By Leah Jackson
Bailey LeBato of Leesville earned a special recognition from Northwestern State University’s Department of Health and Human Performance. The graduating senior was named Outstanding Health and Physical Education Major, an honor given to a student who exhibits excellence through academics and serves as a role model for his or her peers in the department. The honor was made all the more special because LeBato’s father, Marc LaBaton, received the same award 15 years ago.
When Bailey sent the news to her father that she won the award, he responded with a picture of his plaque for the same recognition in 2001.
“As if the award itself was not special enough, knowing I had made this impression on my professors for them to think I was deserving, the fact my dad also received the same was that much more special,” she said.
Marc LeBato teaches elementary physical education in Vernon Parish, where Bailey plans to teach and coach next year. She will graduate May 6 with a 4.0 grade point average.
“The degree of HHP has deep roots in our family,” Bailey said. “My dad’s mother and grandfather were both teacher and coaches, making my dad and I third and fourth generation educators.” Marc LeBato has taught kindergarten through sixth grade physical education for 14 years.
“I guess you could say it’s in my blood,” Bailey said. “Growing up, I rode with my dad to school every day, turned on the gym lights, rode the bus to fifth and sixth grade basketball games and always had endless toys to play with (PE equipment).”
Bailey credits her father for his example of perseverance and determination.
“We have pictures at home that remind him of his time at Northwestern,” she said. “These pictures include one of him studying with me as a baby lying on his chest and one of him and [HHP Professor] Dr. Bill Dickens that I myself took of them. These pictures motivated me to continue my education even in times when I wanted to give up. I even assisted my dad with a project as a five-year-old that I got my brother to help me with last spring. Same project, different class.”
Bailey’s mother, Kelli LeBato, is also a graduate of NSU, having earned her degree in education in 2008.
“Receiving this award was so humbling as [Department Head] Dr. John Dollar gave such kind words during the ceremony. Visiting with the dean of the college, Dr. Vickie Gentry, and Dr. Dickens, who had also taught dad, was such a neat experience. Sharing this night with my dad will be something I will always remember. NSU is a home away from home, with the best educators who focus not only on their students’ education, but also on forming professional relationships and friendships.”