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Sarah Bailey SCS Teacher of The Year

Bailey SCS Teacher of The Year

Art instructor emphasizes creative environments

TOY Sheffield art instructor Sarah Bailey has been recognized as Sheffield’s Teacher of the Year for the 2019-2020 school year.

Bailey, a Sheffield native, has taught art for both Sheffield Junior High School and Sheffield High School for the past six years.

She was recognized as Sheffield’s systemwide Teacher of the Year during the Sheffield Board of Education’s meeting on Jan. 27.

The art instructor said she was attracted to her career path because of her parents.

Bailey’s parents, Robert and Birdie Bailey, are both former professors at the University of North Alabama (UNA) in Florence. Robert taught communication information systems and Birdie was the dean of UNA’s nursing school.

“I knew I wanted to teach, it was just a question of what to teach,” Bailey said. “It was my parents’ idea for me to major in art because that is what I love to do in my spare time.”

With six years of teaching behind her, Bailey said she, too, has also learned as a teacher.

“I’ve learned that it is very effective for classroom management to create an environment that has an emphasis on open communication,” Bailey said.

In her classes, Bailey says she strives to create an environment where students feel comfortable expressing why they have made a decision and to be able to discuss how well it worked for them.

The importance of self-development is another principal Bailey says she has learned through her years in the classroom.

“You must constantly work on and improve yourself personally in order to be your best self for your students,” Bailey said.

One of Bailey’s favorite things about teaching is seeing her students develop creatively.

“I absolutely love to witness students go from complete dependence on me for every single speck of content associated with their work, to providing me with a variety of creative ideas for a project just to seek my professional opinion before making their own decision,” Bailey said.

While there are highlights, teaching comes with its own handful of challenges, too.

Bailey says the most challenging thing for her is attempting to help students transform the way they think and approach problems.

“I have been so lucky every semester to witness transformations firsthand, but also, sometimes, not so much,” Bailey said. “I just have to hope that I have planted a seed that will blossom sometime in the future.”

Teacher of the Year Award

The Teacher of the Year award is presented to teachers nominated by their peers at each Sheffield school--W.A. Threadgill Primary School, L.E. Willson Elementary School and the junior high school and the high school.

The four finalists from each respective school are asked to submit a 500-word essay asking them to explain what their “message” is.

Bailey says her message is threefold: Communicate with care, make the choice to have an optimistic mindset and constantly formulate creative solutions.

Bailey believes teachers and students should always communicate with care, just as President Theodore Roosevelt said, “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”

“How much we care is evident through the way we choose to communicate with each other,” Bailey wrote. “Again, we never know what someone is going through, so always handle with care.”

Keeping a positive attitude in every circumstance is essential for Bailey.

“In this field, things happen,” Bailey said. “We must strive to model for our children a mindset that focuses on creative solutions. The prerequisite to creative solutions is a positive attitude.”

Bailey says pessimism can keep teachers close-minded and can cause them to miss opportunities.

“Keeping that in mind has been a constant encouragement to remain positive,” Bailey said. “Seizing a single opportunity could be the deciding factor in a student’s choice to elevate his or her choices for life.”

Optimism is a key ingredient for creativity, Bailey says, and creativity is a powerful tool in the classroom.

“In my experience, looking at things a different way and thinking outside of the box often have the most substantial impact on student learning,” Bailey said. “Equally, some of my students’ unorthodox suggestions have inspired some of the biggest changes in my program to date.

“If we intentionally focus on communication with care, staying positive and creating innovative solutions, it will be an absolute joy to teach and learn together each day.”