Our New Head of Middle School Looks Back On Her Past, Looks Forward to the Future

By Freya Malala

Ms. Davis, new Head of Middle School Leman Manhattan
The Léman Manhattan community welcomed a new member to the administration earlier this year. You may have seen Ms. Davis, our new Head of Middle School, welcoming you at the door in the morning or herding middle schoolers through the halls into their classes. I had the privilege of being able to sit down with Ms. Davis herself to discuss her goals as the head of middle school, and the fascinating story of how she ended up at the doors of 1 Morris St.
Middle school is a particularly formative time in adolescent life. It is where you meet many of the friends you will have for the rest of your school career, where you start to understand what your strengths are academically, and where you learn something new from every experience. In my interview with Ms. Davis, the main message I got from her ambitions for middle school is that she is there to lead the way and extend a helping hand during this unique period in each student's education.
Ms. Davis did not start her career in education, or as she says, “career two”.
“I never thought of a teaching career, although I always worked with kids in some way, shape, or form.” Prior to education, she was a geotechnical engineer, but as a woman in a male-dominated field, she shifted her career towards growing the minds of those who would be the future of STEM.
“I wanted to shape the next generation, if you will, of mathematicians, engineers, and scientists,” and so she left to teach math to girls, which she did for the first 17 years of her teaching career.
This was only the first chapter in her 25 years working in education that has led her here to Léman. She expanded her career into co-ed schools with the goal of being a division head in mind. Working through COVID at multiple co-ed independent schools, she learned how to “give the middle school an identity,” especially as a head at her last institution before Léman.
Through all the different schools and changes due to circumstance, Ms. Davis stated,  “I wanted a place that fits me, that won't close, that I want to stay at, a school that I can be at for a long time,” and last year she found Léman.
With the position as division head and our IB programme already being appealing, overall it was the people and the kids here that were the reason Ms. Davis joined us. With her, she brings all the lessons she has learned from her past experiences in teaching.
As middle schoolers today consume more social media than ever and have to navigate it in this changing world “it has built language and exposure for middle schoolers in ways that they never had before”. Ms. Davis sees this as a way that educators can be there for students “to provide boundaries and routines in a different way”. “Kids themselves are advocating for themselves differently now,” and it is important to her for students to have the ability to have a voice. To feel comfortable and confident when coming to the administration with their opinions, beliefs, and feelings. With the understanding that middle schoolers learn, at times, through mistakes, Taking on teaching through a restorative lens and providing spaces for kids to really explore through affinity spaces, clubs, and electives.
To me, Ms. Davis’s ideology towards the administration's relationship with students and student life is exactly what Léman needs. “I want to bring more student voices; I think that is the sign of a healthy school. When students can take ownership of their own  learning, This interview showed me that Ms. Davis is an administrator for the students. Here to bring the changes that will only benefit us as learners. She will provide spaces for the middle schoolers to grow and explore their identities, getting ready for their time to enter the upper school. “For kids to be able to leave 8th grade with a sense of self and knowing what they love, are passionate about, and how they learn, I've done my job.”So on behalf of all of the Léman community, welcome to Léman Manhattan, Ms. Davis. We are more than excited to experience and be part of the changes you wish to see.