When asked what famous scientists he finds most inspiring, Middle School Science Teacher Robert Davis replied, “Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson, because they take complex things and make them easy to understand.” Many of the more than 1,000 eighth grade Saints Robert has taught would say the same thing about him. During his 22 years at SSSAS, Robert has also served as a Science Department coordinator, sat on several committees, and directed educational and fun science-based summer camps. When athletics were shut down by COVID, he created an intriguing enrichment course, Recreation with a Touch of Science. In order to understand how to win the games they played, the students had to learn about the physics of projectiles, eyesight and aim, and friction. Robert has always been curious and inquisitive. As a child in Silver Spring, Md., hIs parents gave him the opportunity to roam free outdoors, where he explored, discovered, and fell in love with the wonders in nature. Robert’s favorite thing in the world is water—which he finds endlessly fascinating—so bringing the Chesapeake Bay to life in his classroom is a joy. Ask any Saint who was in his class and they will remember the famous submarine experiment, special overnight trips to the Bay, and building platforms for osprey nests. He says he feels like a kid in school, doing experiments, playing games, and sharing his greatest passion every day with his students. Robert lives to learn, constantly gathering new information from the newspaper (a paper copy he can hold in his hands), the Internet, books, and people. At home, he is Dr. Doolittle to his dog, Bailey, who thinks he is human and is in love with Robert. He also has two dozen homing pigeons and lots of fish and other aquatic pets that come and go. And, of course, there is his wife, Lisa, and their four children. Robert considers raising them to care about important things—other people, peace, nature, learning, kindness, service, justice, truth, adventure, and the mysteries of life—to be his greatest accomplishment.
What is the biggest adventure you’ve had in your life? Work. I have had all of the following jobs, although almost all were for short periods of time: bus boy, newspaper delivery kid, UPS package handler, camp counselor, roofer, tutor, carpenter, proofreader, boat captain, shepherd, naturalist, lumberjack, fruit basket maker for Christmas, commercial waterman, nightwatchman, avocado picker, dish washer, lifeguard, landscaper, snow shoveler, actor, oyster shucker, grill master, orderly in a mental hospital, and 10 years on a tugboat with three years as captain… oh, yes, teacher. Teacher was the hardest and the best. Maybe a few others that I forgot.
When did you first really feel like an adult? I still do not feel like I have grown into being an adult. My wife is the adult. My colleagues are the adults. I just mess around and try things that seem like they might work. All the adults I know seem much more certain than I do. I am perpetually scratching my head and wondering what is really right.
Why do you do what you do? I teach because I think learning and moral development are our best hope to make things better for humanity. The world is a mess. I feel like I have a moral obligation to help fix it.
What is one of your favorite things to do in the classroom or as part of your job at the school? My favorite thing to do in class is to run an experiment. I love them all launching something, burning something, using simple equipment or complicated devices, I don’t care, I just want to see what happens. I could experiment all day and the best part is to watch the kids when we get unexpected results. It is delightful.
What is something one of your parents said that you will never forget? My father once gave me the following advice: Don’t give people advice. If things don’t work out they will blame you. If they do work out, they will seldom remember that you advised them. There is everything to lose and little to gain.
Is there an incredible experience you’ve had that few others experienced? I have saved several people’s lives. It could have been otherwise. It makes me very careful about little things.