Lincoln legend says goodbye

Concluding a 50 year career at LHS as a teacher, coach and adviser, David Bailey bids farewell to his longtime home

Bailey teaches freshman social studies in 1969, soon after he joined the Lincoln staff.

After 50 years of service to Lincoln, David Bailey has made it official that he will be retiring after this school year.

It is not an overstatement to say that he has become an icon over the course of numerous generations. In fact, one of the most popular questions Lincoln alumni ask is, is Mr. Bailey still around?

Although it’s not easy for him to step away from the place he’s dedicated so much of his life, he says it’s the right time to move on.  

  “I could have gone twenty years ago,” Bailey says, “but I like what I’ve been doing. Now it has come time to look for life after Lincoln.”

Bailey has a grin on his face as he talks about future plans that may come after his retirement. “I have always had a bucket list…I’m running out of time to cross everything off.”

After such a long career, one cannot help but wonder how it all started for Bailey.

“I had a lot of great teachers and professors who influenced me, and helped lead me to this career path. I never had desires to be wealthy or famous, I just wanted to do what I enjoy.”

Bailey’s job certainly did mean a lot to him, he says.

“[Teaching] is my life. I enjoy the interaction with students, the intellectual jousting, teaching students to think outside the box [and see] things from more than one point of view.”

According to Bailey, Lincoln is a great environment for his passion of teaching.  “It’s a great place to be. Richness of the student body, colleagues I’ve had the pleasure of working with, support groups, all contribute to this.”  

During his 50 years at Lincoln, Bailey taught numerous academic subjects, including government, economics and journalism.

1989 Lincoln graduate Lisa Holtz remembers him for having high standards that brought out the best in all his students.  

“Mr. Bailey always strove for excellence in himself and his students, and he never gave gratuitous praise…I vividly remember the first time Mr. Bailey thought I had done an outstanding page layout for the Cardinal Times. I had worked really hard on that page, and he knew it. Receiving that praise from him felt like winning the lottery. In summary, I guess he taught me what the expression ‘good work’ actually meant.”  

In return, Bailey praises his students.

You see, that’s the richness of Lincoln; I have just been lucky enough to be around it all for the past 50 years.

— David Bailey

He can point to countless graduates who have made their mark in certain areas, for example, foundation developers working with children in third world countries, Olympic athletes, local and national government officials, Supreme Court clerks, corporate executives, leaders in science and medicine, educators elementary to university, and “perhaps, most important,” he says, “simply workaday alums who quietly have gone about their way making a difference in their communities.

“You see, that’s the richness of Lincoln; I have just been lucky enough to be around it all for the past 50 years,” Bailey said.  

Along with core classes such as government and economics, Bailey was adviser of the Cardinal Times for over 40 years, a job he very much enjoyed.    

  “It’s new everyday. News progresses, and news comes up, but so much of the battle is how you report it. It is great to see kids’ writing skills develop, because this is the writing form you will use in any career.”  

Bailey acknowledged the stresses that often go along with journalism, like the process of connecting with writers and editors on deadline. Setting this aside, he sees journalism as a unique world that challenges students to think outside the box.  

“Find the stories, they are there every single day. Find those stories that are difficult to report. At the Cardinal Times, we didn’t ignore what was going on around us.  We’ve done covers on suicides, sexual orientation, drug activity.”

Perhaps most importantly, though, “journalism recognizes the need for fairness, which is especially important in today’s day and age. There are always two sides to a story.”

His duties also extended outside the classroom: Bailey was head coach of Lincoln cross-country for 45 years, a sport that was “near and dear to his heart.”   

After hearing the final bell, Bailey would slip into athletic gear and head outside, no matter what the weather presented. “Rain or shine, it’s cross country time,” Bailey says with a grin. “That was one of my mottos.”  

One thing Bailey loved about coaching cross-country was seeing a different side of students. “You see different skill sets, and you see a whole different kind of kid. It didn’t matter how experienced they were…I always loved working with those who weren’t natural stars, and watching their progression. Those were the joys.”  

Bailey said his approach was the same as teacher and coach.  

“Not a lick of difference. No need to be any different working with a class than working with a team. I’ve never pretended to be somebody else when I’m teaching, I always stay true to my own personality.”  

Students of his confirm that this is true. Junior Michael Yoo commented on Bailey’s unique teaching style.  

“For my class at least, he chose to talk a lot about current events and how they tied into our governmental structure and membership. I could definitely tell that he had a passion for what he taught.”

Not all of his students appreciated this uniqueness in Bailey’s style. Senior Cece Roberts had Mr. Bailey for government and economics last year, and she gave a somewhat mixed review.  

“[Bailey] was very vocal about sharing his opinions and interacted with students in a more casual way than most teachers. He was controversial in that he never held back in verbally challenging his students’ opinions and he occasionally crossed a line, resulting in some students getting offended. In addition, he often shared his ideas about politics in a way that was slightly biased.”

Bailey is not fazed by students’ perceptions.  

“I understand that some people won’t like the way I do things, but you’re never going to please everyone. I teach best when I stay true to my personality. That’s how I’ve always been.”

 Other teachers also have their views of Bailey. Social science teacher Gary Pearlz remembers specific conversations the two of them have had.

I would like to stay part of the Lincoln community, and hopefully come into the building every now and then to assist…not everything will be up to me, but we will see what can be done.

— David Bailey

“I will miss our spirited political conversations. A few more of those and I’m sure I could have changed his mind,” Pearlz laughs.

Despite the sarcasm, Pearlz does offer praise to Bailey over his legacy. “I have only been at LHS for four years, so I cannot speak about [Bailey’s] long-term impacts. But I admire his loyalty.”

Thinking back over his time at Lincoln, Bailey has noticed changes in the school’s culture.  

“There are many differences between students today and way back when. Nowadays, kids are constantly looking down at their phones, which has really changed the school environment. And of course, trends will always come and go. I’ve seen a lot of transformations regarding fashion, music.”  

In addition, Bailey also pointed to physical aspects of the school that have changed, and what Lincoln has had to overcome during his time.

“Back a couple decades ago, our school enrollment was about 900. Now it is closer to 1,700. So of course this building is more packed. That being said, it is built to fit this amount of students…whoever has been saying that Lincoln is only meant to hold 1,000 students, that’s a bunch of baloney.”  

With a brand new building looming in the future, it seems that Lincoln is sailing rather smoothly at the moment. However, Bailey remembers a time in his career where that wasn’t the case.  

“In the late 80’s, there was a time where Lincoln was almost shut down. They were going to move all the kids in the Lincoln area to Wilson…this was at a time where ⅓ of our enrollment was coming from the East side, and things were getting messy…but through it all, Lincoln has survived.”

After being at Lincoln throughout his entire career, it definitely will be a change for Bailey not to be walking the halls of Lincoln everyday. However, he does want to stay involved.

“I would like to stay part of the Lincoln community, and hopefully come into the building every now and then to assist…not everything will be up to me, but we will see what can be done.”

Though the David Bailey dynasty will be coming to an end, his time at Lincoln shall not be forgotten. For 50 years he served as a mentor in numerous areas, and stayed loyal to one community. Based on a comment Bailey made about his personal life, it would appear that he will always stay part of this community.  

“Not a week goes by where I don’t get an email or run into a former student.  Lincoln is a generational community, and everyone who’s been part of it has the opportunity to carry it on. I have been very fortunate to be around all this for so long.”