Overcoming obstacles: Teacher turns tragedy into triumph

Emma Raleigh

“My mom told them I would live,” world history teacher Patricia Bailey-Jones said. “She told me she didn’t believe God woke me up and brought me out of that burning house just to let me come to the hospital and die.”

During her eighth grade year, Patricia Bailey-Jones had to overcome an obstacle that anyone would think to be impossible, except for her mother.

The room was in flames; there was nowhere to turn–except the window. The glass in the windows became so hot that they were like rubber. When the glass finally shattered, it hit her.

“I screamed that the house was on fire and everybody woke up immediately,” Bailey-Jones said. “I could feel the flames and I thought they were coming towards me, I didn’t realize I was in the middle of the flames, and I just dove out.”

Bailey-Jones was 13 when she woke up at 2:30 in the morning in the middle of a house fire in Luxora, Arkansas. After escaping, she was hospitalized for ten weeks.
“They told my parents that I wouldn’t live because I had been in the house for too long,” Bailey-Jones said. “If I did live [they thought] I would be a vegetable because my brain had been without oxygen for so long.”
Her mother was always there for her through everything, and Bailey-Jones attributes her drive to do her best to her mother.

“I was kind of a strong knucklehead because my mom was like that,” Bailey-Jones said. “We were always raised to speak up.”

Her mother was a constant source of support in her life, especially after the fire.

“She fell out of the window from her bedroom, and she actually split the flesh in her thigh,” Bailey-Jones said. “They were trying to put her in the hospital, and she wouldn’t let them. She told them to give her some pain pills, because she had too much to do.”

After recovering, Bailey-Jones entered the world of high school, a place where she knew things would change for her, not just the one time, but every time she left campus for activities.

“When I got on the bus [to go to a basketball game] I realized I was going to another new place, and everybody was going to start staring at me. I quit and went home,” Bailey-Jones said.

“She told me the world belongs to you as much as it belongs to anyone else,” Bailey-Jones said. “Look people straight in the face. Hold your head up so high that people think you’re sniffing pies in heaven.”

Even though she was always told to look people straight in the face, Bailey-Jones never knew that she would be reminded of these words every day.

“I was involved in high school and this seemed like the perfect way to continue doing some of the things that I enjoyed,” Bailey-Jones said. “I wanted to see other kids growing up and being involved, competitive, and enjoying school as much as I did.”

This attitude is part of what makes Bailey-Jones, fondly called PBJ by her colleagues and students, such a vital part of Bryan High’s community.

“I really like PBJ because she always takes a unique and interesting approach,” senior Jerry Ramirez said. “She understands how the student mind works and always finds a way to incorporate humor into her lessons.”

Sophomore Addie Henry agrees and says that having taken her geography class will benefit her later in her high school career.

“I think she demands a lot more, she expects a lot out of you,” Henry said.

PBJ aspired to be a teacher from a young age, and has taught for a total 21 years, 12 of which have been at Bryan High.

“My mother told stories of when I was little, and I always played the teacher with my sisters and brothers,” PBJ said.

Teaching a freshman course might not seem like the easiest route for a teacher, but PBJ enjoys watching her students enter high school as children and leave as adults.

“I love geography because it covers many different aspects of Social Studies,” PBJ said. “Most people see social studies as boring, so I try to use a variety of activities to inspire my students, and to help them become lifelong learners.”

The subject of geography explores cultures around the world, and it also helps students realize how fortunate they are which PBJ tries to exhibit in her daily life.

“Sometimes I wonder what a 13-year-old did to deserve and go through some of the things that I went through,” PBJ said. “But there’s always someone who’s worse off than you. When I stop and look at it from that point of view, I’m okay with it.”