Nancy Avery, a native of Southampton, may have retired from her 30-year tenure at Davis Elementary in 2018, but the students of Centennial School District don’t have to say “goodbye” to their beloved teacher quite yet.
Recently, Avery returned to the hallways that were once her second home, though not in a leadership capacity. With her stuffed, glasses-sporting beagle in tow, Avery made a special appearance to read to former pupils her first-ever published book, Watson and Jason Move to Australia.
Penned over the span of several years, Avery was inspired to write the magical and educational story of adventure while teaching fourth grade geography.
“I wanted a creative way to hook my students’ interest, and thus the tale of Watson and Jason began,” she said.
Avery’s beagle Watson and nephew Jason, a recent engineering graduate of Drexel University, quickly became the central characters of the book, which chronicles the family’s move to Australia after Jason’s mother lands a job at a research center near the Great Barrier Reef.
The story touches on the importance of friendship, especially between Watson and Jason (the dog uncovers a magical collar, which gives him the ability to speak and be seen as a little boy), and being supportive of loved ones.
For example, Watson diligently works to help his human friend get through this major life change by reminding him that his parents are also scared and nervous. According to Avery, this is something she always tried to practice at Davis.
“I’m just a really caring person, and I think that’s what made me a really exceptional teacher in my eyes. I wasn’t into being the power. I was always into taking the children’s suggestions and making sure they felt comfortable. I would buy them clothes. One little boy, I bought him sneakers,” Avery said. “So that’s just the type of person I am, just really caring and sensitive. I put my heart and soul into that.”
Ultimately, Watson and Jason Move to Australia promotes resilience in the face of life’s challenges, while also providing interesting, factual tidbits about Australia in a student-friendly way.
“Hopefully, the teachers will want to use it in their classrooms,” Avery said. “It’s just enough information to not confuse the children, but get them interested.”
When Avery received her order of 100 copies of the book, she couldn’t contain her excitement, offering to help the UPS driver carry the heavy box. The writing process was a labor of love, and holding the finished product in her hands was a dream come true.
“It just came to me and I couldn’t stop,” she said of the idea. “I could hear my voice in front of the classroom as I was writing it and thought, ‘This is me. This is all me.’ It was fun and I’m just really proud.”
So far, Avery has read her creation to the third-graders at Davis, and plans to visit the fourth- and fifth-graders as well as other school districts, after the holidays.
While listening to the story, students have the pleasure of taking turns holding Avery’s plush beagle.
“Watson only wants to sit with the quiet children,” she said with a laugh.
Reflecting on the experience, the author was surprised when the kids asked for her autograph and permission to interview her, firing off tough questions such as whether she enjoys being a writer or teacher better.
For Avery, it was a joy to go back to Davis in this new stage of her life.
“I’ve been out for a year and a half, and my first day I was so nervous. But it was like riding a bike. As soon as I sat down, I remembered the quiet signals,” she said. “It was just really fun.”
As Avery “pounds the pavement” to promote her book, which is available on Amazon, Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s website, she’s already working on a sequel that follows the dynamic duo as they visit Africa.
“My goal is to have them travel to every continent, so have seven books,” she said.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at email@example.com