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Teacher's humor, creativity inspired students

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By Alicia McElhaney
Saturday, July 12, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
 

A former Springdale High School teacher and co-founder of the Academic Game Leagues of America, James Davis was known to his students as a respectful, jovial and, most of all, humorous teacher.

“He was an amazing person,” said his wife of 50 years, Sandra Davis. “He just had a great sense of humor.”

James A. Davis of Plum died of natural causes on Tuesday, July 8, 2014. He was 71.

Upon earning bachelor's and master's degrees from Indiana State College, Mr. Davis started teaching math and gifted classes at Springdale High School. He also taught at Community College of Allegheny County — Boyce Campus.

Sandra Davis said he often tried creative methods, such as using a ventriloquist dummy he called Wally to help with lessons, and starting the Algebra Hall of Fame.

Mr. Davis was one of four founders of the Academic Games League of America, a group dedicated to promoting “thinking kids” through academic competitions conducted like sporting events. He coached a team in the Allegheny Valley that often won awards at the national level, his wife said.

In an email tribute to Mr. Davis, his three co-founders shared their thoughts. “Jim Davis was the shining example of an AG coach: academically demanding yet fully aware that our competition led to integrity and character building,” they wrote. “Jim knew that gaming was an alluring entrance to the full blossom and wonder of mathematics.”

In addition to his love of academics and teaching, Sandra Davis said her husband, a Steelers fan, loved to play golf, read and travel.

He belonged to the Syria Shrine Band, which he joined so he could play trumpet with his father.

Mr. Davis had a large collection of hats, his wife said, including quirky baseball caps, outlandish pinwheel hats and even one that looks like a Hershey Kiss.

Sandra Davis said her husband touched many lives, especially those of students. Since his death she has received innumerable messages and condolences from former students describing his impact, she said.

“He inspired a lot of kids,” his wife said. “He respected them and joked with them. His students all comment on his great sense of humor.”

In addition to his wife, Sandra, he is survived by a son, Jeffrey Davis; a daughter, Amy Cribbs; and four grandchildren.

A service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday in Soxman Funeral Homes Ltd./Roth Chapel, 7450 Saltsburg Road (at Universal Road), Penn Hills. Interment will follow in Plum Creek Cemetery.

Alicia McElhaney is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6220 or amcelhaney@tribweb.com.

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