WEST COLUMBIA, SC -- Lexington Two District Teacher of the Year Daniel Bailey, along with Teachers of the Year from each of the district’s schools, will be honored at a reception this week.
The event starts at 6:15 p.m. Thursday, November 30, before the monthly 7 p.m. Board of Trustees meeting at the District Education Center.
Bailey, a social studies teacher at Airport HIgh School, will be joined Thursday by Teachers of the Year from other Lexington Two schools: Lauren Tavernier, Taylor Elementary, and Taylor Gepper, Davis (combined this school year into Cayce Elementary); O’Neta Poovey, Springdale Elementary; Christine Flynt, Congaree Elementary; Yvonne Gadsden, Saluda River Academy; Dianne Simon, Pineview Elementary; Windy Yeager, Wood Elementary; Andrew Price, BC Grammar No. 1 Elementary; Jenna Vaporis, CWECC; Jennifer Strickland, Northside Middle; LK Callicot, Fulmer Middle; Forest Kinnett, Busbee Middle; Kellie Worley, Pine Ridge Middle; Patricia Hammond, Brookland Cayce High; and Karen Stevens, Pair.
Bailey started his teaching career with the district in 2012 at Pine Ridge Middle before moving to Airport in 2016. The 29-year-old grew up in the district and attended Lexington Two schools -- Springdale, Fulmer and Airport, graduating in 2006. He holds bachelor’s and masters degrees from the University of South Carolina.
Here, five questions with Bailey about how he celebrated the district honor, his favorite teacher growing up and why he loves teaching at Airport High.
Q: What does this honor mean to you?
A: It means the world to me. This is the second time I have won Teacher of the Year in Lexington Two, but both awards have taken place in my first year at new schools. My first win was in 2013-2014 at Pine Ridge Middle and this was my latest win in my first year at Airport. It is very rewarding to have received both of these awards in my "first years" at new schools, because first years can be tough and a big adjustment. It means a lot to me that I can not only represent the profession at the district level but also my school, as I am a firm believer that we as teachers are only as good as the team we have behind us, supporting us. At both Pine Ridge and Airport, I had wonderful teams, support systems and open ears that would listen to me. These supporters are my lifelong friends. It means so much to me that my peers would vote for me, and support me as Teacher of the Year.
Q: How did you celebrate the honor?
A: I celebrated the honor by getting right back into my classroom and working. On the day I was announced to my school, I cannot tell you how many students came by my room, stopped me in the hall for a high-five or a hug. It was incredibly humbling and rewarding to see the kids and my co-workers support and encourage me. I did not get emotional until I called my parents at lunch to tell them, because my dad was leaving his cancer treatment when it was announced. My family and I have had a tough year with health issues, and it was a perfect "bright moment" for my family to hear the good news. We celebrated as a family the Sunday after, with a cake made by my nieces and nephews.
Q: Who was your favorite teacher growing up?
A: My favorite teacher was Lola Richbourg. She was my student government advisor, mentor, leadership teacher, yearbook advisor and all-around third parent. She was the reason I decided to become a teacher. I was the editor of the yearbook my senior year and advertising editor my junior year and she saw leadership potential in me. She sat me down one day and asked me, "Have you ever thought about being a teacher?" Being a high schooler with few ideas about college, this sparked my interest. I always wanted to be an engineer or pre-law in college. So, I continued on that route and as a freshman in college, I came to the realization through her encouragement and an emerging leaders class that education is where I belong. So I changed my major, kept in touch and made it my goal to come back to Airport and impact students the same way Lola did.
Q: What's the one thing in your classroom you could never do without?
A: I could never do without my students and their laughter. I love my kids, like they are my own. All of them. Being a student activities director and student government sponsor gives me many opportunities to not only teach kids leadership but to give them experiences they might not otherwise have. I have been able to take kids to cities like Seattle, Portland, Orlando, New Orleans, Indianapolis and several other places to leadership conferences. My kids not only soak up every experience at these conferences but they are able to meet lifelong friends. I am one of few teachers at my school who doesn't eat in a teacher’s lounge; I eat lunch in my room with my students. I love being around them, listening to them, mentoring them and laughing with them. We laugh a lot and cry sometimes together when the stress level gets to be too much. But I know that my students look up to me and they make me a better person every day.
Q: Talk about the decision to come back to Lexington Two and teach, and what it's meant to you.
A: I am a big proponent of paying it forward. I believe that it is important to understand not only where you are going but where you came from. Airport gave me many opportunities when I was an Eagle from 2002-2006. I want the Airport I attended to be able to give those same opportunities, if not more, to the kids who are attending it today. High school is a pivotal time for teenagers, and I believe it can be a tipping point in the best direction for some students while it can also lead down a road that can set some students up for failure. That is why I think it is so important to not only teach students leadership, but to also let them know that someone cares about, loves and values them even when they make mistakes. I want to be a mentor like Lola Richbourg was for me -- always there, always listening and always being a motivation to be a better person, man and teacher.