Meet six local teachers who are making a difference
Walt Whitman High School, Bethesda
In his 33 years at Walt Whitman High School, Jeff Davidson has built more than a choral program. He’s tried to create a caring environment where teenagers feel a sense of connection.
“The chorus is a community of people that has to coexist and cooperate with each other to create one sound,” Davidson says. “They learn to work in a group. In the rest of the school, they are competing with other students. They are not competing in here.”
Davidson has recruited students and expanded Whitman’s three singing groups to five that meet daily: freshman chorus, treble chorale, women’s chorus, men’s chorus and chamber choir. There are also three student-run a cappella groups.
Students say the chorus room is a welcome escape from the stress of academics. “Mr. D. is always trying to put out positive energy. Every day he starts class with a big smile and asks how we are doing,” says senior Ava Parsa. “He puts a smile on our faces.”
Adam Hollies, who graduated from Whitman in June, says he looked forward to Davidson’s classes, which allowed him to decompress a bit in his otherwise packed schedule of Advanced Placement classes. “Mr. D. fosters a family,” says Hollies, who, like most choral students, stayed in the program for four years. “He tells us singing in a choir is a selfless act. It’s really true.”
Davidson, 60, is known for selecting challenging music and having high expectations. His classroom is lined with trophies for top honors the program has consistently won on annual spring music trips to festivals across the country.
Students often say the choral program is a highlight of their high school experience, and that the emotional bonds they form are deep. Davidson says it’s difficult to say goodbye to graduating seniors, many of whom stay in touch with him for years.
Caralee Adams is a freelance writer in Bethesda.