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Teacher Craig Davis, of Walnut Creek, is photographed outside his first period history class at O'Hara Middle School in Oakley, Calif., on Monday, May 20, 2013. Davis is retiring after teaching for 39 years. The past 26 years Davis has taught in the Oakley School District. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)

OAKLEY -- Teacher Craig Davis had finally had it with the bragger.

"He was always talking about how good he was, how much better he was than everyone else, including me. He played baseball. He pitched. He would tell me (daily) he could strike me out ... and on and on."

Davis couldn't take it anymore, and invited the young teen to bring his mitt, bat and ball to school. The teacher would have a pitcher's duel with him in front of the class.

The deal: If the kid bested Davis, the student would get an A for the semester. But if it was vice versa, it would be an F.

"Since his grade was probably an F already, I'm sure he figured he had nothing to lose. He was all in. It may have been the only time I had his full and undivided attention." That day, with all eyes on the pair, Davis was impressed at "how fast he could throw.

"(On) my first pitch he hammers to straight away center. I am thinking, 'Dang, this guy can hit.' And, that was just the start; he smoked me. When it was my turn to hit and his to pitch, well, let's just say he did surprisingly well in math that semester. Matt (Riley) went on to pitch for the Baltimore Orioles. I (went on) to teach history."

And, so goes one of Davis' favorite memories from his nearly four decades of teaching.

Now, the O'Hara Park Middle school instructor is retiring.

While there have been loads of good events during his 26 years in Oakley, he said the "most fun" may have been taking students backpacking in Yosemite. For 13 summers, he made girls' and boys' trips.


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"We would drive to the road's end, put on packs and hike for three or four days. It took kids out of their comfort zone. It taught them respect for community as well as nature.

"When you are out in the middle of Nowheresville, being with the group becomes a high priority once the sun goes down. I would try to climb a mountain with them each trip ... many were pushed farther than they ever thought they could go. Some pushed me."

He said the trips included encounters with "bears, rattlesnakes, bobcats, wild fires, waterfalls, rockfalls, tree falls, rainfall, snowfall, sick kids, blisters, mosquitoes, crazy parents, lost kids, broken packs, missing food, car breakdowns and Indian threats (no fooling!) "It made enough memories for a lifetime. I always said I plan on writing them down some day when I retire. Now I will get the chance." His favorite thing about his career "has been the privilege of working with children. That's what I went into teaching to do. It's still the thing that drives me after 39 years."

Along the way, Davis has amassed some admirers, including Colleen Creswell, O'Hara principal.

"Think of your favorite teacher, and you will picture Craig. This is evident over the years as so many of his past students return to visit him."

Creswell recently spoke at a retirement dinner for Davis, noting that he has taught 5,050 students in his nearly 40 years. Those years have featured several student trips -- two to Washington, D.C., one to Paris, one to Rome and one to Germany.

"Thirty nine years of teaching and inspiring children. (He leaves) a wonderful legacy and all aspire to touch as many lives as (he has)."

Davis said he just knew it was time to retire. "Not only is education changing but I am changing."

His plans include more time with family, which includes helping his oldest son's family move to "California from Mississippi this summer," and a visit to another son in London this fall. A third son lives nearby.

Contact Trine Gallegos at trineg@att.net.