Walton Elementary School Principal Michael Davis stands in front of his pickup loaded with purple African daisies, lawn ornaments and whoopie pies to deliver to his staff during Teacher Appreciation Day last week. Michael Davis photo

AUBURN — Walton Elementary School Principal Michael Davis traveled 307 miles to deliver goodwill and praise to 54 staffers’ homes — all on his dime and time — during Teacher Appreciation Week.

The gentlemanly, easygoing administrator and former music teacher was sort of like Odysseus, mythical king of Ithaca, in Homer’s epic “The Odyssey.” But Davis’ 12-hour appreciation tour, which began at 8:15 a.m. and ended at 8 p.m., was much shorter than Odysseus’ 20-year blowout of mayhem.

Davis climbed into his pickup and demonstrated his gratitude with the delivery of flowers, lawn ornaments, whoopie pies with a personal note to each staffer, including custodians, cafeteria help, secretaries and school nurse.

“I decided what can I do to show appreciation to my amazing staff, who I feel are going above and beyond during this remote, learning-opportunity time,” Davis said. “I would normally recognize them face to face, so I thought what a nice way to show appreciation for them, so I took potted plants and some lawn decorations and some good Labadie’s Bakery whoopie pies and delivered it to all 54 Walton staff last week.”

But Davis pointed out that all principals around the state were also getting into the act of honoring their staffers during these trying times. The Fairview Elementary School administration did a similar thing by placing signs of appreciation to staff on their lawns.

Davis turned to Google Maps, punched in all 54 addresses, calculated the route and drove from Saco and as far away north as Mount Vernon for an 11-hour-and 45-minute journey.

“I said this to my staff: ‘I have a whole new appreciation for their commute to work’ … but what was really cool was seeing where my staff lived and the beautiful countrysides,” he said. “I have a whole new appreciation for this area and a whole new respect for my staff.

A vast array of colors lines Principal Michael Davis’ pickup truck bed. He delivered the plants and lawn ornaments to his staff last week. Michael Davis photo

“They commit to working here and coming from all parts of the region. In some cases, I was able to surprise the teacher by leaving the gifts for them without me being seen. They may have caught me in the act, but that was kind of fun, too. It was just a really cool thing.”

Davis saw it as a way to boost morale during the COVID-19 outbreak.

“I just wanted them to know I was thinking about them,” he said. “We are a Walton family here and wanted to make sure they knew that I did appreciate all they are doing and have done this year.”

But Davis doesn’t do anything halfway as a dedicated teacher or administrator. Davis delivered purple African daisies because purple is Walton’s school color and added whoopie pies “because a little sweetness and sunshine” goes along way to alleviate life’s stress.”

First-year educational technician Cynthia St. Hilaire thought Davis’ solo-act of kindness was remarkable as well as thoughtful.

“Anyway, I am going back, and I think it is because of him because he is an awesome human being and he is great with the kids — any kids,” St. Hilaire said. “He is always thanking us for our hard work. He appreciates what we do.

Principal Michael Davis said it took a 307.1-mile drive to deliver the goods to Walton staffers’ homes during Teacher Appreciation Day last week. Michael Davis photo

“I didn’t tell you what was in the package,” she said. “It is not just the flowers.There was a handwritten, thank-you note, and you know it was not the same for every person, and a big whoopie pie. All that was on my steps when I came back from walking at 7:30 p.m.”

St. Hilaire was surprised to see the flowers and all that came with Davis’ act of kindness.

“Well, it impressed me and impressed all my co-workers,” she said. “Everybody really likes him. You know he is laid-back and good even with kids who have behavioral issues. Never talks down to anybody.”

St. Hilaire volunteered at Walton before deciding to take a job as an educational technician, but she struggled to fill out the online application.

Davis didn’t see that as a problem.

“I can’t keep up with technology,” she said. “I tried to apply a couple of years ago as an ed tech, but I just couldn’t get through the Auburn education process so I stopped.”

St. Hilaire told Davis she wanted to work at his school because of the wonderful, caring environment, but she explained she had trouble plowing through the online, application process.

“He said, ‘Come in my office. We will do it right now,” St. Hilaire said. “So within five minutes, he had typed everything in and I had applied, and it is because of him. He didn’t make fun of me. He didn’t make me feel stupid.”

“Anyway, that is how good he is. That is just to show you how much I appreciate that man.”

That goes both ways when it comes Michael Davis.

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