24-year Marine vet Educator of Year
Principal Glen Adair calls Sgt. Maj. Wayne Baker “a Marine who’s learned to be a really fine teacher.”
“He’s not easy, but the kids love him,” Adair said. “What a great guy he is.”
Education officials at the University of Nevada, Reno agree. Baker was named this year’s outstanding educator by the university.
The 24-year U.S. Marine Corps veteran, who has taught in Carson High School’s Naval Junior ROTC program for the last eight years, was “surprised and a little uncomfortable” to receive the award.
“In the Marines, we have a saying that goes, ‘If someone accuses you of being a Marine, is there enough evidence to prove that you are?'” he said. “I think I have enough evidence to prove I’m a Marine. I guess I never expected anyone to accuse me of being a teacher.
“I have a lot of respect for teachers. To be put on that platform with them was kind of a humbling experience.”
Wayne was born in Greenwood, Miss., in 1952. He joined the Marine Corps in 1970 and volunteered for MP duty in Danang, Vietnam. He spent nine months in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm and earned a Bronze Star.
After retiring from the Marines, Baker returned to college for two years before deciding to become a teacher.
He said the two-year gap turned out to be very important – he needed time to let go of the strict military discipline before entering the school system.
“I needed to wind down a little bit,” he said. “I still have to tell myself that I’m working with kids and not Marines. Kids are kids.”
He wasn’t always so understanding.
“When I first came here, it was a real eye-opener,” he said. “I couldn’t believe how some of these kids dressed. But I’ve adjusted and found out it has no bearing on their conduct or abilities. I don’t even look at a kid’s dress anymore, except in uniform.”
The biggest change, he said, is how he deals with discipline. Now, he refers discipline problems to the deans. For minor infractions, such as swearing or showing up late, he assigns 10 push-ups. And when he makes a mistake, he also does push-ups.
“It’s more for fun,” he explained. “It’s not a punishment. It’s a reminder that we don’t do these things.”
Although much has changed from the military, Baker sees many similarities as well.
“You learn that you’re dealing with a different level, but the best thing about the Marines was working with young troops,” he said. “It’s the same thing I’m doing here – making them better citizens.”
Baker will be honored during an awards ceremony at the university Thursday along with Maria Batt, lead custodian at Mark Twain Elementary School, who was named Outstanding Classified Employee.
Baker has been married to Candy for 24 years. His sons are Phillip, 25, and Billy, 21.