PAULLINA—South O’Brien High School senior Bailey Tjossem has been awarded a prestigious scholarship that will help her on her path toward a career in special education.
The 18-year-old received the 2019 Special Education Teacher Scholarship of Iowa in recognition of her academic accomplishments, volunteerism, extracurricular activities and educational goals.
She was awarded the scholarship by the Iowa Association of School Boards during the South O’Brien High School Awards Day on Tuesday at the high school in Paullina.
Based on a number of requirements, including educational goals and academic accomplishments, the $2,000 scholarship is awarded to a graduating senior who plans to study education, with a focus on special education.
“It was a huge shock to me because I knew it was a big scholarship across Iowa, and then I couldn’t believe that me — a girl in northwest Iowa — could get a scholarship like that,” Tjossem said. “I was actually really, really surprised when I got the call.”
Tjossem was one of two students in the state to receive the scholarship. IASB executive director Lisa Bartusek presented the Paullina resident with the award.
The Special Education Teacher Scholarship was one of three scholarships that Tjossem received during the high school awards day.
Tjossem has received academic awards, academic letters and athletic letters throughout her high school career. She has been actively involved in extracurricular activities, including student council, softball and volleyball.
Coming into her senior year, she had her sights set on a career in elementary education. It was not until she began volunteering at South O’Brien Elementary in Primghar at the beginning of the school year that special education became her passion.
“I had done a job shadow in the elementary education classroom and I thought that I would give it a shot to go to the special education classroom instead and see if I was more into that, and I just fell in love with it right away,” Tjossem said.
“I just really fell in love with being there,” she said. “The kids are always ready to learn new things and they just want some help. I want to be a person that can help them along their way and give them a successful future.”
Volunteering and spending time with special education students at the elementary school has made a significant difference in her life.
“I have developed a passion to help children with disabilities,” Tjossem said. “I will be the one person in their lives that has the attitude that they can accomplish anything they set their minds to — no matter how big or small.”
She spent two-three hours a day volunteering at the elementary school. Her last day of volunteering was Thursday.
“That’s really hard because I’ve gotten close with all those kids and they look forward to me coming every day,” Tjossem said. “It’s hard to see them go because I’d rather just spend every single day there if I could.”
She plans to attend Morningside College in Sioux City, where she will double major in elementary education and special education, and hopes to maintain a 3.5 grade-point average or higher throughout college.
As part of her practicum, Tjossem will be spending time in special education classrooms around Sioux City.
“After college, I would love to be a special education teacher in a small district,” Tjossem said. “I want to make a difference in each of my students’ lives by being a positive leader and someone they can trust.”
This story was published in the May 18 issue of The South O'Brien Sun.