Davis pursues passion by teaching what she loves most

Tanya Davis a spunky, rap-loving consumer science teacher, but what led to her teaching students to cook, sew, and design, and where is she going next?

Davis teaches multiple subjects including Clothing Construction, Life Skills, Foods 1 and 2, Housing and Interior Design, and International Foods. She is well known throughout Notre Dame for her subjects, but she is so much more than what she teaches in the classroom. 

Growing up, Davis had an aunt who owned a custom bridal gown shop and was taught to sew. She developed a great love for the art of sewing and chose to go to college, but she was not the average student. 

“I was considered a nontraditional student,” Davis said. “I was older, I did not live in the dorms, I wasn’t on campus, and I traveled from home.”

Davis dreamed of opening a bridal shop of her own, but Southeast Missouri State University (SEMO) did not have the major she needed, so Davis had to get creative.

“At the time, SEMO did not have a fashion merchandising degree, so we kind of invented it. My emphasis was on clothing and textiles with a minor in marketing,” Davis said. 

After graduation, Davis went on to work several different jobs. She found several in retail due to her major. After working at a fabric store, Davis went on to work at what is now called Macy’s. But Davis ended up with more on her plate than expected. One of Davis’ professors from college had a health issue and needed someone to fill in for her. After being recommended by her sick professor, Davis got the job. Davis was also pregnant at this time and got a third job teaching tailoring at the Career and Technology Center (CTC) in Cape Girardeau.  

“I was working at Macy’s, I taught tailoring at CTC at night, and I was teaching at the university,” Davis said. “I ran on adrenaline.” 

Several years later, when Davis’ daughter Hannah was three years old, Davis had yet another career change. She worried about Hannah due to her peculiar hours at Macy’s.  

“I never knew who was going to pick her up, so I said I have to do something so that I can make my own hours,” Davis said. 

This led to Davis, and a former Macy’s coworker, to quit their jobs and start a wallpapering business. It was the 1980s and there was a demand for wallpaper hangers. 

Davis took advantage of this need and hung wallpaper for roughly 15 years. But when Hannah was a sophomore in high school at Notre Dame, Davis decided she was ready for a change. Davis’ husband was already working at Notre Dame and told her about an opening for a secretary. Davis applied for the job, but received a letter of rejection. 

“I’ve never been rejected for a job in my life,” Davis said. “At the bottom it said we are going to be needing a family and consumer science teacher.”

Davis was sure she never wanted to teach, but this offer made her think about the possibility of it a little more.

“I was looking for a change, but I was not looking for a teaching position,” Davis said. 

The teaching position would not be open for two more years, but when the current family and consumer science teacher needed emergency surgery, Notre Dame was in need of a substitute. The principal, Brother David Migliorino, called and offered Davis the position with a job to follow. Davis accepted.

She has now taught at Notre Dame for nearly 20 years, and has inspired many of her students to keep learning in the subjects she teaches. 

“The coolest thing is that I get pictures, especially with sewing,” Davis said. 

Although Davis has loved teaching at Notre Dame, she has decided to retire after the 2021-2022 school year. 

“I’m retiring for me,” Davis said. “I want to give myself time to just do what I want to do, when I want to do it.”

With this new free time, Davis does not plan on simply relaxing or sitting still.

“I would have to stay busy, it would make me crazy just to do nothing,” Davis said. 

Notre Dame has not lost Davis either. She plans on helping with Activity Week and the Alumni Association.  

“I’m not going anywhere,” Davis said with a smile. 

Although Davis never wanted to teach, she ended up at Notre Dame, inspiring students through her many classes. 

“I always say I didn’t choose this job,” Davis said. “God gave me this job and I love it.”

By: Rachel Engelen ’23