Nancy Bailey began college as a French major and left as a Spanish teacher.
More than 30 years later, she’s earned teacher of the year for Franklin Community High School and her school district.
At Goshen College where Bailey attended, they’re required to do a service trimester. Her advisor said rather than going to Haiti where most French majors would go, she should go to a Spanish speaking country. Bailey knew some Spanish, but not a lot, she said. She went anyways.
[sc:text-divider text-divider-title=”Story continues below gallery” ]Click here to purchase photos from this gallery
She changed her major as soon as she got back from her trip and that moment changed her life, she said. She said she felt empowered when communicating in Spanish and hopes to instill that same empowerment in her students.
Teaching is one of the most rewarding professions and there are a lot of rewarding moments, she said. When students begin to make connections of the words that have been said and practiced in class, it is not only exhilarating to her, but to her students as well. Having students realize that they can communicate, even if it is not perfect, is one of many rewarding moments, she said.
“I used to have a lot of funny mistakes that I made and have made and just [want] to remind the students that we all make mistakes,” Bailey said. “When a student says mistakenly ‘oh I rode the vacuum cleaner,’ I don’t think that’s probably what you wanted to say, but we laugh about that together and say ‘that’s okay because we make mistakes like that.’ And that part is very exciting.”
Despite mistakes, she said the most important part of learning a language is being understood and understanding when communicating.
To honor students who have stuck with the language for four years, Bailey said she helped start the Spanish National Honor Society. She also began a dual credit program with Indiana University.
This year, she selected 10 students to take the Multilingual Proficiency Exam to see where her students measured up with other students. The exam was a lot like an AP test and was three hours long. Although no one was able to pass all four of the categories, Bailey said they did pass in three of them. Now, she has a building block for next year.
Steven Ahaus, Franklin Community High School’s principal, says Bailey’s passion for the language and dedication for students is evident.
“Nancy is an amazing teacher who values her relationships with students and staff,” Ahaus said. “She has high expectations for students and holds herself to those same high standards as a professional. She brings energy to the classroom each day, and students are drawn into the culture she has developed. She teaches Spanish, so I rarely understand what she is saying in the classroom, but her passion for the job is understood in any language.”
Bailey said teaching Spanish is different than teaching math or science, because she can find out small quirks about her students, such as having a messy bedroom, that other teachers may not have a reason to ask about. The small glimpses into her student’s lives lends readily to her connections with her students.
Small moments like finding out quirks leads to big moments and an even bigger impact on her students, she said.
“I think teaching impacts everyone,” Bailey said. “It impacts the entire community and when I can impact in a positive way, a student or a group of students, and they can maybe pass that on, if I can impact the next generation of teachers, it’s so important that we teach them the way that it can be done. Because it is powerful. Its invigorating.”