Every August for the past 23 years Tylan Bailey has started the school year as a custodian in the DeKalb County School District (DCSD). This August he is beginning the year in his dream job, as an elementary school teacher.

Bailey started studying at Georgia State University in 2017. This year he graduated with a degree in health and physical education and a minor in special education.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” Bailey said. “It’s always been a dream of mine to become a teacher.”

Bailey worked as a custodian at Hightower Elementary School for over two decades. Now Bailey, or Coach Bailey as his students call him, is at Briar Vista Elementary School.

“I was really trying to stay in DeKalb Schools. I am a graduate of DeKalb Schools and I wanted to give back to DeKalb Schools,” Bailey said.

Both of Bailey’s older children graduated from Towers High School in DeKalb. In 1997 Bailey graduated from Avondale High School in the (DCSD).

He is teaching physical education to all grades, pre-K through 5th grade, at Briar Vista. Bailey said he chose to study physical education to give back to the community. He said that after seeing rates of obesity rise among young kids as they spend more and more time on electronics he wanted something to change.

“I want them to develop a lifelong passion for being physically active,” Bailey said.

Principal Cammie Neill is starting her ninth year at Briar Vista Elementary.

Neill, who is herself a former PE teacher, said Bailey was a standout among the 92 applicants they received for the job.

“Someone who has worked as a custodian, to then go to college and get their degree— I wanted to give him a chance,” Neill said.

After his first virtual interview, Neill and other school administrators had a distanced in-person interview with Bailey in the school’s parking lot, where she said they were able to feel his energy and excitement.

Bailey follows the DCSD physical education curriculum in his classes. When The Atlanta Voice visited Briar Vista, Bailey was showing his combined preschool and kindergarten class how to walk backward with their arms extended to practice social distancing.

For most first-year teachers, the coronavirus pandemic has been a major curveball, wearing masks and social distancing has been a major adjustment for teachers as well as students. But Bailey said he hasn’t found the transition too difficult.

“Coming from the custodial side, I already knew the protocols,” he said. 

DCSD requires masks inside the schools for everyone and Bailey has each student use hand sanitizer before they come into the gym.

“I tell them it’s for my protection, their protection and their friend’s protection,” he added.

When asked about starting his new job, Bailey said he’s feeling great.

“I feel like I’m meeting my blessing halfway,” Bailey continued, a motto he has followed throughout his journey.

Every day he says to himself ‘Tylan Bailey is a PE teacher’ as a reminder of all the things he’s accomplished thus far.

Earlier this summer Bailey and his family were surprised with airfare, hotel reservation and park passes to visit Disneyland in California on Good Morning America.

Emily Blunt and Dwayne ‘the Rock’ Johnson also invited him to the premiere of their movie “Jungle Cruise.”

Tylan Bailey with a football (Photo Credit: Alexis Grace)