by Lindsay James
On November 18, 2022, Stacy Blakley took the stage at the 160th Convention of the Missouri State Teachers Association and assumed the title of State President. Having previously served as MSTA President-Elect and Vice President, as well as on the AB&R Committee, Blakley is well prepared for the role.
The following is an excerpt of a conversation with Lindsay James, MSTA’s Creative Media Specialist, during a behind-the-scenes look at a day in Stacy’s life teaching at St. James Middle School.
Which subjects and grade levels do you currently teach?
My official title is Keyboarding Teacher, but that hasn’t been updated in a few years. I am currently teaching the eighth grade careers class, seventh and eighth grade agriculture and sixth grade math.
What do you look forward to every day when you come to school? What gets you in the car and driving down to St. James from your home in Rolla?
My favorite part of coming to school every day is the relationships that I have, not only with my students, but with my coworkers and, obviously, with our service dog. Just getting to know them and being there for their ups and downs, their struggles and the fun times and the hard times. I know that we’ve built a family here and we really do depend upon each other. We have all of the good times and all the bad times, but we’re here for each other. And that’s what people ask me - why do I teach in St. James and why do I travel? That’s why... It’s often said flippantly that we’re like family, but I really think that we’re the functional part of a family.
When did you initially join the association? Was teaching your first career?
My husband was a teacher before I became one. I used to work in mental healthcare with a degree in psychology. I worked with adults with developmental disabilities and was a program coordinator for an agency. We started having children and I decided to stay home with my four girls for many years. After my youngest began preschool, I started back to school and got certified to be a teacher. Education became my passion and then MSTA became my passion. I decided immediately that I was going to be an SMSTA member and even went to convention with a friend. Sitting in that convention, I remember thinking, “I’m gonna do this. I am committed. I want to be a leader in MSTA.”
After watching your lunch duty shift today in the cafeteria, I can tell that your students are very eager to approach you and it seems like you can relate to them on certain levels. Would you agree?
Definitely. One of the reasons this school is such a good fit for me is because we participate in the Capturing Kids’ Hearts discipline program. What that means is that we build relationships and focus on that. We greet students at the door. Every class period we do “good news” and in my classroom, its student led. The students share and then they ask each other, “What’s your good news?” Sometimes it’s huge, good news and sometimes they just make something up. Either way, it’s fantastic because it gives you a glimpse into their personal life and it lets you know where they’re at and gives you some points to connect with. I always share good news as well, which helps them get to know me better. It allows me to be transparent with the kids and tell them, “My daughter came to visit!” or “I had a really great cup of coffee this morning.” It builds a connection, and we can often find something to build on. I love teaching... I love teaching in a middle school, and I really love building those relationships. Being referred to as the school mom is kind of my thing. I want to help build their confidence and give them the tools that they need to be successful.
What is one piece of advice you like to give your students?
It’s okay to fail. That’s where true growth comes from. We don’t get better at anything by always being successful at it. Being comfortable and confident enough to fail at something - and to fail in front of someone else - that’s hard. That’s really hard. My classroom is an environment where that’s okay. We’re going to learn together and come prepared with resources.
What does MSTA mean to your family?
MSTA is totally a family ordeal. When Steve and I started going to events together and first attended a legislative day, I had assumed that Steve knew Bruce [Moe]. They actually hadn’t met, so Bruce said, “Oh, you must be Mr. Stacy.” And so that stuck, and one year we had Steve’s delegate card changed to say Mr. Stacy. Steve and I were teasingly coined “the MSTA power couple” a few years ago and it’s pretty funny. There’s a School and Community article from awhile back of Steve and I wearing Mr. President and Mrs. President shirts because I was the CTA president in Waynesville while Steve was the CTA president in Rolla. So, that being said, we just have a really good time. We enjoy spending time together and building relationships with others.
What are you most excited about this year during your presidency?
I am super excited this year to be part of the new normal in our society and within MSTA. We’ve all had so much trauma in the past few years throughout the pandemic and it’s exciting to be part of resetting and creating a new baseline for what normal is. We’ve got to work together to be better and that’s totally where we’re at now. I want to continue with the things that Halley [Russell] and Chuck [Martin] and the previous presidents have started and to be a voice for educators at the Capitol and everywhere in the state. I hope to boost the overall sense of morale and be the champion of getting teachers the respect they deserve. Teaching is really hard right now. Actually, education in general is hard. It’s difficult to be a student, it’s difficult to be a teacher and it’s also difficult to be a parent. I think we should all remember to look at it through the right lens and work together. We need to remember that we’re all on the same team and we’re all working collectively toward empowering students and creating a better society.
What are some facts about yourself that others may not know?
I love to travel and go on road trips to weird places. We went to the Jell-O Museum, the world’s smallest city block and the world’s largest pecan. I love interesting things like that. Also on my list is the largest ball of twine and the SPAM Museum. We all need to have more spontaneity in life to do things like that. Steve and I often kayak with friends and play board games. That’s where you can find us on Friday nights – playing board games and going out to eat Mexican food. Our four daughters are all out of the house. Our oldest and youngest both live in Springfield and our middle two live in Baltimore and Oklahoma. Another thing about me is that I decorate my classroom with the ampersand symbol and even have it tattooed as a sign of perseverance.
Is there anything else that you’d like for MSTA members to know about you?
I’m in the classroom every day just like you. I have struggles and hard days and fantastic days. I am here for you 100% and really want you to know that you can reach out to me at any time with the hard stories if you’re going through a tough time, or the success stories and funny stories. I will do my best to do the same. We are here together; we will support each other, and we will make this year the best year ever.