By Sara Serfaty
Name: Austin Davis
Grades teaching: 9, 10, 11
University: Williams College
“I’m from Westchester, but I grew up like a city kid,” said incoming English teacher Austin Davis, reflecting on his education at the Horace Mann School. As the oldest of three siblings, he knew from playing the game “school” throughout his childhood, “Teaching is what I’m going to be doing forever and ever.”
Austin attended Williams College, where he majored in English and mathematics. Since then, he has taught at Philips Academy (commonly known as Andover) and Choate Rosemary Hall, two coeducational boarding schools. Austin describes the switch to Heschel simply. “To be a good teacher, you have to have varied life experiences…[In class,] we’re reading different books about different people living different kinds of lives, and at Choate and Andover I lived on both campuses in the dorms, like I had in college…I think I will be a better teacher having had more varied life experiences.”
Austin will be teaching two ninth grade courses, an eleventh grade course in American literature, and two twelfth grade semester-long courses, the first titled “The American Self” and the second a seminar on Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
One of the many things that drew Austin to Heschel was “[the ability to] mix things up in classes, try new things, and to be experimental.” Thus, in his eleventh grade course, he plans to incorporate texts found outside of standard “literature” – novels and the like – from mediums such as magazines, to compel students to analyze all kinds of writing.
“The American Self,” Austin’s twelfth grade course, explores current issues through contemporary pieces of literature that are no older than a decade. Topics to be discussed include race, religion, politics, gender, sexuality, and trigger warnings – conversations that have been at the forefront of recent news, the current election cycle, and college campuses.
The introduction of “The American Self” into the senior course catalog conveniently comes at the same time as the administration’s heightened awareness of current issues as they are addressed within the school building. To this end, teachers participated in a discussion session titled “Civil Discourse at Heschel.”