During her 37-year career Senator O’Connor College School principal Susan Baker has taught phys-ed, English and about two dozen of the teachers currently on the school’s staff — and now she’s being recognized as one of Canada’s best.
Baker was rewarded by the Learning Partnership as one of its Outstanding Principals for 2013 for her focus on both extracurriculars and academics at the school.
Five years ago, Senator O’Connor introduced advanced placement programs and a specialist high skills major in business which, according to the Ministry of Education’s website, allows grade 11 and 12 students to earn valuable industry certifications. And the fact that Baker’s school offers a plethora also didn’t go unnoticed by the judges.
“O’Connor boasts one of the largest co-curricular programs in the [school board] with over 40 school athletic teams and every club and activity imaginable in the arts, environmental stewardship and academics,” read one of the letters supporting Baker’s nomination.
Baker doesn’t take all the credit for her school’s successes and says the school makes use of many leaders, not just herself.
“I pride myself on the fact that I don’t have all the answers,” she says.
One of Baker’s former students, Ian Hedley says Baker, as a teacher, was ahead of her time and brings that same spirit into her role as principal.
“She always encouraged teachers to create their own dynamic classroom,” says Baker who is currently a math teacher at the school. “She’s very approachable, fair and a good listener.”
Another former student and current teacher Nancy Axford says Baker is as much her friend as her boss.
“I feel comfortable going to speak to her about any issue, personal or school-related,” she says in an email.
While Baker describes herself as an extremely shy person, she says she has been nurtured by the school community.
“I’m almost a product of the school itself,” she says.
And for Baker, who also won the Toronto Association of Parents in Catholic Education Principal of the Year Award in 2010, being a part of the school community is essential and winning the award reflects more than just her role as principal.
“My community knows me warts and all,” she says. “It’s a credit to the board that they saw my relationship with the school and allowed me to stay as long as I have.”
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