Bailey Lemon teaches special education students at Waterford Elementary School in Cedar Hill, her alma mater school district.
And while she acknowledges her students are special, she’s not referencing that in the way some might.
“When I see my students, I see the abilities, not the disabilities,” she said.
Lemon, a 2015 Cedar Hill High School graduate, returned to the district last year.
“It is extremely special to work at my alma mater because a piece of me gets to give back and make a change within a place I started at a young age,” Lemon said.
Lemon moved to Cedar Hill from San Diego in 2011 as a freshman. Like she knows her students will be, she was thrust into a new world with new expectations. Ever the optimist, she opened her eyes to possibilities, something she encourages her students to also do.
“In my hometown, I never got to experience, interact, or know of special education students. When I moved to Texas, it was was a beautiful site to be able to experience special education students,” she said. “I took a class called Partner PE, a class where we aided special education students, to earn their PE credit, and my life was changed, I knew this was what I wanted to do.”
$10,000 Grant From CHEF
Lemon recently got a monetary boost to help in her quest to also change the lives of her students. The Cedar Hill Education Foundation awarded her a $10,000 grant, which she said will go toward a new sensory room on campus.
“We are very excited. Congratulations to Ms. Lemon for the work she’s doing with the scholars. She was active in advocating for the supplies and for the things that the class needed. We’re very proud of the work she’s doing with our scholars and for the advocacy she brings daily,” said Waterford Oaks Elementary Principal William Davis.
Lemon said the best word she can find to describe helping special education students find a sense of belonging is joy.
“It brings me nothing short of genuine happiness to see the smiles, the wins, and then overcoming their challenges,” she said.
Lemon played varsity softball, earning a scholarship to Grambling State University, a Historically Black College and University located in northern Louisiana. She enjoyed playing NCAA Division I Softball in the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) but transferred to Liberty University and completed her bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary special education online.
Giving Students A Voice
Lemon has a passion for her work. She wants to be a voice for her students, but even more works hard to give them their own voice in a world that often doesn’t want to listen.
“The biggest reward with teaching Life Skill students is to be a part and see their progress and growth. Not only do we work on academics, but tackle activities of daily living and life skills,” she said. “The biggest challenge would be those obvious hard days. But with bad comes good, and the good definitely outweighs the bad.”
And, she added, she’s already thinking of what she can do with another round of grant money.
“I do see myself applying again, there are many changes and things I would like to see happen for all students across the board,” she said.