Janet Davis spends most of her mornings conversing with 3-year-olds at Little Learners Pre-School.
But last Friday, at about the time she would normally be elbow deep in a crafts project in a classroom at the Coe Primary Building, she was fixing her hair and checking her make-up in the Green Room at the KATU Channel 2 television studio in Portland.
“I don’t know why they call it the Green Room,” she said, adjusting her stylish pants suit and taming a loose strand of hair. “I think it’s because everyone else is green with envy.” Davis was sharing the dressing room mirror on Friday with the co-hosts of the popular morning television show AM Northwest, Paul Linnman and Cathy Marshall. Davis joked amiably with the well-known TV personalities as they prepared to go live on the air.
“See, they’re just real people,” Davis said, gesturing to Marshall as she adjusted her microphone.
“Yeah, sometimes too real,” Marshall replied.
Davis is the official parenting consultant for AM Northwest, and she relishes every minute of her once-a-month (or so) trip to the Channel 2 studio to do a live segment where she offers tips and advice to parents. She loves it so much that she wants more.
“I want my own half-hour,” she said. “I want my own hostess stool!”
Davis, who got her college degree in child development, has taught pre-school and other kids classes for 22 years — 15 of them in Hood River. Her knack for coming up with creative ideas for kids activities — and her knack with kids in general — has given her a solid reputation among parents and educators in Hood River.
Along with Little Learners, Davis teaches several other classes for kids through Community Education, including a summer class for toddlers and their parents called “Me and My Shadow,” and a kids cooking class.
A couple of years ago, Davis began brainstorming about how she could take her expertise — and her love for kids — to a wider audience. She was watching AM Northwest one morning when a guest came on to talk about kids.
“I could do that,” Davis said to herself as she watched. She began ad-libbing her own answers to the questions being asked and by the end of the segment, Davis knew she could have done it better.
“I thought, ‘She’s breathing my air, and she’s doing what I want to do,’” said Davis, who believes that to achieve your dreams, you first have to picture yourself achieving them. Davis began picturing herself on AM Northwest, and then she put together a proposal for producers at the station.
What followed was a series of potential set-backs, from an important packet lost in the mail to an unexpected change in producers at the station. But Davis never gave up and finally, KATU producer Chris Beard invited her to the studio. Once Davis got her foot in the door, there was no way she was going to let her dream slip away. In July 2001, Davis appeared on AM Northwest for the first time.
Davis started out doing a segment she’d come up with called “Mom’s Minute,” which she also did for a time on KIHR Radio. The “Minute” was a brief, practical tip or piece of advice that parents could absorb quickly and then use to “be a better parent,” Davis said.
Davis’s segment proved to be popular, and KATU producers extended her minute to several minutes, where she demonstrated crafts and other kids activities. Last fall, producers at the station expanded Davis’s role to that of parenting consultant and changed her segment to a “questions from the street” format. Before each show, Davis and the producers pick a topic that they plan to discuss, and Davis comes prepared to answer related questions posed by co-hosts Linnman and Marshall.
Last Friday, Davis was calm as she waited in the Green Room for the commercial break when she would be led to a set of couches with Linnman and Marshall where her segment would take place. She watched the show on a TV in the corner of the room, jumping up and down as a KATU reporter interviewed actor George Clooney.
“Darn it!” Davis said. “Why am I not an interviewer now?” Davis said she doesn’t get scared knowing she’s going on live TV in front of thousands of viewers.
“I don’t even think about the viewing audience,” she said. “I don’t even see the camera, and sometimes it’s very close.” She also never has a set script of what she’s going to say.
“I know what I’m going to talk about, but I never quite know how it’s going to come out,” she said. She concentrates on her opening lines, and once she gets through those, the rest seems to flow naturally.
Davis’s topics for Friday’s show ranged from Talented and Gifted programs to parents being “advocates” for their child. She even put in a plug for local schools, telling viewers that she’d visited May Street Elementary and Hood River Middle School doing research and found them to be “doing a fantastic job.”
At the end of the segment, Davis glanced at her husband, Chris, and three of her four children who sat in the studio audience, as they nearly always do when she does her show. Her kids come with her because she only appears on the show on days when there’s no school. In 15 years of teaching in Hood River, Davis hasn’t missed a day. And as much as she enjoys her role on AM Northwest, she doesn’t hesitate to say that her kids come first.
That dedication is part of what KATU producer Beard likes.
“What I love about Janet is she has so much enthusiasm for kids and family — she lives it,” Beard said. “If you know anything about her, you know she does it from the bottom of her heart. She has four kids, she teaches, she knows it first hand. This is what she does.”
And Davis plans to do it for a long time to come. To further spread her parenting advice and enthusiasm for all things “kid,” she’s creating a Web site called teacherjanet.com, which will include everything from Mom’s Minutes and suggestions for family activities to safety tips and kids book recommendations. The site will be up and running by next month.
And she’s already planning for her next appearance on AM Northwest.
“The whole thing has really started to pick up momentum,” Davis said. “It’s a kick in the pants.” Look out, Cathy Marshall. Janet Davis is picturing herself in your chair.