Ms. Davidov: the woman behind the desk 

Many people know Ms. Maggie Davidov as the librarian that can help you with anything: refining your bibliography, helping your research, or any odd project. But there is more to Ms. Davidov than just bibliographies: she can recite the entirety of Robin Hood: Men in Tights, she works out to show tunes, and she is an avid story teller.

Ms. Davidov went to Croton Harmon High School in Upstate New York, and she can’t mention her alma mater without whispering “go, Tigers” and doing a mini fist pump. From Croton it was on to college at SUNY Geneseo, where she was a “champion sleeper”; she could sleep for fifteen hours. When Ms. Davidov was not sleeping, she was a theatre major because she loved to sing,  she loved to dance, and she loved to jump around. In fact, she jumped around and changed her minor four times before settling on English.

At the end of college, Ms. Davidov found herself approaching graduate school, but still unsure of what she wanted to do with her life. This is when she decided to join the Peace Corps, a volunteer program run by the federal government, which sends college graduates abroad to stimulate social, economic, and educational change in developing countries.

Ms. Davidov would wind up spending three years, instead of the usual two, in Macedonia, a country the size of Vermont in the Balkans. While there, she created the Macedonia National Spelling League. She was teaching English to Macedonian middle schoolers, but the class “was kind of boring, so I wanted to make it more fun for my kids.” She realized that her students loved games; in order to make English class a competition, she would hold spelling bees. First the students competed locally. When that was successful, Ms. Davidov thought, “I could coordinate this into a national competition.” The Spelling has since been replicated by other Peace Corps countries and offers the winners college scholarships.

Maggie DIn the Peace Corps, Ms. Davidov realized that she loved working with students, but  most of the work she was doing not in the classroom: “the spelling bee, the sports club, I was infusing education into the games I was doing, and most of it revolved around literacy and reading.” The Peace Corps was a journey, she says, to “navigate what I wanted to do with my life: teacher or librarian. I decided on becoming a librarian because I kept on doing all sorts of weird projects. I taught in the classroom, but my passions were  outside the classroom, and that’s what librarians do, all the outside stuff.” When she returned to the States, Ms. Davidov entered library school at Simmons College.

An important pillar of the Peace Corps is sharing your own experience, and so Ms. Davidov likes to tell the story of her “stranger than fiction” life in the Peace Corps, and how she and her husband met in Macedonia. She says, “I feel those memories so vividly in my head, I feel like I’m experiencing everything. I get excited, I get really sad, I feel emotionally spent. It’s very draining; unlike being in play or musical where I step into someone’s body, I am metaphorically naked in front of people I know and don’t know.”

Ms. Davidov would go from telling stories at dinner conversations and Christmas parties to telling stories competitively at Mass Mouth, a storytelling organization that holds events or story slams every month at bookstores and bars in Massachusetts. She won one of these competitions with the story of how she met her husband. Although these are competitions, these events are very “intimate,” she explains. “Someone could be telling a story to a hundred people, but it feels like a conversation between me and you.”

“Storytelling doesn’t just come to you; you have to make it happen,” says Ms. Davidov, who has brought her passion for storytelling to Dana Hall. She started with telling stories for the area studies classes, then it was creating story time at the library, and then pushing the students at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls to tell her  about the South African culture of storytelling.

story timeMs. Davidov now tells stories to babies and small children once month on Thursdays. The library loses its studious mood and becomes filled with the the sound of children laughing. For Ms. Davidov, story time is such a “high because the children get so excited.” You may think children won’t be able to pay attention without pictures, but it’s quite opposite, she explains. “If you stop paying attention you could miss something very critical because there’s a lot of highs and lows, [and] it’s easer to engage when you are engaging your imagination.”

Her next ambition is a story slam at Dana Hall because “everyone’s a story teller, they just don’t know it,” Ms. Davidov declares confidently. For future storytellers, she gives this advice: “Decide what you want to write, or any moment you define as big or epic. Write it out linearly, and then you can mash it up: tell the end first, move it around, decide what’s more dramatic. How you present it, and in what order, and in what tense is up to you, but first decide what you want to say, because you can’t tell the story of your life in six minutes.”

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