Kansas Master Teacher Award
Mary Elizabeth Baker
2004 Kansas Master Teacher
K-5 Reading Specialist
"I believe education is a lifelong process. The challenge for schools is to build onto and use the knowledge and skills students possess, whilst preparing them to contribute positively in a rapidly changing world. The most valuable gifts we can give a student are a love of learning, an 'I can do' attitude, and the skills and strategies to work together and solve problems. My contribution as a reading teacher is to share my enthusiasm for books and learning, and to teach my students how to use reading to learn. This involves learning to use a variety of word solving, comprehension, and study skills and strategies. However, in order to maximize student success, I believe we must teach children the way they learn. . . . I believe every child is unique. Therefore I modify my instruction to meet individual needs. I believe children learn best when they can actively participate in the instruction process. Therefore I provide a variety of interactive experiences."
A veteran Australian teacher and an avid pilot, Mrs. Baker considers her students to be her most important teachers. "As I teach, I learn to listen and to observe, to prompt and reaffirm, to modify my language and my practice. I am continuing to grow, and it is my students who are guiding me."
Honors and Awards
Selected to participate in International Teacher Exchange program between Australia and USA, 1986
Gold Apple Award winner - USD #385, Andover, KS--2000
Robert M. Martin Elementary candidate for Master Teacher--2001
USD #385 nominee for Kansas Master Teacher--2004
What People Say
One example of Mary's skill made an impression on her superintendent, Dr. Patrick Kelly. "A nine-year old child from Russia was adopted by an Andover couple and began school in September. She spoke and read no English. Mary began intensive work with this student. I visited Mary's class in December, and to my amazement, I was unable to identify which of her students had recently arrived from Russia."
Deb Rodgers says that Mary Baker tutored her son, Zach, who was a struggling second grader. Deb says, "One tutoring day when Zach stayed home from school getting over a cold, he asked me to drive him to school for his after school tutoring session just so that he wouldn't miss his time with Mrs. Baker. To Zach, Mrs. Baker is cool for many reasons: she knows all kinds of fascinating things about Australia, she sometimes dyes her hair blue, she is a pilot, she has shown him the plane she and her husband are building and took him on a tour of the small airport that is a few steps from her backyard. By giving him a small animal cage and a fairly detailed book on care on feeding pet rats (which he read from cover to cover and took notes on), Mrs. Baker was even instrumental in his long fought and hard won campaign to be allowed to get a pet rat. Much to her credit, she was also willing to "ratsit" for us when we went on vacation for two weeks in the summer!"
Assistant Superintendent, Andrew E. Koenigs, said "Mary is always learning and growing. As the district began searching for more phonemic awareness activities in our primary classrooms, Mary volunteered to go to a week-long summer training and has since become a valuable resource to her building. She has become the "expert" in this area. Teachers look up to and respect Mary's opinion. She is like E. F. Hutton--'When Mary talks, everybody listens'."