Michael Davis: The Teacher Who Changed My Life
If by some chance you are Ms. Darvin from Beach Channel High, my name is Michael Davis and I was at Beach Channel the VERY first year, I transferred to The High School Of Art & Design at the end of that year.
I was in your art class, I was black (still am) wickedly funny ( still am) and had a running rivalry with another student named Robert Stein.
Long story short-I’m now a huge success on so many levels ( and modest) and I’m reaching out to you because today I was being interviewed (told you I was a success) by CNN and they asked me who was the most influential teacher in my life.
I said Renee Darvin.
So, if you are that Renee Darvin please contact me so we can catch up. You told me once you would never forget me and I said the same to you…see I kept my promise.
If you are not THAT Renee Darvin…never mind.
Nah– I kid, I joke! if you are not THAT Renee Darvin I wish you well and please know that Columbia is one of the few schools (and I’m REAL picky) I respect.
Have a wonderful new year!
I am indeed THAT Renee Darvin, who remembers you fondly and very well for all your sass and talent. How bittersweet that your email came on the heels of the news that the city is closing Beach Channel as a failing school! It was my Camelot, in so many ways.
I am delighted that you are a success on many levels, and even more so that the success has not affected your modesty. I would love to catch up with you. Shall we plan coffee/lunch/dinner/telephone/hugs???? Its your call…..and thank you for remembering me in your personal art history. It warms an old teacher’s heart.
Let me know when the CNN interview airs …. I hope I havent missed it. I look forward to hearing from you.
I’m sorry if this is reaching you late or if you are receiveing it twice. Hard copies were to go out some time ago it seems some did most did not. I’m not taking any chances, not with the single greatest teacher I’ve ever known.
I know it’s a trek if this is short notice but you played an VERY important part in my life and perhaps in a very real way if not for you my career and this show would simply not be.
“Michael, if you go to (the high school of) Art & Design, you may become a very different artist, just don’t forget what makes you, you.”
I never forgot that and never forgot you.
information about the show can be found here: http://milestonestheshow.com
If you have a moment please go the following link and look under ‘D’: http://www.comic-con.org/awards/inkpot
Ms. Darvin, I beg of you from the bottom of my heart if there is ANY way you can join me please, please do.
Lastly-yes I’m still an artist. I’ve attached two works of mine, hope you approve. Take care and I hope to see you soon…like in a week. ;-)
Attached to the last email, along with the two pieces of art, an invitation to the opening gala of Milestones: African Americans in Comics, Pop Culture And Beyond. That’s the show I’m curating for the Geppi Entertainment Museum. The opening is this coming Friday the 13th.
The email bounced back, no big deal I thought. It’s been a while since she and I reconnected so I just figured she moved on from Columbia’s teachers college. I was too lazy to look up her personal email she had given me when we spoke so I figured I’d look her up on Facebook since it was already open.
No luck there, so I Google her name and with a quickness realized it was more than a while since we talked.
It was a lifetime.
Published in The New York Times on May 21, 2010
DARVIN–Renee, 80, passed away on May 19, 2010. Beloved wife of Jerry, loving mother of Debbie, Michael and Peter, mother-in-law to Mark, Linda, Marisol, grandmother to Michael, Liza, Emily, Theo, Henry, Mariana and Julia, sister of Marcia and Barbara, sister-in-law of Neil. Devoted over 60 years of her life to teaching Art and Art Education, most recently at Teachers College at Columbia University. Former Director of Art for the Department of Education of NYC.
Former Chair of Art Department at Beach Channel High School. Former Art Teacher at Tilden High School. President of the Student Art and League.
As her former students and colleagues would attest, teaching was a joy and a privilege she cherished. She leaves behind a family, large circle of friends and colleagues and students who will forever be graced by her legacy.
We will always love and miss you. Funeral services May 21st at 10 am Riverside Memorial Chapel.
I read the first few lines and had to stand up. Then I couldn’t stand and fell back into my chair, hit by a wave of sadness so intense I didn’t just start to cry I wailed like a wounded animal.
Even now, days later as I write this tears just won’t stop pouring from my eyes.
I’ve mentioned my love for the High School Of Art & Design on many occasions. Ms. Darvin was the only thing that gave me pause to apply and if admitted not go.
She taught me a lot more than art, she taught me to always be who I was.
Another city. Another world. Another place.
The distance between the upper middle class white people of Rockaway Park and the poor Black people of Far Rockaway was great. The distance may have been great but travel time was around five minutes.
It’s a straight shot right up Beach 58th until around Beach 90th street. Magically Beach Street changes to Beach Channel Drive!
Just like that? Just like that. Why the change in the names?
No poor Black people could afford to live pass Beach 75th so I guess 90th street was a good a place any to let you clearly know you were no longer in Kansas, welcome to OZ.
Far Rockaway, far away where the poor black people were. Rockaway Park, a park where the rich white people were.
No idea if it’s still liked that but was when I lived there.
The grass was not just greener there it was ONLY there.
Grass in the projects was brown dirt with small pockets of dandelions that every kid in the hood thought was beautiful.
Beauty in Far Rockaway was atypical at best, yet in Rockaway Park they had splendor to spare. So much so our beautiful dandelion if seen was killed for fear it would overrun and destroy the entire garden.
But that’s exactly what I thought and felt as a black teenager now going to school in Rockaway Park. Then I met and fell in love with the one and only Renee Darvin.
I will always remember the day Ms. Darvin helped make me who I am. I was asked to open my locker by the school cop. No reason. None. He simply came into the class selected me (one of 6 Black kids not in the class but in the school) and had me open my locker. I did-he found nothing so I walked back into Ms. Darvin’s class pissed but said nothing-what was the point? I was a Black kid in a Rockaway Park High School.
He came in told me he was not done with me and for me to come with him.
I was done, screw him. I let loose with a relentless series of ‘your mother so ugly’ jokes and ended with a ‘fuck you I’m not going anywhere.’ I was freaking hilarious. The only person not laughing was the cop.
He came for me.
Didn’t get within a dozen feet of me. Ms. Darvin blocked his path and told I was NOT leaving with him. PERIOD.
From the front of the room, the cop’s path still blocked by her small frame she said in a loud PROUD voice so everyone especially the cop could hear; ” Michael if you go to (the high school of) Art & Design, you may become a very different artist, just don’t forget what makes you, you.”
I never did.
I’d just made a fool of and screamed at a policeman two words, which could STILL get you shot TODAY and because of the injustice of his actions my teacher who at the very moment became my life long friend validated who and what you see today of that I have NO doubt.
As a teacher there is no doubt I’ve done good work but compared to my 10th grade art teacher and lifelong friend Renee Darvin?
I’m not the Master Of The Universe, I’m not a badass teacher, I’m humbled and proud, very, very proud to have been and will forever be, a student of hers.
To Ms. Darvin’s Family my deepest LONG over due sympathies. I guess I thought Ms. Darvin would always be around because I’d always need her to be. She was everything I ever needed in a teacher a mentor and a friend.
Milestones: African Americans in Comics, Pop Culture and beyond is as much Renee Darvin’s show as it is mine. She guided me, she saved me, she taught me and she helped make me. I dedicate the show to her and pity the fool who has a problem with that.
There you go, Ms. Darvin, there’s that ‘sass’ you loved so much. I hope (I KNOW) I still make you laugh.
When we reconnected you asked me to do something and I said ‘one day’ I would. It just felt funny to me (still does) regardless today is that day.
Never for as long as I live will I ever forget you and will always love you, Renee.