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HOMETOWN HEROES: Liza and Tom Underhill

by | Sep 15, 2020 | Bottom Right Box, Voices of Davidson

Liza and Tom Underhill

Teaching in the Time of Corona

Teaching is always a challenge, but it has been complicated in this time, as they say, like no other. We talked with Liza and Tom Underhill, both teachers at Davidson K­–8, about their work on this very important front line.

Liza Underhill Fourth Grade

Tell me about your day job. 

This is my 17th year teaching, all at Davidson. I taught third grade for six years, and this is my 11th year teaching fourth graders.

How did you discover this passion?

Slowly. My undergraduate degree is in telecommunications, so teaching came late to me. I went back to school to get an education degree when I was 32 years old. I recognized that I have a natural interest in kids, and also that I loved school at most every age. I had unforgettable teachers who made an impact on me at all different ages. This led me to teach.

What inspires you every day?

Watching kids do things they didn’t think they could do—these things can be academic, social, interpersonal.

Ten-year-olds are inspiring. They are at a pivotal age, beginning to make choices about who they want to be and how that may look and happen for them. They are also not afraid to be silly—it’s an excellent combination!

What are your challenges and speed bumps along the way?

Navigating and adhering to the often-cumbersome requirements that a huge school system brings. And technology—every day!

Secrets to staying motivated and positive?

Reminding myself that these humans have only been here for nine or ten years—and taking the time to know them. Knowing them as people can lead to such growth, and what I mentioned above, to them realizing they can do things that are hard. When this happens,  everything about teaching is better. This is no small feat virtually, by the way.

How can Davidson residents best support you?

The support in Davidson is exceptional. I can’t think of anything. I’m humbled every year that I have taught here by the generosity shown in every way—time, effort, class donations, support at home of what we’re doing at school. Thank you!

Tom Underhill   Fifth Grade

Tell me about your day job. 

This is my 27th year working at Davidson, and all of them have been in fifth grade.

How did you uncover this passion?

Growing up, my dad was on the school board in my hometown, my mom worked as a teacher assistant and in the media center of my K–2 school, and my grandmother was in charge of the lunch program for our district.  My first job was working in the summer recreation program for our town. There were a lot of signs early on in my life that were pointing to a career in education.

What inspires you every day?

Right now, I find it really inspiring that the kids are logging on to our Zoom meetings on time and ready to learn!  Overall, I find inspiration in the fact that I can make an impact in the life of each child that I teach.

What are your challenges and speed bumps along the way?

At this time, most of my challenges are technology related!

Secrets to staying motivated and positive?

One thing I find very motivating about being in education is that no matter how well the previous school year went, a new group of students is coming in who will have a different set of challenges, and there will be a different class dynamic.

Figuring out how to make each group into a cohesive classroom is a challenge I look forward to each August. Also, I have been fortunate to have excellent teachers on my grade level team over the years. Working with people who are passionate about their jobs and are willing to collaborate to make us all better is one of the greatest things about being at Davidson K–8.

How can Davidson residents best support you?

The easy answer to this question is to keep doing what you are doing. The great thing about teaching in Davidson is the amount of community support that we receive. We all appreciate you!

Andrea Nordstrom Caughey

Andrea Nordstrom Caughey is a magazine editor and lifelong writer who hit the jackpot moving to Davidson from California.

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