In the spring of 2014, Alyssa Davis, a teacher at Rio Del Mar Elementary School in Pajaro Valley Unified School District was in the middle of a divorce. Alyssa had a one-year-old at home, and she was in the 8th year of her teaching career. Although she loved being in education, she was feeling discouraged and disheartened.
That year, the Cotsen Foundation came to Rio Del Mar to present the ART of TEACHING fellowship. After some consideration, Alyssa applied and received the opportunity to expand her professional horizons by becoming a Cotsen Mentor.
“Shortly after beginning my time with ART of TEACHING, I was feeling rejuvenated and inspired as an educator for the first time in a long while,” Alyssa admitted.
Devin Avey was eleven years into his teaching career at Rio Del Mar Elementary School when he applied and was accepted as a Cotsen fellow. He was looking forward to a brand-new opportunity to grow his teaching practices, more excited than ever.
“I felt proud that I had been selected to be a fellow,” said Devin. “I learned so much that first year; it was truly a “mind blowning” type of experience because it pushed me in a radically different approach to teaching. With Common Core just emerging, the ART of TEACHING fellowship was exactly what I needed.”
However, during the summer of 2015, Devin tragically lost his wife. His colleagues banded together to support Devin in his time of grieving, yet it was unclear what the future would hold for Devin.
“I wasn’t sure he wouldn’t want to continue with the fellowship starting back up in fall,” added Alyssa. “I knew it would be an added responsibility and commitment that Devin might not be up for during that terrible time.”
To the surprise and admiration of his family, friends, and colleagues, he came back to work and continued the fellowship.
Throughout the second year of the ART of TEACHING fellowship, Devin and Alyssa developed themselves as educators and deepened their friendship, based on professional respect, relatable personal life situations, and good-hearted humor.
“The Cotsen Foundation’s ART of TEACHING fellowship literally saved my career,” said Devin. “I had an inspiring first year of teaching as a fellow, but my second year was colored with gloom. I had completely lost the wind in my sails with barely enough motivation to show up on time each day at work. My loss had drained me of my passion for teaching.”
As time went, things slow began to look up for Devin and the end of 2016, the Rio Del Mar cohort graduated from the fellowship. “Along with friends and family, my Cotsen family kept me going,” admitted Devin. “The collaboration and passion for deepening our craft of teaching helped pull me out of my despair. Cotsen saved my career and my team inspired me to be a better teacher.”
While the fellowship had ended at Rio Del Mar, the work started there did not. As teachers continued developing their pedagogy and grow together as a school team, one February night something else grew.
During a staff celebration, Alyssa and Devin noticed something deep between them. Something they hadn’t quite realized had been brewing between them. “We realized that night that we were both in a place in our lives where we were ready for a change,” said Alyssa. “We were ready for a partner, ready for something deeper and more personal than what we already had.”
Sixteen months later, they were engaged, and a year after that, they were married on June 21, 2019.
With a shared passion for education, their bond grew, and their relationship flourished. They had struck a healthy balance between “teacher talk” and life outside of education.
“Here we are on our 6th trip to the Cotsen Annual ART of TEACHING Conference, attending as husband and wife,” said Alyssa. “We are eager to encourage each other in our educational endeavors…truly all thanks to Mr. Cotsen and his vision to turn good teachers into great ones!”