In Memoriam: Elizabeth Davis

Elizabeth (Liz) Davis, the President of the Washington Teachers Union (WTU), died suddenly and tragically in a car accident on the evening of April 4. She was my friend and a champion in the struggle for a better world; a tireless and passionate advocate for teachers and the students we nurture and educate.

Liz was an accomplished classroom teacher of more than four decades. She was active on educational issues, even before she was elected president of the WTU. She was a reflective practitioner, and thought deeply about how to educate students—largely young people of color, and working class and poor—who attended public schools in urban districts, such as Washington, D.C. In the first video below, Liz discusses how she first came to teach, the struggles of her first years, and how she learned from her students as she became skilled in her teaching in a panel on "Teaching: Art, Craft or Science?"

Liz had a passion for social justice, in education and in the larger world. In the second video link, Liz discusses her own experiences as a Black student who attended racially-segregated schools. She also reflected on her experiences as a teacher and union leader in the Washington, D.C. school district at a time when the policies of Chancellor Michelle Rhee led to a dramatic decline in African-American teachers.

Liz saw the union as a vehicle for achieving all that she cared about. In the third video, a panel of the strikes of the Teacher Insurgency of 2018 and 2019, Liz talks (starting at 34:15) about how she became involved in the union, honoring a picket line on her first day of work and filing a Title IX discrimination complaint when the principal told her he didn't want a woman teaching her course. And she discusses the importance of the union taking up social justice issues.

Liz's humility is captured in her comments in two of the panels, when she wondered why I invited her to speak. Her eloquent contributions to these conversations answer that question.

And they tell us why she will be sorely missed.

Issues Areas

Liz Represented everything an AFT local president should be and I will miss her friendship for a long time!!