Living the dream: Millikin’s Bailee Blecker is ready to fulfill her lifelong goal of becoming a teacher
The senior Elementary Education teacher is also a Women’s Soccer team standout.
by Matthew Flaten
DECATUR, Ill. – Ask a child what they want to do for a career, and the answer might surprise you. It might be something impossible – like a superhero – or something more reasonable, but chances are the career a person ends up with will be different than their childhood dream.
“I have wanted to be a teacher since second grade. The way my second-grade teacher taught was so exciting, and she was so engaging,” Bailee said. “I had a classroom set up in my basement with desks, projectors and workbooks. My stuffed animals were my students, so I got to teach them. I would come home from school, and my dad would have it all set up, and he would say, “It’s time to teach.” I loved doing it, and it was probably one of my favorite things to do as a kid.”
Bailee, who is from Rockford, Ill., played soccer in high school and looked to combine her athletic ambitions with a school with a strong teaching reputation and landed on Millikin.
“I didn’t want to go to a really big school and came down to Millikin to visit. I met with the soccer coach and the School of Education Director. Hearing about how the program is run was awesome,” she said. “You are in the (teaching) classroom immediately in your first semester, so you can figure out if you want to be a teacher or not right away. You aren’t in the classroom at some schools until your junior year.”
Talking with her high school teachers about Millikin’s reputation as a great teaching school helped make the case even stronger.
“They said that if Millikin weren’t so far away (from Rochford), they would do tours and join in on the activities at Millikin because they have such a good reputation,” Bailee said. “Another teacher told me that having an Education degree at Millikin is very good and that it will work well when I go and look for jobs.”
Bailee’s experience at Millikin has met those high expectations, and she views her four years as building a well-rounded experience rather than just four years of classes.
“My goal was to always be on the Dean’s List and make relationships with my teachers to have them as resources in the future,” she said. “I think my professors care on a different level than if they were at a big school. They want to know if you are OK and want to be able to help whenever they can. You are on a more personal level with them.”
On the pitch, Bailee has stood out as the Big Blue’s leading goal scorer in her sophomore, junior and senior seasons, where she earned first-team All-CCIW honors twice. She has also brought her love of the sport into coaching as a coach at Mid-State Soccer in Decatur.
For Bailee’s last semester before graduation, she will be student teaching a third-grade class at Meridian Elementary School in Blue Mound. She interned in the same class during the fall semester and is looking forward to that last teaching experience before having a class of her own.
“Every time I go in, they ask me about soccer, and the kids still really love you at that age and want to be involved in your life. I joke that it is like having 30 little friends. Going in there every day, you see how happy they are to see you. I try to give the same back, and I really love it.”
Bailee will graduate with endorsements in English as a Second Language and Special Education, further strengthening her employment prospects when she enters the teaching job market. She recommends Millikin for students who have the same passion for education that Bailee does.
“Millikin gives you so much teaching experience already that it is hard to choose someone from another school who has just been in the school for a semester versus four years,” she said. “Having an endorsement in Special Education and ESL – which other schools don’t offer – will help because they are two areas that are very needed right now.
“If your heart is in education, you are going to know, and you are going to do it for other reasons. Not for the pay or the benefits. It is because you love teaching and want to be involved with the students and help them with their future.”