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Bailey named one of two MHS Teachers of the Year

Vickie Bailey, one of two Teachers of the Year for Mustang High School, coaches cross country in the fall and teaches Algebra III and Capstone, a class for students who need extra help earning credits to graduate. The assignment is fitting. Bailey, who dropped out of high school, is the model of success emerging from the rubble of a troubled home life. There are few things any of her students can face that she didn't live through herself.

Bailey's parents were very young when she was born. Having enough money to survive was a constant struggle. There were days when they woke up to no water. There were others when they had no electricity or heat. Her parents separated when she was 12. She said her mother kicked her out when she was 15, dropping her off at her dad's. Bailey lived in a poor area of Oklahoma City and was a transfer student to a different district. She didn't have a car, her dad was often gone to his girlfriend's house and so she took a cab to school when she could.

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"My childhood was not easy. I didn't have the traditional nuclear family. I didn't have a lot of support. School was the only stability I had," she said. "At some point you look at it and realize this is the only thing that is going to get me out of this situation."

She married and ended up in Louisiana, attending school at night. She earned her GED and her bookkeepers certification. When she asked for a raise at the beauty supply store where she managed their accounts, the owner refused. "You have a GED," the woman said. "You can't expect too much out of life."

Bailey turned in her two weeks’ notice before she got up from the chair. She had another job before the sun set. The couple and their children were transferred to Arkansas where Bailey earned her bachelor's degree. Another transfer took her Georgia.

She found herself teaching GED courses for a group of people nearing retirement age. They had dropped out of high school themselves to go to work for a jeans manufacturing plant. After decades in the community, the company realized they could save money by moving the company to Africa and they left their loyal employees behind.

"The job market was flooded with people," she said. "The ones without a high school diploma were the last ones being hired. I think I learned more from them than they learned from me. They taught me it's about the life you live and what you give to others. I wanted to come back and reach these people when they were 16-years-old. I wanted to rewrite their history with them, to encourage them not to drop out."

She and her husband divorced and Bailey's road eventually brought her back to Oklahoma where she married her best friend from high school. She got her alternative certification and started teaching at Western Heights, preaching to the kids to push through to the end. In 2009, her son asked her to apply at Mustang where he was attending. She's been here ever since, with a desk drawer full of snacks for any kid who doesn't have enough to eat.

"Every day I come to work, it's about a brighter tomorrow for the kids who don't see that because they're living in chaos and turmoil. I tell them, 'Mom and dad have what happens at home, but you have what happens right now at this moment.  You have to make it through. It's not going to be given to you. It's not going to be easy, but it will be worth it."

When Bailey was a child, her parents bought a house in Warr Acres. Her mom planted a pecan in a coffee can. It sprouted. When it was big enough, she planted it in the front yard. Bailey drives by from time to time to visit the tiny house now cooled in the shade of the massive tree.

"It doesn't matter where you start," she tells her students. "How big you can get depends on how deep your roots go. You make your life. You decide what to do with it."

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