Originally published in The Abilene Reporter – August 19, 2019
Rodeo is in Katie Davis’s blood. So is teaching.
Often, they didn’t mix well. But the Ovalo resident found a way to fulfill both of her callings with a little help from a public school in the Dallas area.
It all came together when Davis, 35, came across Texas Virtual Academy of Hallsville. Working with students through the connective tissue that is the internet has allowed her to be wherever she needs to be, whether that’s at home on her ranch or competing on the national stage in her favorite events.
“I can bring my computer and my WiFi with me,” she said. “So if I need to do a face-to-face conversation, I can use Skype and do that. It’s awesome.”
Davis is a third-generation teacher. Growing up in the Stephenville area, she moved to Ovalo, about 30 minutes south of Abilene, once she married Bryce Davis.
She started her teaching career in 2010, working first at Coleman Elementary School and Mann Middle School in the Abilene ISD.
That didn’t work, especially after children entered into her equation. The drive to and from just became too much, she said.
While working at Weatherford College, she took a virtual flyer on the internet-based classroom and applied. She hasn’t stepped foot inside a classroom since, instead operating primarily out of her barn.
“I do miss the face-to-face interactions with the kids, but some kids just have life situations that keep them from attending the brick-and-mortar schools,” she said. “Or it doesn’t fit with them. So, given a choice between the traditional campuses and this, I would choose the virtual classrooms.”
This coming school year, she’s moving away from working directly with students, focusing instead on helping her fellow teachers with curriculum. It’s a step towards administration for the rodeo star.
While she works normal teaching hours, being at home allows her easier access to her nine horses. And to her two children (Lily, 7, and Ty, 2).
As far as the school is concerned, it’s a normal public school. The students face the same mandates from state curriculum requirements and take the same standardized tests as traditional students.
it even faces the same accountability ratings as other campuses, with the Texas Education Agency using alternative standards to rate the online provider. In 2018-19, the school received a D rating, though it achieved a C rating (74 points out of 100) in student achievement.
So, the children are performing about the same as Thomas Elementary (77 points in student achievement) or Bassetti Elementary (77 points).
One of the challenges, Davis said, with the online school is getting the students together for project-based learning opportunities. She’s a big proponent of PBL, with its emphasis on problem solving skill development.
“The students might not have the supplies they need for the project,” she said. “But I love to collaborate. I like being able to put the kids together. Some times it’s difficult.”
To learn more about Texas Virtual Academy at Hallsville, visit https://tvah.k12.com/