Our Staff Are Superheroes: Ms. Baker and the Power of Selflessness

(Photo by Claire Jensen)

(Photo by Claire Jensen)

Sofiya Ivanova, Reporter

When Principal Rauschkolb hired Michelle Baker, he was so new to the job that he wasn’t even living in the state yet. “I’m gonna be honest with you, it was kind of weird actually,” he says as he describes the process of sitting down at his computer in Ohio and using the closest thing to Zoom they had in 2014 to try to find the right person to be his new secretary, “[…] but it’s turned out wonderfully, she’s by far the best secretary I’ve ever worked with. I just saw a lot of myself in her and felt she would be a really good teammate, and, over time, that has proven to be 100% true.”

 

When asked to describe Miss Baker’s role, Mr. Rauschkolb said that he depends on her to run the office and take charge of the other secretaries and clerks. “She takes care of the principals with whatever we need.” With evident affection, he continues, “She literally does a thousand things every single day, and she’s very responsible and hardworking, she multi-tasks very well, and through everything, she’s super kind and she has a sense of humor. Most of all, she loves being around kids.”

 

Ms. Baker would no doubt squirm at this kind of praise; she is also humble and not the type of person to seek the spotlight, even though she clearly deserves it. Initially nervous about being interviewed, she sits down to speak with me at one of the picnic tables outside of the school during a rare window in her schedule. Michelle (“What’s your middle name?” “Oh, we’re not talking about that”) Baker was born… at some point in time (when asked about her birthday she said, self-effacingly, “it’s just another day, right?”) and grew up in a little town in Iowa, really close with all of her extended family. After high school, she went to live in Massachusetts to be a nanny, where she met her ex-husband, with whom she moved to Colorado. This was followed by a string of jobs, all related to kids in one way or another; Ms. Baker started her own nanny agency, then taught all-level kids’ gymnastics, then worked at a preschool, and finally became the Principal Secretary at Niwot High School. “Crazy thing is, a lot of the kids I taught gymnastics to and went to the same preschool I worked at, they’re now kids here. So I got to reconnect with them, which is awesome.”

“So it sounds like it was a conscious choice to work with kids?” I prompt.

 

“Absolutely,” Ms. Baker replies without hesitation. “I’ve enjoyed helping other people and trying to get kids back on the right path… you know, special needs kids, kids that are struggling, it’s always kind of been my passion.”

 

Michelle says that she had to leave the preschool she worked at and apply for this position because she didn’t feel challenged, or like she was growing. According to Michelle, this job challenges her. “I do a lot of things. Every day is different. Discipline happens, attendance calls, helping the health clerks, helping the counselors… There’s never a dull moment and it’s never the same day twice.” She pauses. “I love that.”

 

Her interactions with kids are overwhelmingly positive, but kids who make bad choices make her job more difficult. She describes a situation where she and a student who had made some bad decisions slowly came to an understanding. Her patience is truly admirable. “Even when kids are making bad choices, I really like having them there to mentor them and help them through it.” She hopes that, if you’re struggling and you feel like you might be heading down the wrong path, you’re able to turn to her for help, whether that be just hanging out in silence, getting a hug or a snack, or taking from the stash of candy at her desk that she always keeps fully stocked. “We don’t always have to talk,” she says, “and even if [the kids] make the worst decision on the planet, yelling doesn’t get you anywhere. We all make bad decisions. Learn from it, that’s the biggest thing.”

 

Earnestly, she goes on, “I really enjoy being here to help kiddos and chat with them and be a part of their day, because sometimes they don’t have much as far as adult interaction in a positive way.”

 

As corroborated by Mr. Rauschkolb, Michelle doesn’t just talk the talk, she also walks the walk. “There have been multiple times when Ms. Baker has gone out of her way to help students and their families in need. Whether it’s providing a pair of shoes or glasses to a family that can’t afford it or taking meals to people who have suffered loss or connecting people with anything from orthodontics to doctors, she just goes out of her way to help people in any way she can and it doesn’t necessarily have to be work-related.”

Ms. Baker’s heart is large enough to fit unconditional love for both humans… and dogs. She has fostered a total of 78 dogs, and the most she’s had at one time was 9–a mama and 8 babies. Attached below is a picture of the most recent recipient of her care, Gunner. Lastly, her one word of advice to the students of Niwot High school is, “High school is hard. Make the best of it, use it as the opportunity to do and try things that you wouldn’t normally do. Take risks— something I didn’t do in high school.”

 

(Photo by Claire Jensen) 

(Photo by Ms. Baker)