Albert Einstein once said, “It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.”

Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation’s 2019 Teacher of the Year, Holly Bailey, does just that in her high school science class at East Union Attendance Center in Blue Springs.

For the last five years, Bailey has taught biology, zoology, genetics, and marine science. Prior to that, she taught seventh grade science for 22 years in the Tupelo Public School District.

Bailey’s dedication to her students and job is easy to see.

“I became a teacher because I am really good with teenagers and I love science,” Bailey says. “I empathize with my students easily because I remember how it felt to be a teenager in school. I always try to treat them with respect.”

Bailey spends much of her energy looking for ways to engage her students in lessons. She tries to show how to apply the knowledge they are learning in class to their real lives through hand-on experiences.

“I like seeing my students take something we’ve learned in class and apply it to their real life,” Bailey says. “When I see my students during the summer, and they run up to tell me that they used one of the concepts I taught them in class in real life, it is the best (feeling).”

Bailey’s deep passion for science and seeing her students succeed shows through her classroom stories.

Last school year, Bailey put a different spin on her interactive teaching method by incorporating agriculture in her course material. Bailey’s students thrived in response to her hands-on approach to teaching, but one student in her biology class stood out because of the excessive personal change and educational growth he exhibited.

The particular student was not expected to pass her class due to a learning disability. She discovered this particular student was extremely knowledgeable and interested in the poultry industry. With this knowledge, she developed lesson plans to help him connect chickens to common genetic concepts learned in biology. Because of the new-found interest connection, the student immediately became more engaged in class activities.

The student then presented Bailey with the idea to raise chickens in class as an interactive project to help other students learn.

“This student alone planned a fundraiser and sought board approval to make his idea become reality,” Bailey says. “He helped me decide what kind of chickens we wanted and how many to order. It gave him something to be excited about when he came to school. He absolutely loved it.”

Everyone was impressed with the student’s initiative and ability to make these arrangements on his own.

“He really applied himself because he saw that it was something he already knew about and because of (his dedication), he passed biology,” Bailey says. “Just seeing one child succeed makes it all worth it.”

Once all of the necessary steps were taken, Bailey and her class began raising chickens. Having the chickens in the classroom offers a whole new dynamic of learning for Bailey and her students.

Bailey’s heartwarming story shows the impact teachers can have on their students daily, and how agriculture can play a role in the classroom. Bailey’s decision to give every student a fair chance changed the life of one of her students and has the potential to change many more.

Bailey appreciates MFBF for bestowing the title of 2019 Teacher of the Year on her, and she looks forward to sharing with her students all MFBF has to offer them.