Teaching for that ‘light bulb’ moment
By Lorenzo Salinas
Teaching is a passion that could last someone years, if not a lifetime. Take, for example, a certain elementary teacher in Port Arthur.
Carol Baker has taught special education for 27 years, all within the Port Arthur Independent School District. She currently teaches children ages 7 to 11 at William Travis Elementary School.
Doing what one loves
“I always loved school, but my grandmother was also a teacher and a principal,” Baker said. “She taught special education in the ’60s when it first came out…
“I always wanted to be just like her. Education is just where my heart is.”
Baker said she enjoys working with her kids and making learning a fun experience for them.
“Most of my kids want to learn, and I enjoy helping them learn and engaging their interest,” she said. “I want to impart to them the knowledge they can do better than they’ve been doing.”
As part of her classroom regiment, Baker introduces games into the class setting that can simultaneously engage students’ interest and teach them something valuable.
“This way it’s not just rote pen-and-paper work; it’s stuff like sight-work practice that gets their interest,” she said.
Gaming is learning
One of the games Baker utilizes is an around-the-world activity that challenges her students to better their literacy and vocabulary skills. Within the game, one or two students could only take a step forward if they can correctly identify a sight word.
A sight word is a word that’s considered essential in reading comprehension like “is” and “was.” Specifically, they’re words that a person should be able to look at and read automatically.
“That way, we’re challenging them. If one person doesn’t get it, you’ll see another person start jumping up and down saying, ‘I know it! I know!’” Baker said. “The students love how far they could get in the game.”
Baker said the Internet has been an incredibly useful tool in providing a lot of games and programs for her students.
Baker acknowledged that technology is the biggest thing that has changed since she started teaching.
“We had one computer class as a senior,” Baker said. “Now students are coming in and they can handle anything on the computer. Technology has definitely changed.”
Light bulb moment
According to Baker, the proverbial “light bulb” moment — or the moment where a certain realization dawns upon a person — has consistently been one of the most rewarding aspects of teaching for her.
“What I love is when that light bulb moment happens — and the students that were struggling suddenly have something snap in them that goes ‘A-ha!’” Baker said.
She gave an example of students learning division in a step-by-step process. It wouldn’t be until a child learns to do it on his or her own and realizes that the steps are necessary that that “light bulb” turns on.
“In general classes, teachers may not see what my students can do… But what my students learn, it’s really exciting for them and it works.”
Baker recalled one of her earliest memories in her career where teaching was still hard for her. However, an excited elementary student from one of her classes stopped her in the hallway and told her about a time he pulled out a book and read it to a fellow student.
It was a happy memory for both her and the student.
“That’s what we want,” Baker said. “We want the students to believe and to know that ‘I can do it.’”
“She has a genuine concern for each and every child she teaches,” principal Israel Taylor Jr. said. “For the ones she works with and the ones not directly under her, she could turn into a lioness to protect them.”
Taylor said Baker’s care and attention for her students is something indicative of Travis Elementary as a whole.
“Our mission is we want the best for each of our children,” Taylor said. “Where they are well-rounded and able to meet the ever-changing needs of our society.”