Sometimes, life’s challenges can seem impossible. But with daily affirmations, dedication, and hard work, Tylan Bailey has proven that’s not the case. After 24 years of serving as a custodian at Hightower Elementary School in DeKalb Country, Georgia, Tylan Bailey followed his dream to become both a college graduate and a PE teacher.
His story serves as an inspiring reminder that with perseverance and determination, we can overcome any obstacle to achieve our dreams.
Despite a tumultuous upbringing that included moving over 14 times from kindergarten to high school, Bailey used academics as his sanctuary to become a top student. However, after becoming a father at the age of 18, his uncle advised him to put his college dreams on hold to find a job with benefits for his family – and he did just that.
He knew he could do more but didn’t want to appear selfish for pursuing his dreams. With the encouragement of his wife, Bailey registered for college at the age of 39 and began attending to pursue a teaching degree at the age of 40. Using his sense of humor, he connected with a younger generation of college students who at first felt intimidated. He coached them to, “just be yourself…’cuz I’m going to be me…laugh…[and] be serious sometimes.”
It was a challenging journey, but he persevered by balancing early morning janitorial work, switching schedules, and late-night academic studies at his kitchen table. He consistently followed the motto “Meet your blessings halfway” and would repeat to himself the daily affirmation “Tylan Bailey is a PE teacher.” Thanks to his biggest supporter, his wife, and his dedication, his perseverance paid off. At the age of 43, Bailey graduated from Georgia State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Health and Physical education and a minor in Special Education.
Today, he is a PE teacher at an elementary school, finally living out his lifelong dream. He feels inspired by the kids’ growth from where starting in kindergarten and growing up through fifth grade. He enjoys seeing kids improve their physical skills, like throwing a ball, to improving their focusing skills, with a game he made up called, “Georgia Statue”. No matter what, he loves seeing his students’ growth and improved concentration skills.
Bailey was featured on Good Morning America, where he was awarded a $15,000 donation to his new school along with a couple other gifts. Bailey’s inspiring story proves that it's never too late to pursue your dreams. Even in the face of adversity, we can overcome and find success. As Bailey says, meeting our blessings halfway is key - it takes effort and determination to make our dreams a reality. No matter how long it takes, keep striving for your goals.