For many people who get involved in education, it is a calling they hear long before growing up. Some discover their love for teaching while in college. For Southeast Polk Junior High principal Mike Dailey, it came little later in life.
“I didn’t grow up until I was 30,” Dailey laughs.
After growing up on a farm, Dailey attended UNI for a degree in finance because he thought it would be a good area to get into. But athletics, which had always been a part of his life, took him in another direction.
For five years he played football in Europe during the summers for teams in Sweden, Italy and Germany. He then came back to Iowa to work throughout the rest of the year. One his coaches from Europe got a position at a college in the U.S. and asked Dailey if he would be interested in coaching.
As a result, Dailey started coaching sports and acting as an adjunct teacher, which spurred his interest in education. However, before settling into teaching full-time, Dailey coached in Dodge City, Kan., Jackson, Miss., and Westminster, Mo.
The lack of stability in coaching, along with getting married and having a child, helped him realize he’d rather be in education. Dailey then spent three years teaching high school physical education and went on to act as a junior high school principal for three years in Fairfield.
“The thing that was frustrating to me in coaching was I’d have maybe 150 kids I was coaching, but as a high school teacher I was seeing 300 kids every other day, I was impacting more lives,” Dailey says.
Making the impact is crucial for Dailey who feels one of the best aspects of being a principal is working with teachers and staff to help them connect with kids. He recognizes this is a crucial age for students and does what he can to offer the support they need. He says sometimes that just means opening up the gym on the weekend so the kids have somewhere to go to burn off some energy.
“It’s just intriguing,” he laughs of his attempt to make positive impact on all the students at his school. “There’s not one answer because of the difference of the kids. We’ve got 1,045 students in the building, and there’s 1,045 different ways to solve things.”