January 2022 Equity Warrior - David Gaddy


David Gaddy with Student, 2019/pre-COVID

This photo was taken in October 2019, pre-pandemic. Mr. Gaddy is speaking in Spanish to a former student about adding and subtracting positive and negative numbers.

Mr. David Gaddy

Math Teacher, Orange High School

“I have told parents that my class is a balance of math and life.  We can make good math students any day, but we also want to help form great human beings.  I have been blessed enough to be part of that process for so many.” 

~ D. Gaddy

"Why WOULDN’T I do that for my students?”

Mr. David Gaddy is in his fourth year of teaching math–his third at Orange High School–following 13 years of being a youth pastor. He has an innate compassion and love for students. He is an active member of the Equity Team at Orange High, and he joined the School Improvement Team this year to be a part of tracking data and seeing changes and improvements emerge. He believes that drilling down in struggling students’ areas of weakness–not just in math, but across all content areas–will produce results.

“I have also told parents that my class is a balance of math and life.  We can make good math students any day, but we also want to help form great human beings.  I have been blessed enough to be part of that process for so many,” said Gaddy.

For David Gaddy, equity means giving every opportunity for each student to be successful–in whatever context success means for the individual during the time you have with them. He has a duty and a desire to give every student what they need every day to be successful, whenever they walk through his door.

It could look like a teacher taking it upon themselves to learn Spanish and to use translation tools to communicate with ESL students. Gaddy did this to make sure his ESL students have notes they need to understand the concepts.

Gaddy said, “I took some Spanish in middle school and high school and college, but now I pursue it with all I have because of the value it brings to my students. Learning a language and using Google translate may seem like going the extra mile to communicate. But why WOULDN’T I do that for my students?”

Gaddy said that math instruction really doesn’t change–not even while dealing with a pandemic. But with COVID, he has started to see gaps in equity not only along cultural and racial lines, but individual students and how the pandemic has impacted their mental health and being able to have basic needs met. (For example, he asks: Is this student healthy enough to be in class?)

Whether a student needs a full stomach, or even just a 10-minute mental break during the day, Mr. Gaddy’s classroom is a safe haven. There, each lesson begins with lighthearted jokes and encouraging discussions about life. Then it’s down to business.

To Gaddy, establishing relationships is the key to ensuring that equity occurs. “If there are no relationships, you will not be a successful teacher. Students want to trust you.”

Even the Equity Team at Orange High spends time getting to know each other and their strengths and weaknesses. And together, they are the watchful and vigilant eyes and ears in their classrooms and the entire school. They listen and they hear the needs that are expressed outrightly and in quiet whispers. 

“Every student wants to be accepted, included and heard,” said Gaddy. “And I make sure that in my classroom, students know they can have conversations and have different opinions, but when they walk out into the hallways they don’t hurt each other; they respect that we all have different opinions and can walk down the same hallways.”

“This is a necessary work,” said Gaddy. “This is common sense work.”

Statements from Students:

Emily Mettler:

Equity to me is the practice of bringing fairness and justice to people. Equity means to make sure everyone has equal opportunity to thrive, and in a classroom environment, it’s an equal opportunity to learn and be heard. Mr.Gaddy has been an amazing teacher to me this year. He has shown kindness and compassion like no other teacher I’ve had before. From the very first day of school, he went the extra mile to ensure that everyone’s voice was heard. He allows his students to share their stories with him and he works to satisfy their learning needs. He would even practice Spanish to better understand and communicate with his minority students. There’s a certain warm feeling that you get every day when you walk into the class and see Mr.Gaddy’s  tee-shirts, each one with a message of acceptance and safety printed on them. He is the one teacher I’ve ever had that makes sure everyone feels comfortable in his class to that extent. I want to personally thank him for the support that he gave me when I was going through a rough time. He gave everyone the opportunity to work at their own pace, which really helped more than I think he knows. Thank you Mr.Gaddy for being such a wonderful and compassionate teacher. You mean so much to me.

Stephanie Montano:

To me, equity is the act of treating people with fairness and helping others to reach the point of equality. Equity consists of accepting others and making the effort to put differences aside so that everyone can have the same opportunities. I believe equity is something that someone chooses to express and, in my opinion, is one of the most considerate forms of showing someone that they are wanted.

Mr. Gaddy is the perfect example of someone who demonstrates equity and the first person I think of when social equity is mentioned. The very first day I stepped into his classroom, I was instantly hit with a sense of belonging and welcome. Mr. Gaddy made it clear to every student that anyone of any background, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, and beyond is more than welcome in his classroom. As a student who identifies as a Mexican-American, it is easy to feel unseen at times. However, Mr. Gaddy always made the effort to make me and my fellow Latinx students feel understood and welcome. I’ve never felt as comfortable speaking my first language and about my background as I have in his classroom. He always has everyone’s back and makes sure to stand up for you when something isn’t right. No matter what you’re going through or where you have been, Mr. Gaddy is more than happy to listen and help you with whatever problem you’re going through. All he ever strives for his students to have is for them to have the same learning opportunities as any other student and for them to leave his classroom as better people. I now understand why Mr. Gaddy is so loved to the extent that he is because I was able to experience his caring personality firsthand. I appreciate him deeply for the amount of effort he put into making a connection with his students and making all of them feel important. In regard to the title of Equity Warrior, I believe Mr. Gaddy is the absolute best choice for the title. He goes above and beyond to make every student feel seen and understood, and I know many of my classmates would agree that Mr. Gaddy shows equity in every and any way that he possibly can.

Jeremy Morrow:

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