A Tribute to Ms. Suzanne Bailey, College Athlete, and Beloved Potomac Teacher

Part II: The Potomac Years


Kate Choi and Sami Krilla

On Nov. 2, The Current published the first part of a two-part profile on Ms. Suzanne Bailey, an English teacher and advisor. We focused on her extraordinary accomplishments as a lacrosse and soccer star at Brown University. In this follow-on article, we explore some of the highlights of Ms. Bailey’s career at Potomac, in particular her work on diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Editor’s note: The following interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

In what ways do you work with GSA (Gender and Sexuality Alliance)? And what made you decide to help sponsor this club?
I decided to help sponsor GSA to work in partnership with Dr. Heard, who was a great colleague and friend who was very inspiring to me. And I actually joined her with the group for the first time last year. And also because many of my students welcome the idea of having an affinity space, for anyone to have adults to relate to, in any capacity, with whom to share their life experiences. I’m really happy to be a source of support for students who identify as LGBTQ+, and really just be an adult who is here for them. I don’t feel like I need to be an activist in that regard here. To me so much about DEI work is basic human decency and working with interesting, motivated kids who want the community to be strong and inclusive. I’m really just a boring married person living a regular life and I think it’s comforting for kids to see that’s what it can look like too, just being who you are and not feeling like you have to leave any parts of your identity at home.

How do you incorporate mindfulness, specifically your teaching of Pilates, into social and emotional learning practices?
I think it comes down to a strong sense of self-awareness and how your experiences influence the way you walk through any space. Being aware that your experiences are more and different from others. It all comes down to ensuring in either area of work that everyone thinks that they’re being there matters, that they’re being seen, understood, appreciated, and validated. SEL is wonderful and has to do with being aware of what you bring to a situation and the fact that different people experience their lives in different ways here. There is a lot that unites us, but we should be aware of the variety as well.

More Pilates-focused, I think that there is such a bond between the mind and the body. I think being able to do things that are challenging and pushing your body in ways that you maybe didn’t know that you could do feels great. To feel yourself growing stronger and more confident and capable. When you feel better about yourself physically, it affects everything else. I love seeing students grow stronger and more confident in Pilates because it’s hard. It’s amazing that kids who would identify as pretty serious athletes are equally challenged because everyone can push themselves wherever they are. Pilates is motivation without pressure or achievement.

Do you participate in any service learning jobs outside of Potomac?
About eight years ago I learned about a human services center in my community, Reston Community Center, that helps older adults get from place to place. So these are older folks who can’t drive anywhere but who need help getting to appointments, the gym, the grocery store, community pools, the library, and wherever they want so they can continue living independently. I’ve been doing this for years and I’ve met extraordinary and inspiring people. I’ve gotten so much from the process because I get to hear life experiences, and stories that are precious, and I’ve gained a lot of perspective about what is core for a full rich life. What matters when you’re looking back on a perspective that’s more extensive than your own? One of my favorite riders, Janet, 92, I take to her personal trainer every Saturday, and sometimes we just ask ourselves, why else are we here? What are we doing if we’re not helping people and being thankful when we get help? I’ve had periods of time where I’m really grateful for the kindness that others have shown me, and that’s what it’s all about.

Describe your role(s) as such an active member of the Potomac community.
I’m an English teacher, an advisor, co-advisor to GSA, I love working with service learning, I coach HIIT Pilates (a combination of pilates and high-intensity interval training). I used to be part of the Cultural Competence Leadership Team which has sort of evolved. I worked with Mr. Grant and a bunch of other people on issues related to DEI which gave me the chance to go to the People of Color Conference a couple of years ago.
I also work on the Mental Health and Wellness Committee, which is truly amazing. It’s a board-level committee that was formed to look very closely at how Potomac is supporting the health and wellness of everyone in the community. Mostly what I love to do is follow and support kids on their journeys. I really do enjoy the company of the people I get to work with. I see us all more as fellow travelers than anything else.

Which family member(s) do you have the closest connection with or have influenced you the most?
My spouse, Patty, is a teacher at Holton-Arms. I’m close with my parents, my mom lives in Reston. My dad and his wife live in Florida. I have a brother who is a Marine who went to St. Albans and played lacrosse at the Naval Academy and we’re very close. I have a niece, Maggie who’s a junior in high school, and a nephew, Finny, a 7th grader, and they both live in Quantico now. Those are my core people.

What do you do when you’re not teaching?
I love to read. I am a big reading nerd. I love to cycle. I love to stand up paddle board and spend time with my family and friends. I love my pets. I love doing volunteer work in my community.

Writers’ Note
Our inspiration to write this two-part tribute to Ms. Bailey stems from the way she has inspired us as our teacher (Kate) and advisor (Sami). In addition to caring about their learning, Ms. Bailey also cares about her students’ well-being. After conducting this interview, we realized that Ms. Bailey teaches less than a full load of classes so that she can support the broader community through her volunteer work. We truly appreciate the time that Ms. Bailey spent with us during our interviews.