San Antonio middle school teacher remembered for commitment to students and community
There wasn’t much William E. Davis wouldn’t do for his students.
The Rhodes Middle School technology teacher, who went by Bill, taught youngsters about computer systems, web design and video broadcasting. He’d dress up like the Cat in the Hat, to make learning fun for students. As a World Strides Trip coordinator, he shared his love for travel with his students, taking them across the nation, to Washington, D.C.; New York City; and California.
During the last school year, he decided to have his students connect with children more than 13,000 miles away in Kampala, Uganda, by becoming pen pals. His class and students at Lady Sarah Primary School in Kampala have been writing each other since November.
That connection spurred Davis to seek a stronger one.
“I’m going to go to Uganda,” he told his principal, Moisés Ortiz. “I’ve already booked my flight.”
Before Davis left, he sent Ortiz a text, saying he was on his way to deliver the latest batch of letters from his students.
Once in Uganda, he sent photos to his daughter Andrea Davis. In one of them, he’s beaming with a wide smile that family, friends and colleagues said was always present, no matter the situation.
The photo ended up being the last one he would send her.
On Friday morning, his family, friends and co-workers at the school and the San Antonio Independent School District learned that Davis had died in a car accident Tuesday in Uganda. Police are investigating.
“Mr. Davis was a very unique individual in his commitment to Rhodes,” Ortiz said. “When he introduced himself to me, he was very clear — he said he started his career at Rhodes and he would end his career at Rhodes. He was there to make an impact, make a difference and prepare kids; and he never wavered from that.”
Ortiz said he plans to continue Davis’ impact by having students continue writing to their Ugandan peers.
But Davis’ influence spread beyond the school, located at Tampico Street on the West Side.
He also was active with the district’s teachers union, the San Antonio Alliance of Teachers and Support Personnel. Last year, at SAISD’s annual Inspire Awards, the district honored Davis for being part of the Rhodes’ innovative technology team.
The school plans to host a memorial service that will be open to the public early this week.
Davis, who was originally from Lafayette, Indiana, was a great father and listener, and deeply cared for his students, said his ex-wife, Viviana Davis.
“He was able to bring people together,” said Davis, 51 and also a teacher with SAISD. “He didn’t take life hard or seriously. Even with my partner, he had a good personality, where you just got along with him.”
Her fiancé, James Rodriguez, said Bill Davis was a loyal fried to him and many others.
Davis had planned to visit France and England next summer with Andrea, the older of his two daughters. She said her father loved traveling because he enjoyed learning about different cultures and sharing the experiences with his loved ones.
“My dad was the best dad a daughter could ask for,” said Andrea, 17. “He was the most goofiest and warmhearted man you could ever meet, definitely, one of a kind.”
Davis started teaching at Rhodes, a charter school focused on technology and media, in August 1995. Ortiz recalled the teacher’s humorous nature.
Davis’ favorite thing to say — whether it was during a competition, the first day of school or the last — was “We got this,” Ortiz said.
“With 23 years, he’s had an impact on many lives,” Ortiz said. “It’s a big testimonial to him.”
Marie Epstein worked with Davis for five years at Rhodes. She was a first-year teacher when she started there, and he was her mentor in the department he helped found. He taught her the ins and outs of technology and that the students always came first. She recalled how he’d have a working-type lunch in his classroom so that students could come by for help or advice.
“He welcomed everyone with open arms. He’d stop what he was doing and pay attention to them.
“Bill Davis has left a legacy that will be hard to fill,” she said.
Ortiz said he was struck by the outpouring of messages, especially an email from an eighth-grade student.
“He insisted we put up a plaque to commemorate everything Davis did for the school,” he said. The student also talked about what Davis had done for him, including being “responsible for igniting his passion in technology.”
Vincent T. Davis is a staff writer in the San Antonio and Bexar County area. Read him on our free site, mySA.com, and on our subscriber site, ExpressNews.com. | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter: @vincentdavis