The kindergarten teacher was suspicious when she heard the man mumble on the sidewalk that he wanted to cut across the playground.

If he wanted to get in for any reason, he would have to go to the front door of the school.

The man walked around in circles on the sunny morning of May 11 after disappearing for a minute.

Inglewood Elementary School kindergarten teacher Rachel Davis poses in her Hendersonville, Tenn., home May 22, 2022, 11 days after tackling an intruder who broke into her school. Davis broke her left elbow in the altercation.
Inglewood Elementary School kindergarten teacher Rachel Davis poses in her Hendersonville, Tenn., home May 22, 2022, 11 days after tackling an intruder who broke into her school. Davis broke her left elbow in the altercation.

Davis said to line the kids up so we can all go in.

The man jumped the fence and ran toward the door when the other teacher opened it.

I need to get inside. He shouted that he needed to get inside.

Davis planted her body in front of the door. You can't get through this door. I need you to leave the playground.

Davis paused in telling the story, looked down and said softly, "I can feel my heart pounding again."

'The fun of art is creating it'

Davis loved her kindergarten teacher, Ms. Drinkwine, so she wanted to be an elementary school teacher for as long as she could remember.

She used to make little notebooks out of paper for her dolls. She said that Davis sat them in rows and began her lessons.

Davis tried to hold class for her two younger siblings, but they didn't pay attention to what she was saying.

The pre-K and kindergarten playground at Inglewood Elementary School on May 22, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn.
The pre-K and kindergarten playground at Inglewood Elementary School on May 22, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn.

Davis volunteered for the Arts in Action program when he was a high school student. She remembered a girl getting frustrated when she made a clay cat because it didn't look right.

Davis told the girl that it doesn't have to be perfect.

The girl started liking art. Davis loved teaching.

After graduating from East Tennessee State University, she started working as a pre-K teacher. This is the first year that Davis will be going to kindergarten.

'RUN! Go inside now!'

On May 11, Davis and another kindergarten teacher were outside with their students, as usual, at 9:45 a.m.

A man in his 30s was waving her over on the sidewalk. The two were separated by a fence.

She said that the man mumbled and slurred his words, and it took Davis several moments to realize he wanted to get into the building.

She told him to stay on the sidewalk and walk around the building to the front door, because she thought he might be a parent. He could tell the staffer what he needed by pushing a buzzer.

On May 11, 2022, an intruder hopped this three-foot fence at Inglewood Elementary School in Nashville and rushed toward the school's doors

The man walked away but came back and the teachers started getting their students inside. The man jumped the fence before half the kids made it inside.

Davis urged the other teacher, and soon the school secretary was standing by.

Thomas insisted that he couldn't go through the door.

It was so tense, you could cut the air with a knife.

The man bumped three kids as he lunged toward the door.

She wrapped both arms around him, trying to stop him from getting inside.

The students stared at her and the man until she shouted at them. Go inside now!

She said the man lunged toward the door and made it inside the stairwell with Davis still wrapped around his back.

Something snapped inside Davis as the man broke free and started running.

She said that she was going to do anything in her power to protect these kids.

Kindergarten teacher Rachel Davis at Ascension Saint Thomas Midtown hospital after getting a cast on her left arm May 11, 2022, the day she tackled an intruder in her school and broke her left arm

Davis tackled the man after running after him. She said that both of them ended up falling backward, crashing on the floor onto Davis.

The man got up after being restrained for more than 10 minutes by Davis, the secretary, Thomas, and the school bookkeeper.

Davis said that it was a long 10 minutes. The four wrestled and tussled with a person who was calm and agitated.

The man who smelled of alcohol and drugs said he was paranoid that someone was going to get him.

'They put their lives on the line'

As police arrived, a colleague led Davis to an empty classroom, where the pain of her broken elbow and the emotion of the incident overwhelmed her.

She said that she was in full blown panic, trembling, and her legs didn't want to support her weight.

I was shaking so much that my eyes were big. I was in a state of shock after that.

Rachel and Michael Davis pose in their Hendersonville, Tenn., home May 22, 2022, with some of the flowers, food and notes they've received from teachers and parents at Inglewood Elementary School. On May 11, Rachel Davis tackled an intruder to stop him from reaching students, a tussle that resulted in her breaking her arm

After getting a cast on her arm at Ascension Saint Thomas Midtown, Davis went home to recuperate for six days. Parents and teachers brought food and gifts for her and her husband.

Staff and parents heaped praise on Davis and staffers Thomas and Patton-Thomas for confronting the person who was not armed.

The principal cried when she watched the video.

Ms. Davis is a gentle person. The principal said that she was doing everything she could to protect the kids.

They are heroes. It's not clear what would have happened if they hadn't acted. They put their lives on the line for us.

Kate Whitley, the small business owner of the kindergartener, called Davis a bad-ass hero.

It could be an unlikely one.

She put her own life at risk so my daughter could live.

The three heroes and their principal are due in court Tuesday for a hearing for the person who was charged with assault and other crimes.

They are unsure how they will feel in the same room as the person who broke in.

He wasn't trying to hurt anyone, but people got hurt and the terror was real.

Inglewood Elementary secretary Katrina "Nikki" Thomas, left, and bookkeeper Shaquita “Shay” Patton-Thomas are being called heroes after helping restraint an intruder at the school May 11, 2022

Davis flinches when someone walks toward her in public. She is still not comfortable on the playground.

Davis had a brief conversation with a school mental health expert, but since then, has had a hard time scheduling further therapy to process the incident.

She had a healing moment on her first day back. The first student to walk in that day cried as she hugged her. Davis cried as well.

She said that they just had a moment where they were hugging each other.

He said that he was happy that I was back.

Brad can be reached at or on social media.

The article was originally published on Nashville Tennessean.