Airport High science teacher a state finalist for prestigious national award

WEST COLUMBIA, S.C. -- A Lexington Two teacher is one of four state finalists for the prestigious Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).


Stephanie Bailey, the science department chair at Airport High School, is among four South Carolina educators being considered for the award, the highest honor from the U.S. government specifically for K-12 teachers of mathematics and science. Awards are given to teachers from each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Department of Defense Education Activity schools, or the U.S. territories as a group.


The South Carolina winner will be announced in January.


Bailey has been at Airport 18 years. She holds bachelor’s and masters degrees in marine science and is currently pursuing a doctorate in teaching and learning. We spoke with Bailey recently about being an educator.


Q: What does it mean to you to be a state finalist for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching?

A: It's really very humbling and a big honor, particularly since I was nominated by a respected colleague at Airport, Karen Kish.

Q: What inspired you to become a science teacher?

A: After studying and researching, I kept coming back to how much I enjoyed science, but I missed the interaction and watching someone "figure it out."


Q: Who was your favorite science teacher growing up, and what did you learn that you use in your own teaching today?

A: My favorite science teacher was Brother Romuald Stuedle (I went to a Catholic High School in Maryland).  I learned from him a passion for all sciences and the need to make sure to challenge but support kids as they learn.


Q: Science can be an intimidating subject. How do you help your students get comfortable with it?

A: Get them involved with it -- do it, experience it, explore it, and then we talk about it.  It’s a lot less scary when you have experiences first.


Q:  What's the one thing you can't do without in your classroom?

A: The kids.  I think I could teach on the sidewalk if I had to.


Q: Anything else we should know?

A: Teaching wasn't the path I had intended to pursue when I was finishing up college (I certified through a Critical Needs Program), but it's definitely my calling.  I can't imagine doing anything else.