By Kristina Houck
A local teacher is returning to the classroom wearing an additional crown. The reigning Mrs. San Diego International, Staci Ortiz-Davis, was recently named Mrs. California International 2014.
“I went in with the attitude to have fun, do my best and take it from there,” said 41-year-old Staci Ortiz-Davis, who lives in Carmel Valley. “I was just thrilled. I still am. My head is just spinning to have the opportunity to focus on the benefits of education and how we should support graduating high school students.”
In addition to a ceremonial sash and tiara, Ortiz-Davis will get to represent the state and promote higher education, a cause important to the English teacher and former TV news reporter. Last year, Ortiz-Davis launched the Josie Pearl Scholarship, a college scholarship fund for low-income students in honor of her late grandmother, whose dreams of higher education were sidelined by the Great Depression.
“She grew up on a cotton farm in Paris, Texas, and because of the Depression, she had to drop out of school to support her parents,” said Ortiz-Davis, who worked at Torrey Pines High School for eight years. Now a teacher on special assignment, Ortiz-Davis coaches and trains other teachers in San Dieguito Union High School District strategies for teaching English language learners. “She was bright, sharp, witty. She would have had a very successful career had she had access to higher education. That’s why I started this scholarship in her name. I know she would just be honored to help students like her who need that support to attend college.”
The Josie Pearl Scholarship awarded $3,000 to a Torrey Pines High School senior in 2013. With her new title, Ortiz-Davis hopes to award a total of $10,000 in scholarships to California students this year.
“I believe that the title will serve as a microphone where I can connect with people and I can raise awareness, talk to them about my grandmother, my students and the need,” Ortiz-Davis said. “Education should not be a privilege. It should be a right. For my grandmother, it was a privilege and one that she did not have access to.”
As former Miss Anaheim and Miss Orange County, Ortiz-Davis said the experience brought back her memories of competing in the Miss America pageant system nearly 20 years ago.
“This competition was different because the competitors were matured, married adult women. That made a big difference,” she said. “The sense of competition and cattiness wasn’t there. It was a group of women that came together. We supported one another. We were eager to hear stories about children, careers, husbands, and what we were doing in our communities.”
Sixteen women competed in interviews, fitness wear and evening wear during the pageant at Embassy Suites La Quinta Hotel and Spa.
“It was a bit surreal and enlightening to be backstage waiting to go on stage and to look across and see my husband standing there,” said Ortiz-Davis, who is married to KUSI anchor David Davis. “It made me reflect upon the life that I used to have when I was competing in Miss America as a 19-year-old and how my life has changed and what I’ve become. It was really special.”
For more information about the Josie Pearl Scholarship, visit
For more information about the Mrs. California International Pageant, visit