Students set aside their arithmetic lesson to write letters to a beloved teacher in a math class Tuesday morning.

Students and teachers at Alexandria Elementary School were grieving the loss of special needs assistant Kimberly Davis, 59, who died Monday.

Although she was not technically a teacher, Davis assisted teachers in dealing with special needs children in their classrooms. Colleagues had high praise for her caring approach to their shared mission and their students.

“They were really heartbroken this morning because we consider ourselves a class family, that’s what call ourselves,” said Tracy Wills. “So, she’s a part of that. She’s as much their teacher as I am.”

Davis had been assigned to Wills’ third-grade math class this year, where she worked with the students one-on-one, Wills said.

Wills said she encouraged her students to write notes to Davis to express their grief.

“They were so broken-hearted that they didn’t get to say goodbye to her,” Wills said. “One of the little girls was telling me that no matter what kind of problem she was having with her friends or her schoolwork, Mrs. Davis would always take the time to talk to her and help her through it.”

Principal Derek Cobb said Davis was stationed at the end of the kindergarten hallway each morning to greet the students and help get them to the right classrooms.

“It was very sad to not see her down there this morning,” he said.

Her fellow paraprofessionals said Davis’ humor got them through the tough days.

“She’s always putting a smile on your face and cracking you up,” said Tammy Dunaway, a paraprofessional who worked closely with Davis. “Just getting through the day telling jokes and making the car rider line so much fun in the afternoon.”

According to an obituary published by Anniston Memorial Funeral Home, Davis’ survivors include her husband, Jeff Davis; two sons, Zach Davis and Brock Davis; and her mother, Betty Butterworth Nelson. In addition to her work in schools, she helped with the family’s business, Ohatchee Discount Supermarket.

Davis had worked as a paraprofessional for 15 years at Alexandria Elementary School and Pleasant Valley Elementary School, working with grades 1-5.

Although her job was to assist the teachers with special needs children in the classroom, Peh Yen Poh, a third-grade teacher, said her work never stopped there.

“She helped everybody in the class, not just the special needs kids,” Poh said.

Poh said Davis would lend an ear to anyone who needed to talk.

“She was always there to listen when you have any problems or whatever, or if you need someone to talk to,” she said.

Dunaway said Davis was a loving and caring teacher and friend who had never met a stranger.

“If she doesn’t know you, she will walk right up to you and introduce herself,” Dunaway said. “She took me under her wing when I started working here four years ago. She made sure I felt comfortable and had everything I needed.”

Davis’ relationships extended beyond her job description. Teachers said she noticed the small things students needed and would bring snacks to make sure the none of them went without.

“If you didn’t have food and she did, she would give you her food in a heartbeat,” Dunaway said. “She would bring little toys and treats for when the kids had a really good day, and she always had snacks for them too.”

Wills said Davis worked to make sure she had one-on-one time with each of the kids.

“She really cared about the kids and really invested in them,” she said. “Even if that means she walked them to the library just to have time to talk to them.”

Wills said the some of the students took the news of Davis’ passing very hard.

“One of the autistic students burst into tears this morning,” Dunaway said. “She said ‘Mrs. Davis is my best friend.’ Even the most difficult kid cried this morning.”

The teachers said Davis would also accompany students on field trips to places like the bowling alley, museums and aquariums.  

“She was such an encourager,” Wills said. “She would watch me and tell me what she liked about the way I taught something new. It was amazing the way we shared a classroom and the students.”

Funeral services will be held Thursday at Anniston Memorial Funeral Home. Visitation will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., followed by the burial in Anniston Memorial Gardens.