By Andy Powell - Times Staff Writer

Selling cellphones might seem to be a far cry from teaching young children, but Matt Davis, the Attalla school system elementary school teacher of the year, believes his business background is a big asset.

“Just like in the business world, you are constantly analyzing what your sales are, if your promotions are working or not,” said Davis, 45. “Well, that’s the same thing in teaching. You’re looking at where the kids are, if your strategies are working or not, how can you produce higher performance, just like in the business world. How can you produce higher profits?”

Davis has been teaching for 15 years and has been in the Attalla system for nine years.

“I’m used to being under pressure as far as meeting numbers, because in teaching you have to meet or beat your test score from the last year,” Davis said.

A native of Gallant, Davis went to Ivalee Elementary School, Etowah Middle School and Etowah High School.

He worked in business after graduating from high school and said the birth of his son inspired him to go to college to get a degree.

He has been teaching third-grade reading and math and will move to fifth grade next year.

“My philosophy of teaching is I believe every kid can learn, but many kids have different learning styles, and you have to meet them where they’re at in order to get the best results,” Davis said.

He said he continually checks to see if his students are making progress throughout the year.

In the classroom, Davis uses small groups and peer teaching, where a student works with a fellow student who needs help.

He also uses technology to speed learning as well as working one-on-one with a student to determine if he or she has specific problems or interferences with learning.

Davis said he has been told he is strict, but he doesn’t believe he is. He said most of the teachers he had were stricter than he is.

“I am demanding, and I do set high expectations,” Davis said. “I want them to succeed, and that’s my main goal, so I’m constantly pushing them, whether they like it or not.”

Davis said he always is buying treats for his students to celebrate improvement. They also may be given special privileges such as eating with their favorite person at lunch or going to physical education class twice in a day.

Learning without celebrating progress “makes learning null and void because it doesn’t mean anything to them then. They need that confidence boost that comes from moving from one level to the next,” he said.

One of the few male teachers at Attalla Elementary, Davis believes having more male teachers would be good for the students.

“Many of them need that. They need a male positive role model especially,” he said.

Davis plans to go back to school to earn another degree but hasn’t yet decided in what area.

“I feel like if I’m going to be challenging my students to stretch and achieve everything that they’re capable of, then I need to challenge myself, too,” Davis said.

He said reaching a child and getting him or her excited about learning is rewarding.

“That’s the best feeling in the world.

“There’s not any monetary compensation that can even come close to that.”