SAN MARCOS, Texas (Nexstar) — Connie Bagley kicked off August celebrating her 51st year as a teacher, amid a time when Texas teachers are leaving the profession at record rates, she doesn’t plan on leaving quite yet.
The 73-year-old educator has spent the better half of her career teaching countless Texas students in both public and private school. Bagley joined San Marcos Academy in 2018, where she’s now finding herself teaching children of previous students she taught at Crockett Elementary in San Marcos CISD, starting in 1986.
“I guess I’ll retire when I start seeing their grandkids because I’m seeing my students’ kids now,” she said.
She had plans to retire after leaving San Marcos CISD, but was approached by the San Marcos Academy principal about joining their team to help start a lower school. Now, she works as a dyslexia specialist, helping students who struggle to work through their learning differences.
“I was a mother that dealt with that, my son was not learning to read just in the conventional classroom, and he needed that special instruction,” she said. “And not making it an ‘oh, can’t read.’ They leave here with a better understanding of ‘I’m smart, I can do this.'”
Bagley recognizes that a lot has changed since when she first started teaching and acknowledges that private school has been a different experience. She questions if she would have lasted through the pandemic and the difficulties it brought to educators, if she were in a different situation.
“[Teachers] are asked to do a whole lot more than they were ever asked to do,” she said. “I worry a lot about it. I worry about a whole generation of kids who, some of them lost two years of education.”
“I would hope if you come into this profession, you can because it’s a passion, it’s something you feel inside that you want to do. Because definitely you’re not coming in for the pay,” Bagley said.
While she has certainly faced her peaks and valleys in her 51 years as an educator, Bagley said it’s the children that kept her coming back — especially when now-adult former students approach her at a grocery store to thank her for the impact she had on them.
“You have to make them all feel like they’re important because they are and some of them come in and don’t feel like they’re important,” she said. “Come in with that attitude that you’re gonna make a difference in somebody’s life today.”
In 2017, Bagley received one of the highest honors for educators when she was named a national teacher of the year for her work helping students with disabilities. She received and invitation to visit the White House for her induction into the National Teachers Hall of Fame.
“That’s the peak is teaching kids how to read, teaching them how to be self advocates learn what makes you smart, because they are. It’s a high intelligent child with a learning difference,” she said.