South St. Paul educator a finalist for Teacher of the Year

Finalists have been announced for the Minnesota Teacher of the Year award, and a South St. Paul educator is among them. 

Jessica Davis, who teaches 11th- and 12th-grade math at South St. Paul Secondary, was named as one of the nine finalists, making it out of an initial field of 168 candidates.

A selection panel of 24 leaders in the areas of business, education, nonprofits and government selected the finalists from a group of 40 semifinalists.

“I don’t think I have completely processed it yet; it’s all so humbling — from the nomination, to being selected as a semi-finalist, and now as a finalist,” Davis said.

Graduating with a bachelor’s of science degree in biology and having completed pre-med requirements in 2001 at Minnesota State-Mankato, Davis switched gears a few years later and enrolled in the MAT program at Hamline University to pursue a teaching license in mathematics.

First working in St. Paul Public Schools before landing in South St. Paul, Davis said she’s honored to be a finalist and recognized for her work at the high school promoting diversity and inclusion.

She credited the success and positive changes toward a more inclusive and productive culture within the building to the adult and student leaders she says she is fortunate to work with. 

“I am grateful to be given this platform to share the mission of SSP’s Black Pride Organization: ‘To address racial issues, stereotypes and biases by increasing visibility in leadership roles, supporting African-American students in education, and giving them a space for all to have a voice.’ [It’s] a vision independently crafted by a group of exceptional young BPO leaders during the group’s inception in the spring of 2017,” said Davis.

She added it has been her sincere pleasure to advise motivated and strong student leaders through defining moments in their educational careers. This is not a responsibility she bares alone.

“I am grateful for colleagues and administration that are unapologetically student-first, and recognize that we are not afforded the space or time to be polite or patient when student futures are at risk, especially given the inherent bias of assessments, teaching practices and perspectives,” she said.

The selection panel will meet May 4 to conduct individual interviews with each of the finalists and cast votes for the 2019 Minnesota Teacher of the Year. The winner will be announced at a banquet May 5 in St. Paul.

Davis said she is looking forward to bringing her mother, a retired elementary teacher of 38 years, and brother, an orchestra director, to the banquet.


—Hannah Burlingame

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