked alongside Davis and fellow members of the task force to draft the curriculum standards that are now in use in classrooms throughout the state.

“Gail is passionate about Earth Science, and her passion is well known throughout Mississippi,” Clary said. “She is making a difference in our field and in the next generation.”

As a teacher in the UM High School, Davis works to make sure her courses are interesting and full of learning opportunities for students who are unable to take a geology course in a regular classroom or lab environment.

UMHS students order sets of rocks and minerals so they can learn identify the various types. They also study weather, learn how to triangulate the location of an earthquake, and have the opportunity to participate in a variety of experiments during the course.

“I want students to get their hands dirty, no matter where they may be,” Davis said. “This is the best way to learn and get excited about the natural world around you.”

Ellen Shelton, the director of UM Pre-College programs said that Davis’ online course was one of the most creative and interactive that she has seen.

“Her course quickly became a model to the rest of our online faculty for engaging students in a digital environment,” Shelton said. “Students often speak of her class as one of their favorites, not only because of the content but because of their positive interactions with the teacher.”

“She shows that she cares about the students and motivates them to do their best.”