I'm writing this nomination on behalf of my two sons who are former students of Mr. John Baker. Although my boys are no longer students in Mr. Baker's classroom, he has continued to stay involved in their everyday life as an educator and role model. I can't think of many teachers who give so much of themselves both in & out of the classroom. Both James and Kegan had Mr. Baker as their 3rd grade teacher at High Ridge Elementary School. Our boys both loved his somewhat unconventional and unorganized style of teaching. His sometimes "fly by the seat of my pants" style kept them on their toes, engaged and made learning exciting for them. Mr. Baker was/is always praising a job well done, while still encouraging them to push themselves to do better. I saw significant increases in both boys' reading & writing skills while they were in his classroom. Although Kegan has moved on to 4th grade and James to 5th grade & a different school, Mr. Baker goes out of his way to check in with the boys often whether he's helping them grasp a concept they're currently struggling with, or it's dropping a letter in the mail just to say hi and catch up on how they are doing and to see if there's anything he can do to help them. These last few years has been rough for our family as we dealt with my unexpected illness & some major changes and rough times in our lives. The one person who our boys & us for that matter, can always count on being there to talk to about anything is Mr. Baker. Although his kind generosity, dedication and love he has for his profession and the families in our community often goes unrecognized, he never stops caring. As I said, our family experienced some unfavorable times recently that left us homeless and our family was split up because we all had to stay at separate places until we finally were able to find a new home. The new school year was starting during the time we were homeless and I didn't know what to do about registering our boys for school, because at the time we were all living in different places, some of which weren't even in the school district. I didn't want my boys to have to change schools but I also didn't have the transportation to get them there either. I came across Mr. Baker's number as I was scrolling through my contacts, as he always gave parents his personal cell number so that we could reach him anytime if needed (yet another amazing quality), I decided to reach out to Mr. Baker for advice about our unique situation. As usual, he immediately wanted to help in any way he could, but had to find out a couple of things before giving me false hope. I was astonished & ever so relieved when he called back in less than 24 hours with several solutions to help us with our situation. He helped make sure that our boys would have everything they needed to start school & still be able to attend the same school by getting us in touch with the right people who could arrange the transportation for us. He even went out and personally bought a package of socks for one of our boys because his were inaccessible at the time. On top of going above and beyond to help our family by doing what he could to keep some normality in our boys' life to ease the stress of the situation, he has continued to check in with the boys and us all year to see how things are going and if we need anything. The thing that touched my heart the most though is his compassion & thoughtfulness. See, our son James decided that since he was staying with his mom during the week, he wanted to attend the school by her home because he could ride the bus and he had some friends that attended that school. When Mr. Baker learned of James' decision he took it upon himself to write him a letter wishing him luck, & letting him know that although he respected his choice to change schools, that he would be missed at High Ridge and if he ever needed anything that he would always be there for him, all he needed to do was ask. James loves getting mail and loves responding even more and wrote Mr. Baker back thanking him for his letter. The communication between them has continued all school year thus far. The heartfelt letters he has sent to James really has made a difference in his life and has gave him the strength & encouragement he needed during this difficult time in his life. He has also kept an open line of communication with Kegan checking in with him weekly and with Jim & myself in passing & at school events. These actions alone deserve the highest recognition one can get in my opinion. When thinking about all he has done for our family, nominating Mr. John Baker for this award is the least I can do. After all he has done & continues to do for his school community, current & past students and his own family, I can't think of a more deserving person to receive this award.
Kegan Garlock and James (Jimmy) Wagner