But when she retires this month after 26 years at Wylie, she will likely be remembered most for her years at Butterfield Elementary.
“For a long time, she was the face of Butterfield,” said Wylie superintendent Joey Light. “That was a special time for the kids who went out there. A lot of kids loved that campus, and it’s because of Ms. Davis.”
Butterfield Elementary was an old country school out Highway 277 toward View. Wylie converted it into a campus in the late 80s/early 90s to help alleviate crowding. An entire Wylie grade was bused out there each morning and bused back each afternoon. At first Wylie’s 3rd-graders went to school there, and later Wylie’s 2nd-graders.
“That was the sweetest campus,” Davis said. “It was a fit for me. I am a country girl. It was a country campus. I liked that.”
Davis grew up in a close family in the small town of Robert Lee. She knew early on that she wanted to be a teacher and that she had the skills to be in administration.
“I called it the bossy little girl syndrome,” Davis laughs. “Now we call it leadership. I always had that. I was always helping kids in school.”
She got degrees in psychology and English at Angelo State University and went to teach at Mertzon for five years before going home to Robert Lee.
“I wanted to move home,” she said. “There was an English opening and a special ed opening. Someone else got the English.”
So Davis jumped into special ed, a move that would prove very useful later at Wylie. She taught at Robert Lee for 10 years before deciding to pursue opportunity elsewhere.
“Robert Lee was a rural town,” she said. “They weren’t to the place where they were going to hire a woman principal.”
She came to Wylie in 1991 as counselor at Wylie Intermediate, which was where the Elementary is now. In 1996, she was promoted to principal at Butterfield, where she stayed until the school closed in 2006.
Light said Davis brought that country-school feel to the campus and students absolutely loved going to school there.
“It was only them,” Davis said. “I think they felt special. They had that whole pasture to play in, and we had a big slide. They just had the best time out there.”
Davis said the small campus allowed teachers and students to develop closer relationships and do more special, fun things that just aren’t possible at larger campuses.
The campus didn’t have an intercom system in the early years or a nurse or librarian. But it did have plenty of mice and other critters. Four buses brought the kids each morning and took them home each afternoon.
“There were a couple of days that we thought we were ready to go in the afternoon, and the buses would leave and then here comes a class,” Davis remembers. “We would have to transport them in our cars.”
“It was just great memory after great memory,” she said. “It was just special. I am just thankful and honored that I got to do that.”
The last class of Wylie students to go to Butterfield graduated last May.
Davis was also the only female out of 14 administrators at Wylie during those years.
“I told them you better be careful what you say,” Davis would joke with the men. “One day I’m going to write a book, and I’m not going to change your names. I’m going to call it Running With the Boys.”
Davis said she never had any issues being the only female.
“Everybody was helpful,” she said. “I was treated with the utmost respect and courtesy. They had a listening ear for the things I wanted to say.”
“She was the voice of reason at staff meetings,” Light said.
When Butterfield closed, Davis became principal at the Early Childhood campus and was asked to oversee the addition of a Pre-K program. She said that first year of Wylie Pre-K was pretty tough on the teachers.
“They each one had 25 4-year-olds. It was the wildest thing,” she said. “I just kept saying, ‘You girls hang on. I’m going to get you some help.’”
About 7 years ago, Light decided that the district had grown to the point where it needed its own Student Services Department. The district had previously contracted with the Taylor County Coop for its special ed services. He turned to Davis for help.
“She took that on, and she had to learn a lot of things in a hurry,” Light said. “She had a lot of impact on the kids in special education.”
Davis said that program still is very near and dear to her heart.
“Anytime you are talking about someone’s child, and they have special needs of any kind, everybody has to be very kind and loving and nurturing,” she said. “It’s a great program, and we’ve got some great people. It takes a lot of people to make the special ed program work.”
Last year, Davis stepped down as director of Student Services to cut back her hours some and to oversee Wylie’s 504 Plan, a plan that ensures a child with a disability has accommodations to help him or her succeed. Ironically, Davis has come full circle. She developed Wylie’s 504 Plan back when she was counselor in the 1990s.
