Former ELAC student pays homage to instructor

By Cristina Galvan


Rita Soza remembers her times with teacher Helen Miller Bailey fondly.

Soza is currently working on a biography on Bailey.

Besides having the library named after her, Bailey left a strong impact on many of her students, including Soza.

Soza attended Elac in the Early ‘70s.  She took two classes with Bailey, which were Western Civilization 1 and 2.

After receiving her Associates degree, Soza attended the University of Phoenix.

In 2006, Soza returned to school and got her Masters in Business Administration from University of California, Irvine. A few years ago, Soza thought that it would be a good idea to write a book about Bailey. Soza says that Bailey was “friendly and warm towards all the students”.

Soza said Bailey had a special way of teaching. She “enhanced the material” and made “textbooks more inviting.”

Bailey traveled the world and took pictures of places she visited.  She would then post her pictures, along with paintings that she painted, around her classroom.

Aside from teaching, Soza says that Bailey paid special attention to her students in need.  “She took special notice of people who really needed special notice,” Soza said.

For example, one day, Bailey asked Soza if she needed money and told her that she had a job for her.

She asked if she could write down questions for each chapter from the textbook, answer them and record them in the library so blind students could access them.  Soza said this “made me feel different about myself.” Bailey helped students, by giving them money to pay for transportation, get to school and providing them with a place to stay.

Soza says that Bailey had “kind of a 6th sense”, this sort of “magic”  and she somehow knew what students needed at a certain time.

While writing her book, Soza encountered some obstacles.

Soza says Bailey “was well known in East LA, but she was not famous.”

Bailey passed away in the mid ‘70s and Soza could not find any family members to get information from. However, she did not let this stop her.

Soza went to the Downtown Los Angeles Library where she did her research.  Here, she found stories on Bailey in the Los Angeles Times.

After talking to some former students, who would suggest her to talk to other students.

“At one point, her family found me” says Soza.  They provided Soza with personal stories and photographs.

Soza used to work at a Fortune 100 company, Edison Electric.  Soza said she always wanted to be a teacher so she became one.

For the past 10 years, Soza has been teaching at MiraCosta Community College in San Diego.
She teaches Business Administration at ELAC.

Soza says that she is almost done writing her book. Her goal for the Summer is to find a publisher.

Soza says that she wants teachers to read her book to “see how one teacher changed  the life of many people.”

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