Educator Spotlight: MCC’s Roger Bailey  

February 6, 2022

Roger Bailey

Educator Spotlight: MCC’s Roger Bailey  

By Kate Krieger-Watkins, Staff Writer.

Educator Spotlight is a presentation of is a presentation of Smith & Eddy Insurance, with offices in Scottville and Manistee, offering discounts for MEA members and school employees.

SCOTTVILLE – As a 1993 graduate from Mason County Central, MCC Middle School English teacher, Roger Bailey has not only been fortunate enough to teach at his alma matter, but he’s also been fortunate to hold the same position during his teaching career.

“I am in my 24th year of teaching,” Bailey said. “I am fortunate to have spent all of that time at the Mason County Central Middle School as the eighth grade English teacher. Once I graduated from Grand Valley State University, I subbed in the area for a few months before being called in as an emergency sub at the middle school. Connie Newkirk, who was the current eighth grade English teacher, had suffered from a medical emergency and I was asked to fill in for her for the remainder of the school year. I had Connie as my English teacher in eighth grade and I knew those shoes would be difficult to fill. She was an amazing and tenacious educator that always pushed her students to be at their best. For me, considering the situation, I just hoped to hold down the fort until she made it back. Unfortunately, Connie was unable to come back to that position and I was hired full time in the winter of 1999. It took some trial and error and some growing pains to officially make that classroom my own over the next few years.”

Some might feel that having the same position over a 24 year career, it would become redundant and boring, but Bailey said he has been able to do a lot of different things with the position and that it is always changing.

“Having the same job for all these years has allowed me to fine tune my craft, and even though it is the same position so much has changed to keep things both interesting and challenging,” he said. “First of all, every year a new batch of students comes in and the critical job of building relationships comes with them. It can be exhausting sometimes, but true learning is not possible without a bond with students. The kids need to know you genuinely care about them. Test scores seem to get so much attention, and I agree that they are important to help demonstrate growth, but in the end students will not look back at school and reminisce about test scores. They instead will talk about relationships. Furthermore, students who have adults in their life who believe in them, are capable of doing great things in school and beyond.”

Bailey said he decided on education as a career somewhat because another member of his family had gone to college to become a teacher and he thought that it might be a good fit for him as well.

“I attended GVSU, where I graduated from in the fall of 1998,” he said. “I followed in the footsteps of my older sister, Lisa (Larsen), who also went to GVSU and graduated from its education program. Early on, I had a class that required me to tutor students at Allendale Public Schools for a few days a week. This early interaction convinced me that I had made the right decision to pursue a degree in education. Finding a way to help make connections to content for these elementary students was both challenging and rewarding.”

Bailey thrives on the interactions and connections he makes with his students and he stated that during the initial COVID-19 shutdowns, teaching became a lot more difficult, not just because of it going virtual, but also because those personal relationships were somewhat lost during that time.

“Two years ago when we were shut down due to COVID, the year lacked closure and that made for a strange summer,” Bailey said. “Though we tried to deliver content virtually and through packets it wasn’t the same. It never really felt like the year ended in some ways. The next school year was challenging with masks and social distancing. So much of getting to know a person involves reading facial reactions and the masks definitely impacted that. In addition, in-person education, which I most definitely prefer over virtual, involves interaction with fellow classmates and this was definitely limited with the mitigation practices in place. Fortunately, this year we have now been able to regain some of that comfort and our old ways in the classroom and I am hopeful that the worst of COVID-19 is in the rear view mirror.”

With the COVID-19 pandemic and so much change happening around the world, the educational field as a whole has become a less sought after career path for so many, unlike how it was in years past. Bailey said he believes that educators are still very important and needed in so many ways to help mold the lives of students and he still encourages those individuals who are interested in pursuing education to not lose hope.

“Education is still one of the most important professions in our society today and it needs young blood to continue to help keep it thriving,” he said. “For those hearing the call and aspiring to pursue it as a career path, I commend them. I would like to remind them that it is a labor of love.”

Along with the changes in society, Bailey also mentioned the lack of funding and how education, which once was looked upon as a thriving career path, now has to deal with higher demands with lower pay scales and many gaps in funding. He stated that this is something he sees a lot working for a smaller district.

“Teachers, by nature, are resourceful and frugal people, but the lack of funding makes it difficult for districts like MCC,” he said. “Unfortunately, this lack of funding has driven so many young promising people away from education altogether. I understand that there are other areas in our society that involve taxpayer dollars to fund, but so many of those are reactive, where as education funding is a proactive and preventative resource that has long term beneficial effects for our society as a whole.”

With all the ups and downs during his career so far, Bailey stated that he wouldn’t chose any other career and the relationships he makes with students, staff and families outweigh a lot of the day-to-day difficulties.

“Though teaching will be difficult and frustrating at times, the rewards far outweigh the negatives,” he said. “Furthermore, when you have positively impacted and bettered the life of a child, you are a rich person.”

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