For the past 23 years, Tylan Bailey has been the person to call whenever something goes wrong at Hightower Elementary in Doraville, Georgia.
As head custodian, he was the first person to arrive at work each day, cleaning “anything you can imagine” and fixing anything that needed repairs. He also managed to form close bonds with the students and became the father figure many of them desperately needed.
When he first got the job at Hightower, Tylan was a new father who had just graduated from high school. He was grateful to have a good position that paid the bills, and he came to love his fellow staff members and teachers. He soon discovered that he was passionate about connecting with students, especially since he moved schools a lot as a child and didn’t have a dad around.
“I’ve enjoyed getting to know the kids and encouraging them to do their best work,” Tylan said. “I know it’s tough because I grew up without a father, and I had a childhood where I grew up in a lot of different places.”
As the years passed, he got divorced, remarried, and had two more children. He started thinking about his future as he prepared to turn 30, realizing he could reach more students and fulfill his passion for learning by becoming a teacher himself. His wife, Joi Bailey, is a literacy coach for the DeKalb County School District, and she supported his decision to go back to school 100 percent!
Tylan’s children were equally ready to support him. For years, he would join them at the kitchen table to do homework each night. Meanwhile, his coworkers at Hightower helped him by swapping shifts to accommodate his class schedule, and the greater school community came alongside him as he struggled to earn his degree.
In 2021, all his hard work finally paid off! The 43-year-old just graduated with a teaching degree from Georgia State University!
“There were times when I wondered if I could do it because it was kind of foreign to me to go back to school at age 39,” he said. “I was always the oldest person in every class. My kids are really proud that I stuck with it.”
He plans to become a gym teacher who encourages children to enjoy physical activity instead of looking at their mobile devices constantly.
Hightower Elementary celebrated Tylan’s incredible achievement by inviting him to speak at their fifth-grade graduation ceremony! We’re certain this is just the first of many inspiring moments he’ll share with students in his new role as a teacher!
Way to never give up on your dreams, Tylan! Don’t forget to share his motivating journey with your friends to make them smile.
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