Heartbroken … yet blessed
Bryann Outt Baird’s education community and friends held a ceremony to honor her life on Monday evening at Cardinal Stadium.
Bryann, 32, who grew up in Webb City and was a junior high social studies teacher, passed away unexpectedly on June 29.
Among the speakers was fellow teacher Emma Frack, who said Bryann was her role model as a teacher and mother. Bryann leaves behind two sons, Emmett, 4, and Everett, 2, in addition to her husband, Jacob.
“We’ll miss you, Bryann, our lives have been forever changed by you.”
Mary Sears instructional coach and former student council sponsor, knew Bryann as a student and teacher. As she told the other mourners, “Embrace the memories. Stop and tell someone about Bryann Baird. Her memory lives on.”
Larry Cowger, an uncle, waved to other family members parked outside the stadium before reading a letter from the family telling about his own remembrances of Bryann, highlighting her organization, leadership and command of movie-selection.
Dusty Allen, Eugene Field principal and former junior high assistant principal, said it was a “no-brainer” to hire her. “We were thrilled to have her, and she never disappointed.”
He added that students in his summer driver’s education classes who had had Bryann as their teacher often said they loved her class, they learned a lot, and she made it fun.
The event was organized, opened and closed by Angie Broaddus, who had taught Bryann, hired her to join the junior high faculty and worked with her for nine years. These are her comments:
There’s no easy way to start a speech like this. There’s so much to say, yet the words hardly seem adequate to pay tribute to someone we held so dear. I’ve prayed and reflected about what to say.
2nd Timothy 4:17-18 gives us some solace that our Lord is with us. “But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and the Gentiles might hear it. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and bring me to his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory for ever and ever. Amen”
We’re heartbroken. We’re lost. We’re confused. But, we’re something even more powerful. We’re blessed. We had the terrific privilege of knowing, laughing, loving and teaching alongside Bryann. That in and of itself is worthy of celebration.
I remember being a student teacher. All the wonder and excitement as you get your first taste of what it’s really going to be like as a teacher. Someday. It’s a special time. And for me, one particular bright-eyed 7th grader with the biggest dimples I’d ever seen always stood out. Nearly a decade would pass before I crossed paths with this dynamic young lady again.
In 2012, I was sorting through new teacher applications as I do each year. That year a Webb City graduate, Susan Baird had applied, though I struggled to recall her name. Then she called me. “Mrs. Broaddus? This is Susan Baird. I don’t know if you remember me, but I went by Bryann Outt in school.” The moment her words met my ears, my mind was flooded with the dimply smile of the tenacious 7th grader. “Of course I remember you, Bryann!” She was home. And I couldn’t have been prouder.
For the next nine years, Bryann – Mrs. Baird – would build her classroom that was uniquely hers. She would influence, inspire and encourage students the way only the best teachers can. Mrs. Baird was a crowd favorite – known for her Civil War reenactments and her tough-but-caring approach to teaching. Her students knew she pushed them because she believed in them. She believed that they could go anywhere from here and it was her job to help them get there. And she never quit.
Bryann was also a strong advocate for her fellow teachers and was a born leader. She served as a liaison between teachers and leadership on the salary and welfare committee. Whether in the classroom or outside of it, Bryann cared deeply about making this a better place.
Bryann’s classroom has nine class pictures on her wall – one for each year she’s been teaching. Her intent had always been to line the room with 30 pictures – one of every class until she retired. Those pictures would be the hallmark of Bryann Baird’s investment in the generations of students she would teach. That intent – the one to teach, in the same place year after year – speaks to the deeply rooted commitment Bryann had to the education – the betterment – of our youth and this community.
Bryann was always a strong-willed teacher, which I admired – even when times were trying. No matter what, I always knew her motives were pure – to help kids be the best they could be. As Bryann’s family grew and flourished, so did her teaching journey. She was always an incredible teacher, but her new life experiences gave her a new perspective that made her unstoppable.
As I was preparing for tonight, I was looking for the etymology of the word cardinal. According to Merriam-Webster:
“Our word cardinal goes back to the Latin adjective cardinalis, which meant “serving as a hinge.” The root of this word is the noun cardo, meaning “hinge.” Since a hinge is the device on which a door turns, cardo came to mean “something on which a development turns” or “something very important.”… When borrowed into English, cardinalis became cardinal.
I think at some point in every educator’s career they think about the legacy they may leave. We all go into this profession to help young people fulfill their potential and we all want to know we’ve made a difference somewhere along the way. But we don’t usually talk about legacy until the end of an experienced career, characterized by generations of students, canonized in decades of yearbooks. It hardly seems possible to talk about the legacy of such a young teacher, just starting her 10th year in education. Yet here we are. Bryann’s legacy transcends tenure or the nine pictures on her wall. Bryann’s legacy was that she was the hinge on which our students’ development turned from childhood to young adulthood and where they found the habits to be successful in life.
Merriam-Webster also states that “Cardinal means so important as to be indispensable. It implies belonging to the very nature of a thing and therefore incapable of removal without destroying the thing itself or its character.”
Bryann was a Cardinal and IS CARDINAL. She gave all of herself to this community and served students in a way that was fundamental – cardinal – to who they would become. Bryann belongs to the very nature of Webb City and can never be separated from who we have become because of her.
We all share a common bond – every student who has walked the halls, every person who works for the district. We’re all Cardinals. Together we can do the impossible. Bryann was the personification of what it means to be a Webb City Cardinal. Let us remember, as we see cardinals around us, they are reminders of those who have come before us and the angels watching over us. Just as Bryann gave her heart to Webb City – let us all live up to our call, that no matter where the years or miles take us, we are always a cardinal. So today, we come together to remember our friend, our Cardinal, Bryann.
Thank you for coming to celebrate Bryann with us tonight.
Please keep her husband, Jake, her two precious boys, Emmett and Everett, and the rest of her family in your thoughts and prayers as they face this difficult time.