The classroom teacher and sports coordinator at Galilee Catholic Primary School Bondi was recently named the NRL’s Teacher of the Year, honoured for his commitment to using sport to promote crucial life skills such as resilience, teamwork and endurance both on and off the field.
Mr Davis has worked with the NRL since he started as a new graduate at Galilee in 2013, and over the last 12 months has created and run a touch football competition for Sydney Catholic schools across the Eastern part of Sydney.
Being presented with the prize in honour of this and other initiatives was a surprise in every sense of the word – colleagues tricked him into believing he was leading an assembly, but had instead organised for representatives from the NRL to present him with his award in front of the whole school.
“I was talking to the kids about recycling and had no idea what was happening. And then the NRL CEO Todd Greenberg walks out of the Reading Recovery room with Dylan Napa from the Sydney Roosters… it hit me for six a little bit. The footage is pretty funny,” he said.
“The award is about best implementing not just the sports side of NRL, but looking at other ways to build things like resilience and teamwork using different resources in the classroom and in the curriculum.”
If every single job in the world paid $0 a year, I’d still choose to turn up and be a teacher every day
“As a primary school student I remember reading about Teacher of the Year, so to win it is a massive deal for me.”
Around 1000 children have participated in the Galilee-run touch football competition so far, and parents and teachers agreed it was one of the highlights of the school year.
It was important to Mr Davis to put something like it in place in part because of his happy memories of playing rugby for Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School Randwick, where he was chosen for a representative team after picking up the sport as a preschooler.
But he made clear that the competition wasn’t just for gifted footballers, and existed to bring the community together, teach children how to work with one another and give everyone the chance to experience a win.
“They might not all be the greatest spellers or they might not all be mathematicians, but if I throw a rugby league ball or a soccer ball onto the playground, within about three seconds they’re going to be playing, laughing, having fun,” he said.
“It doesn’t matter – big, small, boy, girl, backgrounds – sport almost is a language of its own.”
In Mathematics, students recently used players’ statistics as source material when they learned to create line graphs, and in English a player’s story of overcoming adversity might serve as a stimulus for students’ writing.
Mr Davis’ connections with NRL players and support staff, developed over many years as a player and die-hard South Sydney supporter, mean he can sometimes even convince student’s favourite stars to make guest appearances via video to speak about crucial life skills like healthy eating, physical fitness or dealing with racism.
He admits it’s a lot more work to make learning creative, to put together sporting competitions, and to utilise technology as much as he does, but knowing he’s giving young minds the tools to succeed as adults makes it worth it.
“I often say to my class, if every single job in the world paid $0 a year, I’d still choose to turn up and be a teacher every day,” he said.
“The reward I get out of it is more than money. It’s that idea that I can really leave a mark on the students – just as so many of my teachers are still in the back of my mind when I’m planning, programming and teaching my lessons.”