Rain, rain, Mr. Bailey don't go away: Moorhead students surprise retiring science teacher
MOORHEAD — Ira Bailey might just be the living embodiment of that old Postal Service slogan, "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds."
In the case of Mr. Bailey, it's not mail he's delivering, but a hands-on education about weather to eighth-grade students at Moorhead's Horizon Middle School. After 30 years on the job, he's calling it a day, and his students are making sure his retirement doesn't fly under the radar.
On Wednesday, May 30, students surprised him outside during Bailey's final "Weather Wednesday" — the day he takes classes outdoors to chart current weather conditions. Normally, he'd take one class at a time. But he knew something was up when he walked into his 11 a.m. class on Wednesday to find no students there.
"I asked the student teacher, 'where is everyone?'" he said. "Right then, the announcement came, 'Mr. Bailey, please report to Weather Wednesday.'"
As Bailey walked outside Horizon, he was greeted not only by his absent 11 a.m. class but by all 150 students he teaches. They clapped and chanted "Bailey, Bailey, Bailey" as KVLY-TV meteorologist Hutch Johnson handed him the perfect Weather Wednesday dessert, a Dairy Queen Blizzard.
"I was really surprised when I saw everyone. I kept telling myself to keep my emotions under control, but it wasn't easy," Bailey said.
Students like eighth-grader Anna Knain jumped at the chance to honor the teacher described by others as "an A-plus kind of guy."
"He's so much fun to be around," Knain said. "I never really understood weather before this class."
Bailey thanked his students but also got down to business, taking out weather instruments to chart wind speed and the position of the sun. They worked quickly as the cloud-covered sky started getting a little darker.
His students said observing the weather isn't just reserved for Weather Wednesday. He also asks them to look upward at night and notice the phases of the moon as much as possible.
"We don't really pay that much attention to weather, but when you have to write it down, you learn a lot more," Bailey said.
Student Cam LeBahn said he wasn't sure about Weather Wednesdays at the start of the year.
"I'm not sure many of us liked it. But the more we did it, the more we got into the groove and it was fun because you really started to understand it," LeBahn said.
It started to sprinkle outside Wednesday as Jayden Edwards talked about her experiences with Mr. Bailey and his love of weather, no matter the season.
"It could be negative-something degrees and we would still come out here. He was very persistent," Edwards said, laughing. "But before this class, none of us liked the weather, and he taught us how to appreciate it."
That appreciation for weather was evident as the sprinkles turned to a light rain and students elected to stay with their science teacher outside rather than go back indoors where it was warm and dry.
Bailey completed Weather Wednesday for the final time with a quick question for his students.
"Is there anything else? Are their any questions at all?" he said.
"Nope. Just thanks a lot, Mr. Bailey," Autumn Gronwold said as she held a poster they all signed for their teacher.
While Bailey said he won't miss everything about his job, he will miss his young weather enthusiasts.
"They're definitely the fun part," he said.