Perhaps the teaching gene runs in Gwen’s family, and perhaps the choice to move from chemical sales and quality control was inspired by her mother, Diane Davis. Diane passed away in 2014 at the age of 77. She was a wonderful and loving mother with an impressive professional trajectory. Diane went to Ball State, a teaching college, and graduated in the 1950s when the roles of women in the workforce were largely teachers and secretaries. When Gwen was in elementary school, Diane started teaching shorthand and secretary etiquette at a small business college. As the college grew, it became part of Indiana University and through the years, Diane started teaching bookkeeping and accounting. At some point the local business college was integrated into the university and if Diane wanted to keep her teaching position, she needed to become an accounting professor and obtain her CPA. It took time and effort, taking classes at night and in the summer, studying long hours, to achieve her goal with a young family. She had a long teaching career as an accounting professor at Indiana University, Fort Wayne. Diane was recognized by the Indiana University, Fort Wayne’s student body as an outstanding and inspiring instructor.
In 1988, when Gwen walked into a middle school classroom at Wilmington Junior High School which was near the Los Angeles Harbor, she had never student taught or set foot in a classroom before. Everything Gwen learned about teaching came from her experience teaching a diverse group of rightfully distrustful, and reluctant high school students. She learned that teaching is listening enough to take students from where they are to some place new, some place that is discovered through a modicum of success and achievement. She learned that science has the power to touch and change everyone, when made relevant by tapping into a community. As retirement for Gwen approaches, she is grateful that she stumbled into teaching. Gwen’s hope is that students understand that knowledge evolves, and a high school chemistry class is not the gateway, it is a steppingstone. The direction each of us chooses to go, and that next step is up to us. Just as Abby realized in Gwen’s class, and Mary Jane knew when she arrived at Jubilee, we should not ever think that we cannot cross a threshold.