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Former students at West Madison Elementary School surprised Cheryl Bailey (in orange shirt) by returning to visit. West Madison alumni included Meridian Jordan, front and bending down, Bailey, LouAnn Crosby with yearbook, and Parker Harless. Madisyn Bedfingfield, back from left, Chase Henderson, Grace Merenka, the late Jackson Rumley and Connor Matheney. CONTRIBUTED

A teacher’s perspective: Cheryl Bailey will remember West Madison, the ‘hidden gem’

MADISON – Sometimes, the best reflections grace the eyes of a teacher.

Cheryl Peterson Bailey taught second-graders at West Madison Elementary School for 19 years – in the same classroom. Like hundreds of other teachers, Bailey felt nostalgic twinges when West Madison said goodbye to its decades as an elementary school when this school year ended.

“I first got involved in West Madison as a parent when my oldest son started kindergarten in 1991. Dee Fowler was principal and Mary Long, assistant principal,” Bailey said. Bailey volunteered with PTA for Madison County Schools (before Madison City Schools formed) and was West Madison PTA President from 1993-1995.

“I became the computer aide teacher at West Madison in 1996 and also worked on my master’s in elementary education and finished that in May 2001,” Bailey said. “Mary Long hired me in August 2001 for second grade. I retired with 24 years in education in June 2020.”

In October 2020, she was invited and accepted lead tutor position. She will continue that work at Midtown Elementary School. “We all are a little nervous about doubling the number of students at our new school. But we’re up for the challenge,” Bailey said.

Bailey enjoyed working with two principals — Dr. Daphne Jah for many years and recently with Savannah Demeester, who has been her daughter Meghan’s friend since childhood.

Starting to teach after her three children were born, Bailey “came a little late to the game, but I had a good handle of how young kids ticked. I always said I teach ‘like a mom.’”

“I loved all my students as if they were my own . . . and told them like it was,” Bailey said. “I can honestly say I laughed, cried and learned every day. Teaching seven- and eight-year-olds was truly a blessing. I consider that age child to be ‘my peeps.’ They still respect you, they love you unconditionally, and are so creative and funny.”

“West Madison has been called the ‘hidden gem,’ or the little school with the big heart. We were always the system’s smallest school and that was nice. I maintained a long relationship with past students and still keep in touch with many now who are married and having babies,” Bailey said.

Circa 2016, Bailey had returned from a field trip with her then current class. “Dr. Jah followed me down to my classroom. I thought something was wrong.”

Unlocking her dark classroom, Bailey “saw ‘big people’ sitting at the desks. I thought, ‘Are these parents?’” She then heard screams of surprise, turned on the lights and saw about 10 teenage students from a second-grade class that she had taught years ago.

“The students heard that I was giving away the ‘reading tower’ (a popular classroom activity) to another teacher, and they wanted to see it one more time before it was gone,” Bailey said. “They had set it up with Dr. Jah to surprise me.”

“I loved it and could hardly believe they did that. We took lots of pictures together and reminisced about when they were with me in second grade,” Bailey said.

“West Madison was a big part of my life, and it was very difficult to say goodbye! But we’re excited about starting new traditions and memories at Midtown Elementary,” Bailey said.

Cheryl Peterson Bailey taught second-graders at West Madison Elementary School for 19 years – in the same classroom. Like hundreds of other teachers, Bailey felt nostalgic twinges when West Madison said goodbye to its decades as an elementary school when this school year ended.

“I first got involved in West Madison as a parent when my oldest son started kindergarten in 1991. Dee Fowler was principal and Mary Long, assistant principal,” Bailey said. Bailey volunteered with PTA for Madison County Schools (before Madison City Schools formed) and was West Madison PTA President from 1993-1995.

“I became the computer aide teacher at West Madison in 1996 and also worked on my master’s in elementary education and finished that in May 2001,” Bailey said. “Mary Long hired me in August 2001 for second grade. I retired with 24 years in education in June 2020.”

In October 2020, she was invited and accepted lead tutor position. She will continue that work at Midtown Elementary School. “We all are a little nervous about doubling the number of students at our new school. But we’re up for the challenge,” Bailey said.

Bailey enjoyed working with two principals — Dr. Daphne Jah for many years and recently with Savannah Demeester, who has been her daughter Meghan’s friend since childhood.

Starting to teach after her three children were born, Bailey “came a little late to the game, but I had a good handle of how young kids ticked. I always said I teach ‘like a mom.’”

“I loved all my students as if they were my own . . . and told them like it was,” Bailey said. “I can honestly say I laughed, cried and learned every day. Teaching seven- and eight-year-olds was truly a blessing. I consider that age child to be ‘my peeps.’ They still respect you, they love you unconditionally, and are so creative and funny.”

“West Madison has been called the ‘hidden gem,’ or the little school with the big heart. We were always the system’s smallest school and that was nice. I maintained a long relationship with past students and still keep in touch with many now who are married and having babies,” Bailey said.

Circa 2016, Bailey had returned from a field trip with her then current class. “Dr. Jah followed me down to my classroom. I thought something was wrong.”

Unlocking her dark classroom, Bailey “saw ‘big people’ sitting at the desks. I thought, ‘Are these parents?’” She then heard screams of surprise, turned on the lights and saw about 10 teenage students from a second-grade class that she had taught years ago.

“The students heard that I was giving away the ‘reading tower’ (a popular classroom activity) to another teacher, and they wanted to see it one more time before it was gone,” Bailey said. “They had set it up with Dr. Jah to surprise me.”

“I loved it and could hardly believe they did that. We took lots of pictures together and reminisced about when they were with me in second grade,” Bailey said.

“West Madison was a big part of my life, and it was very difficult to say goodbye! But we’re excited about starting new traditions and memories at Midtown Elementary,” Bailey said.

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