By Richard Rourk
An Erwin resident has been honored by Greene County Schools as one of the school system’s Teachers of the Year. The educators were honored during a monthly meeting of the Greene County Board of Education on Thursday, May 26.
Tara Hamlin Baker was named Chuckey-Doak High School Teacher of the Year.
“I am greatly humbled,” Baker said. “For the last four years, I have watched teachers throughout the Greene County school system be declared the teacher of the year at their respective schools and hoped that one day I would earn such an honorable award at Chuckey Doak High School.”
She was selected by her peers for the honor.
“Co-workers do get to vote each year for the teacher that they believe to be the Teacher of the Year, so long as the teacher has taught for at least five years at the school,” Baker said.
“It’s hard for me to say that it is important for me to be recognized by my peers because I have never really had the mindset of needing to be recognized or needing to feel popular even when I was in high school,” she noted.
“I think it’s more important to understand that at CDHS we are a family,” Baker said. “We might be a hot mess at times, but we are a family at the end of the day and my ‘peers’ are truly people that I love and support with my whole heart. It’s important to know that a lot of times teachers spend most of their time with each other, often I spend more time in my school than I ever spend at home and that’s the same for many teachers here at CDHS. We are together throughout the school day, ball games, organizing activities, planning events, prepping for the next thing on the agenda, and so on – in doing so, you really do get to know the people that work alongside you, if you are lucky — and I have been so lucky.”
CDHS Principal Steven Broyles was pleased to see Baker elected to serve as “Teacher of the Year” for 2022 for CDHS.
“We are very proud of Tara,” Broyles said. “We are a tight-knit family here and Tara wears a lot of hats.”
As Baker begins prep work for next year, she has taken a moment to reflect on what this designation means to her.
“In being selected for the ‘Teacher of the Year’ by the very people that helped me navigate the hallways my first year, that cried alongside me each time I grieved, that supported my business ventures, that watched me take on a new position this year with an overwhelming amount of responsibility and that taught me and continue to teach me to believe in myself — that’s what makes this a really special moment for me,” she said.
Finding balance and multitasking, two important tools of any teacher, are not new for her.
“It’s certainly not been easy attempting to find the balance and keep going and I won’t pretend like I have that answer or that I am even close to having it figured out,” Baker said. “What I can say is that I have learned that the hardships I have experienced in my life have truly given me the grit and determination needed to carry on in situations that require more than most from a person.”
She said she has also learned that if people truly do care about or are passionate about something, they will find a way to do it all.
“Lastly, mindset is everything,” she insisted. “In my mind, I have only been doing what I can to positively benefit my co-workers, my students, and my school,” Baker said.
“I would rather be exhausted and make an impact than be full of energy,” Baker said. “More often than not, this equates to my energy being shifted around like a ball inside of a pinball machine, but eventually, it will hit the target and when it doesn’t, I just pull the lever and try again.”
Baker said that having a strong support system is paramount in finding success in life.
“While this isn’t a Grammy or an Oscar, I do have a few people that I would like to thank and one final thought to share,” she said. “Thank you to my awesome husband, Michael Baker, and family, who somehow deal with all of my chaos and love me unconditionally despite it.”
Michael Baker serves as an alderman with the Erwin Board of Mayor and Aldermen.
“Thank you to my CDHS Black Knight family,” she added. “You all have given me so much and I am forever grateful.”
She also had some thoughts on the teaching profession itself.
“Given the world that we are all living in, I couldn’t celebrate this achievement and not acknowledge the fact that teachers across America deserve more,” Baker said. “I can only continue to hope that, in the future, the profession will see the respect that it deserves, the safety and security that it desperately needs and the support from those that are in positions to make actual change.”