TFA Alum DuChanté Davis Helps Students of Different Upbringings Empathize With Each Other
As a first-generation college graduate who attended public schools in Cleveland, Ohio and did his Teach for America service in inner-city schools, DuChanté Davis experienced significant culture shock when he started teaching at an affluent independent school in Tacoma.
DuChanté, who split his two years of corps service evenly between San Jose, California and Seattle, joined the faculty at Charles Wright Academy in 2020, serving as a middle school science teacher and diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging coordinator.
He is the only Black male on the school's staff, and his background stands in stark contrast to his students’ and most if not all of his colleagues.
That’s exactly how DuChanté wanted it, and why he was so eager to work at Charles Wright. “Having the opportunity to teach at a school where students look different from me and have very different backgrounds from me seemed like a great opportunity,” DuChanté said. “I thought Charles Wright would be the perfect place, the perfect experience, and the perfect kind of people to share my experiences with and connect with people.”
“Kids are kids, whether they grow up in an affluent household or one that struggles with the challenges of poverty.”
DuChanté said he has always prided himself on his ability to connect and dialogue across differences, and he has found that to hold true at Charles Wright.
After growing up in Cleveland, DuChanté attended High Point University in North Carolina, where he majored in education. “The main reason I went into education was my experience with the achievement gap that exists between Black and brown students and their white counterparts. That fueled my desire to want to teach,” he said.
He saw gaps that mirrored his student experience while doing his TFA service. While continuing to work in high poverty, urban schools was one possible pathway – and one to which he is likely to return some day – DuChanté concluded that he could learn more and gain valuable insight and experience by entering a very different educational environment.
He has found his time at Charles Wright to be enlightening and rewarding. One major takeaway, he said, is that kids are kids, whether they grow up in an affluent household or one that struggles with the challenges of poverty.
“A lot of the things that they worry about, while at Charles Wright it might not be food or money insecurities, but the social and emotional aspect of things like peer pressure and parental expectations, there are so many of these foundational things that we all share regardless of where we come from.”
“My big goal and my mission is to help students empathize with people from different upbringings and to begin understanding how different those upbringings can be”
DuChanté said his classroom demeanor has helped break down barriers that might have initially existed. He described his teaching style as animated and his willingness to openly share his life experiences has made him a beloved teacher at the school.
“My big goal and my mission is to help students empathize with people from different upbringings and to begin understanding how different those upbringings can be,” he said.
He’s also a believer in social-emotional learning. For the first five minutes of every science class, he turns out the room lights and everyone meditates silently. In his advisory, he engages his students in conversations about race, gender and sexual orientation, and intersectionalities.
“I try to bring my experience and viewpoint to help educate a lot of these kids and bring them some different ideas or perspectives that they aren't typically in front of,” he said. “But I’ve also come to appreciate that DEI work is a marathon, not a sprint. Sometimes you have to be okay with a momentary setback, knowing that it's going to help you out somewhere down the line.You can't change all of these mindsets overnight and it's not going to be an easy transition to build a more inclusive community. There's going to be pushback.”
DuChantê would like to run his own school someday, serving the kind of kid he was and grew up with. But, he said,that's down the road a fair distance.