Five years ago, Gary Day couldn’t say which of his two jobs he liked best — elementary school teacher in the Blanket Independent School District or part-time preacher at Blanket’s First Baptist Church.
Circumstances have changed mightily for Day and his wife, Judy, since those days: different school, different church. And Day and his wife no longer live in Blanket. But Day, who now lives in Early, still can’t pick a favorite among his two occupations.
“When I’m in school, my favorite part is to be a teacher. When I’m in church, my favorite part is to be a teacher,” Day said.
As for the “school part,” Day, 56, is in charge of the Paradigm Accelerated Charter School in Brownwood, which opened its doors in September and specializes in helping at-risk students. The school, housed temporarily in a building at the Abundant Life Church, has 41 students and a staff of three, including Day. The school is for students in grades 8-12.
The “church part” is — well, that’s in flux. Day resigned as pastor of the Blanket church and became part-time pastor of the Zephyr Baptist Church, a post he held from 2003 to 2007. His last service was Sunday. Day and a friend in Blanket, Curt Tunnell, are in the beginning stages of starting a non-denominational church in Blanket.
“It’s interesting, the circle that has come about,” Day said.
Day, who is seldom without a smile, lit up when asked how his life is going.
“Good!” Day said. “Blessed and highly blessed.”
He cited the blessings of a good marriage, his family — he and Judy are the parents of two sons and a daughter, all grown — his job with the charter school and the undertaking of a new church.
Day is a native of Kermit, in West Texas. He graduated from Howard Payne University and attended a seminary in Fort Worth, where he majored in youth work. He did church work in Port Arthur, then ended up in the oil fields in West Texas. There was nothing wrong with that, Day said, and the money was good, but he realized his passion was people, not oil.
His wife pointed out that he had always seemed to be taken with children. He managed to find the time to do some substitute teaching in elementary grades to see if he liked it.
Day returned to HPU in 1988 to get a teaching certificate.
While attending HPU, he found an opportunity to preach part-time in a small church south of Coleman. He landed his first teaching job in Lamesa, where he taught fifth grade for six of his seven years there.
The Days moved Brown County, where other relatives live, and he hoped to find a teaching job and a small church in which to do “a little preaching on the side.” He became part-time pastor of the Baptist Church in Blanket in 1997, and after several years of being a substitute teacher, he was hired as a full-time elementary school teacher in 2001. His wife worked as a teacher in the Comanche school district. She currently works as counselor in the Early Primary School.
As the 2002-’03 school year — Day’s second year in the Blanket school — came to an end, Day realized his position was probably going to be cut the following year as the school grappled with enrollment decreases and financial struggles. Because of his role in the community as a pastor, the school board members were among his friends. Day was determined he wasn’t going to put them in the position of having to fire him. He volunteered to step down, and the school board took him up on his offer. His position was one of three the school board cut.
Day got a job at Hope for Tomorrow, a foster child placement agency. He was responsible for providing continuing education training for foster parents.
Day could no longer manage the demands of being a part-time pastor, so he resigned from the Blanket pulpit. He became part-time pastor of the Zephyr church. The church is smaller than the Blanket church and did not require as much of a time commitment.
In the Zephyr church, Day met a man named Ronald Johnson, superintendent of the Paradigm Accelerated Charter School in Dublin. Johnson told Day he hoped to open a similar school in Brown County, and he asked Day if he’d be interested in working there.
Day saw the offer as a chance to continue “working with the kids and continuing my life as an educator.”
“It’s getting in my blood, working with these kids,” Day said.