Davis said she realized at Spring Break that it was time to retire.
“I just woke up one day during Spring Break, and I said ‘I’m done.’ I just always prayed that the Lord would let me know when it was time.”
Davis, who never had children of her own, will spend some time being nanny to her nephew’s children, and she will also spend time with her parents in Robert Lee.
She leaves with a ton of wonderful memories.
“It’s been a blessing,” she said. “I can’t think of anything that I would have rather done for 39 years. It’s been a hoot.”
Davis will be honored with a reception on May 15 at 3:30 p.m. in the Early Childhood library.
Over the last 24 years, students and teachers have come and gone from the campus that is now Wylie Elementary. The school’s name has changed, and the students taught there have varied from 3rd and 4th grades to 2nd and 3rd grades to 1st and 2nd grades. Even Kindergarten was there at one point.
But through all those years and all those changes, one thing has remained the same – music teacher Van Hayes.
“I’ve been right here the whole time,” he said. “It’s been a neat thing.”
Hayes is retiring this May after 24 years of teaching music at Wylie. He will be honored with a reception on May 22 at the Elementary Campus.
“There will never be another Mr. Hayes,” said Wylie Elementary assistant principal Lisa Bessent. “He is a very special person.”
Hayes grew up in a musical family.
“Everybody in my family is more talented than I am,” he said. “My grandmother always played guitar. And my mom. A lot of people in my family play guitar.”
Hayes jokes that he only plays guitar for his students.
“I can play 1st grade guitar,” he said.
His instrument of choice is the piano, which he plays for Aldersgate Methodist Church and for the children’s choirs of Chorus Abilene.
He was a little older than the normal starting teacher when he came to Wylie in the early 90s. He was 30 and had been doing church work as a musician and working at a bus station before deciding that being a music teacher would combine two of his passions – music and children.
“I love kids,” he said. “I married a teacher, and my wife and I were looking for jobs and Wylie hired us. We were very fortunate.”
His wife, Kristy Hayes, was the Wylie Junior High and High School choir director before retiring four years ago.
But Hayes said he preferred to teach the younger kids.
“I liked the activities they do – the games,” Hayes said. “I like the age level. They are fun. Every age is different.”
Bessent, who was previously the Elementary PE teacher and worked with Hayes daily for 20 years, said he brought a great sense of humor to his classroom.
“He is one of the most quick-witted and humorous people I know,” she said. “This is one of the reasons the children love him so much. He makes music fun. The children are allowed to express themselves in a very accepting and tolerant environment. He makes music so much fun the children can’t wait to go to music.”
Hayes has also been responsible for some cherished children’s music programs over the years including, “Christmas at the OK Corral,” “Journey to Outer Space” and “Arf on the House Top.”
He said you never know what will happen at a music program with young children. One time, a mother came to see her 2nd-grader perform but was also trying to control two or three other children. One of the toddlers broke away and joined the program.
“We just had another kid in the show,” he said. “All kinds of fun, crazy stuff goes on. I do laugh a lot.”
Hayes said it is especially rewarding to now be teaching music to the children of his former students.
“It’s fun when I see adults that I taught who are parents now,” he said. “I’m teaching the kids of my previous kids.”
He said he has just tried to instill a love for music in his students.
“Everywhere you go, they have music,” he said. “It gives kids an emotional outlet. It’s a memory connector. It helps with social skills. It’s good for anybody, but especially for little kids.”
He said he decided to retire so that he and his wife would have more time for road trips and for taking care of her parents. He plans to continue playing music at church and with Chorus Abilene, and he may substitute teach.
“It’s been a great life,” he said. “There’s a lot of memories. I’ve been so thankful. I’ve enjoyed the children. I’ve loved them all.”
Subscribe to receive Wylie Growl delivered to your front door.
Sign-up for Wylie Growl email updates.