Andover Public Schools in Kansas awarded Newman University alumna Hailey Braddy with its Bright Red Apple award for her impressive work as a new teacher.
Braddy graduated from Newman in 2018 with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education. She finished her degree one year early and decided to tackle a Master of Science in Education with an ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) endorsement the following year while she played her last year of Jets volleyball.
Braddy began working for Andover as a substitute while completing her master’s degree. She interviewed for three positions at Andover while finishing her master’s and was offered a position teaching first grade at Cottonwood Elementary. She said she’s highly enjoyed her first year of teaching.
“One thing I learned is that you never know what to expect in the classroom,” she said. “I think one of the challenges of teaching, especially in your first year, is sometimes you feel lost and you aren’t sure if you are doing the best you can. There were definitely days where I didn’t know if teaching was the profession I should be in, I didn’t feel like I was doing the best I could for my kids.”
Being honored with the Bright Red Apple award reassured Braddy that she was doing just fine.
The award is given to a teacher who is in their first three years of teaching and who shows educational effectiveness, zeal for promoting education and the ability to inspire students.
Cottonwood Elementary Principal Shari Rooks said, “Hailey is an outstanding young woman, who exhibits poise and self-confidence in so many situations. Hailey is a natural teacher and has that ‘something special’ that you can’t teach. She is kind, enthusiastic, willing to listen, loves kids and is positive and thoughtful. She wants the best for everyone around her. (She has) so many wonderful characteristics. She is dedicated to her family and is a hard worker.
“It truly has been a privilege working with her this year and I am sad to see her go to another building in the district. She is a keeper and I wish her the very best.”
As the youngest teacher in her building, Braddy said she is grateful to work with such experienced teachers that she can learn from. She especially looks up to her mentor, Hilary Barscewski, whom she credits for teaching her a lot of the skills and knowledge that earned her this award.
Braddy said one thing that has helped her be successful in the classroom this year has been learning the personality of each of her students. It has helped her learn the best way to teach them and also helped her learn how to support them in other ways.
“There’s so much more to teaching than the academic side of it,” she said. “Especially with first grade, you need to be there for emotional support and sometimes you need to be that shoulder for the kid to cry on or the constant adult that is in their life.”
After one year of navigating a career in teaching, Braddy received a letter in the mail notifying her that she had been nominated for the Bright Red Apple award and the next week she saw she had won in a Facebook post by the district.
Braddy said she was surprised to have won the award.
“I voted for other teachers for the other awards given out by the district, but I never really thought of getting voted for myself,” she said.
Braddy played volleyball her whole life and thought once she had finished the sport, the awards would stop. “It’s really nice to be able to receive an honor for teaching,” she said.
“I guess for me it is kind of a nice reassurance. It helps me realize that great teachers who have been doing this for a long time think that I’m doing a good job and that’s really saying something.”
Teachers throughout her life, from elementary to college have helped shape Braddy into the teacher she is today, she said.
“I’ve had so many great teachers in my life and I’ve also had some who were not the best. They all had a part in helping mold me so I’m thankful for all of my past teachers.”
She’s very thankful for her teachers at Newman who helped prepare her for her future. While in the education program, classroom time was valuable but observation hours are what benefited her the most. The opportunity to observe various classrooms and grade levels helped Braddy determine what she wanted to include in her future classroom as well as what she didn’t.
Her favorite part of the job is seeing her students get excited about learning and watching ideas and concepts “click” for them.
Overall, she hopes her students always remember her as a loving and caring teacher, no matter how old they get.