NEWARK — Newark High School art teacher Renee Bailey was “overwhelmed” during her fourth-period Mixed Media class April 9 when Principal Tom Roote and a crew from WROC News 8 unexpectedly waltzed into her classroom wearing big smiles.
But the sight of her former student Kendra Bush — a 2013 NHS grad and freshman at RIT pursuing a fine arts degree in jewelry and metals — among the contingent calmed Bailey as News 8 anchor Kevin Doran announced in his jovial, animated fashion she was a “Golden Apple” award winner.
Bailey said the experience was “surreal.”
• The day before, Bailey, who typically speaks each week with at least four of her former students, dating back to the Class of ’93, had spoken with Kendra about how she fared at a weekend track meet.
• That morning she’d shared with NHS social studies teacher Mark DeYoung and English teacher Kirstin Roides how Kendra is doing in college after DeYoung inquired about her.
• Kendra’s sister Karissa, a senior in Bailey’s third-period Advanced Placement Studio Art class, had just left the classroom only minutes before.
• And she remembered meeting Kendra for the first time when Kecia Bush and her daughter came into Bailey’s classroom in late summer and she learned Kendra would be in her NHS art class in the fall.
In nominating Bailey, Kendra noted that she was pursuing a jewelry major because jewelry making was one of the many classes she had taken with Mrs. Bailey.
“She continues to encourage and support me,’’ she wrote. “Mrs. Bailey has inspired many of her students to pursue a career in the art field.
“And because she works to prepare them for real-world experience, she has made them realize their full potential in working toward their goals. She also makes her students aware of the jobs available to artists in order for them to be able to earn a living doing what they love to do: create.”
She added that Mrs. Bailey’s expectations were high but “no higher than what is achievable.”
“Mrs. Bailey genuinely cares about each and every one of her students and pours herself into ensuring that every opportunity is made available to them. Not only in the classroom, but also within the community: whether it be art shows, fairs, volunteering, or additional classes outside Newark High School.
“It is an invaluable relationship she creates with her students and upholds past our high school graduation. Her passion as an educator knows no limits. She IS the standard.”
Bailey says it is a “huge honor” to be nominated for the Golden Apple award especially by a former student.
Roote, who has been at NHS for a little more than a year, is pleased Bailey has become a Golden Apple award recipient.
“I have known Mrs. Bailey for only a short time. However, in that time the positive attributes that Kendra spoke of during her interview with News 8 resonated with me,” he said. “Kendra mentioned that Mrs. Bailey has a unique style of working with students. She shared that Mrs. Bailey, through small doses of well-placed humor, is able to keep students on track to meet the rigorous expectations of her classes.
“I have seen Mrs. Bailey tackle challenging student issues with the greatest of ease. Typically, students leave their interaction smiling and with a better understanding of what they need to do differently in the future. ”
Roote added that Kendra also spoke of Mrs. Bailey’s continued interest in her students after their graduation day.
“What a compliment! Moreover, I can predict a similar commitment with all of the art majors she crosses paths with in her classroom,” he said. “Mrs. Bailey is a steward of the arts in and around the Newark community. Her passion and dedication are my gifts to cherish and her gifts to pass on! Kendra is one of many beneficiaries.”
A Newark native and NHS graduate, Bailey lives in Newark with husband Joe, daughters Julia, Olivia and Isabella and their dog, Bentley.
She earned her bachelor’s degree in art education from Nazareth College and her master’s degree from the University of Rochester. Bailey has taught art at NHS for 21 years.
She decided to pursue in a career in art education because of the support and encouragement of her high school art teacher, Tom Jagger.
Bailey says she’s followed his lead, not only by staying connected to former students but by bringing some to her classroom each year as presenters. She also invites college representatives to speak to students in her classes each year to encourage budding artists and even facilitates college visits for students who might not be able to get there.
“This year my family and I have been very involved in that process,” she said, adding she also likes to send cards and packages to former students who are in college or in the military because “it’s nice to get mail” and visits some former students when she is in their locale.
By staying connected with former students, Bailey said her current students understand she is “in this for the long run.”
“It just doesn’t stop after they graduate,” she said, adding she also learns much she can pass on to current students about what colleges and employers expect and about their success strategies.
Bailey also thinks it is important that her current students learn about the successes of their predecessors.
“Our program has a lot to offer, despite the size of our school,” she said.
Bailey said a few of her teachers stayed in contact with her after she left NHS and it meant a great deal.
“So it is really important to give back, and I teach that to my kids,” she said. “I tell my students I’m very blessed to have come back to Newark to work. It’s an honor.”
In addition to receiving the Golden Apple award, Doran gave Bailey a WROC mug filled with candy, an edible arrangement that she shared with her students throughout the day; two tall glasses with apples on them; a balloon; an Advantage Credit Union gift box; and a $50 gift certificate from Ward’s Natural Science in Rochester.
The Golden Apple award presentation to Bailey aired yesterday.