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Chicken wings with a side of challenges

Chicken wings with a side of challenges

Sarina Tacovic May 04, 2023

“My plate was full,” Catrina Bailey ’09 said, recounting her first few years as a teacher in the Dayton Public Schools system.

But she wasn’t talking about the time she spent teaching in under-resourced schools, juggling the needs of families and navigating their circumstances. Instead, she was talking about her dinner plate.

“Kroger was usually close by, so it was always Kroger chicken wings, a veggie tray and a fruit tray, and we would eat as much as we could devour,” Bailey said.

Four times each year, graduates of UD’s Urban Teacher Academy certification program gather together for dinner. The gatherings are a part of a post-graduate program to help ease the new teachers into their roles and prevent burnout, since as many as 70% of urban teachers leave their schools within their first five years of teaching.

Often held in one of the new teacher’s classrooms, the dinners offer camaraderie, book studies and space to process challenges together. If wing sauce was on their fingers, words of exhaustion, support and triumph were coming from their mouths.

Illustration of Catrina and Charlie
Catrina Bailey '09 and Charlie Bull '11


“Everybody gets it all out, especially those first couple of years (teaching),” Bailey said. “We were like each other’s therapists.”

Bailey, a Cincinnati native, was inspired to teach by her middle and high school teachers. Before coming to UD for her master’s in education, she was working as a tutor while studying child psychology as an undergrad.

“As a freshman I tutored elementary students, helping students who could not read and were in third grade. It broke my heart,” Bailey said. “This was the driving force to changing my major from child psychology to education.”

She joined UD’s Urban Teacher Academy, which prepares students to be culturally competent educators who can understand and respond to the needs and challenges of urban students, families and schools.

“Once I came to UD, I actually learned the craft of teaching,” Bailey said. “When I graduated, I felt prepared to teach; I felt comfortable on my own and not afraid to run my classroom.”

After 10 years in Dayton Public Schools as a teacher and academic coach, she became an assistant principal of Thurgood Marshall High School. Bailey finds that she often struggled with the confines of textbooks and reading materials because of state testing. But she knew she can rely on her academy family.

“Once we heard the issues, we then tried to figure out how we can help solve problems. Sometimes there was no solution, so we would just eat through it,” she said.

Among the alumni sharing wings and stories is Charlie Bull ’11. Their friendship is similar to many sustained by the academy — though alumni have different majors, attended UD at different times and have varied life stories, they all share a passion for education. The Urban Teacher Academy offers them opportunities to connect and serve.

"Once we heard the issues, we then tried to figure out how we can help solve problems. Sometimes there was no solution, so we would just eat through it."

Bull is from Centerville, a Dayton suburb, and attended private Catholic schools. In a UD English class, he discovered statistics on the inequalities of students in urban school districts. He eventually changed his undergraduate major from business to education and joined the Urban Teacher Academy.

“All of the sudden there were 15 people who wanted to do the same thing,” he said. “We talked in real terms about issues of race and equity in schools, and about the challenges you’re going to face in these jobs. It felt like a supportive community. And then once I got out of college and was teaching, it was still there.”

He has spent 12 years at the Dayton Early College Academy in positions from teacher to principal, and now is director of human resources.

Bailey and Bull have served together on panels where they have shared their experiences with students and teachers. And they continue to gain sustenance from the academy’s programming. As teachers across the country struggled with teaching during the pandemic, Urban Teacher Academy leaders used a book club for students and alumni to address what academic success looks like postpandemic.

When new heights and challenges arrive for both Bull and Bailey, program co-directors Rochonda Nenonene ’98 and Novea McIntosh continue their encouragement.

“Having that support system that believes in you, to push you to do the things that are not the most comfortable, that’s what I’m most appreciative of,” said Bailey.

Connection for success