Kat Baker

kat wearing sunglasses in manitou springs

Class of 2003, Astronomy Emphasis and Math minor

Science teacher, Fountain Valley School of Colorado

I work at Fountain Valley School of Colorado. I am a science teacher and I also am the tech theatre director and the co-director of the interim program. The interim is one week in March when students leave campus and go on some sort of experiential education project. Some of them stay in Colorado but most leave the state and half of the trips leave the country. Last year during the interim, I took a group of twelve students to Tokyo. We looked at the interplay of modern technology and ancient culture in the city.
What I like most are the students that I get to have in class. I am probably a bit biased because physics is not a requirement so my students choose to be in my class. I teach physics, robotics, engineering, and this spring I'll be teaching a new astronomy class. The students I have in class are genuinely curious and interested to learn about how things work.
Right after graduation, I was the paraprofessional for a year in the physics department. After that, I went to graduate school at the University of Oklahoma. I went with the intention of earning my Ph.D. But once I finished my master coursework, I realized that research was not something I was that interested in. I really wanted to teach and I particularly liked teaching at the high school level, so I decided then that I would get out with my master's degree and start working. After that, I worked at the Oklahoma School of Science and Math for four years teaching physics. Later, I worked in a day school in Dallas teaching physics, engineering, and robotics for another four years. And now, for the last five years, I've been here at Fountain Valley School.
I did a couple of research projects over the summer while I was at CC and did not enjoy them. I'm not a fan of writing or feeling the pressure to publish research results. I would much rather only be in the classroom with students and not have to deal with the research and publishing side of things. I also had an internship in grad school working with high school students and I found that I enjoyed working with them on the engineering projects far more than I had even with college students as a paraprofessional. I knew from that point that high school teaching is what I really wanted to do.
One of the ones that stuck out to me was when we had a half-block holography class. We were able to make holograms and in order to do that process the building and everything needed to be still as possible. We taped over the air conditioning vents and came in at two in the morning to set up our hologram lab area.

For me what it has meant is having the confidence to be able to go after the things that I am interested in. I had prior success with math but physics felt like the first thing I had to really struggle with and then persist and get through it. I did not do so well in my very first 241 class but it was the kick in the butt I needed to figure out how to learn and how to handle college classes. After that when things started to click, I found that being in an area where problems had a specific solution was incredibly helpful for me. Having something that I am both good at and enjoy doing has given my life a purpose that I can feel confident about and is something I enjoy doing, especially on the teaching side of things.

When I was starting at CC, I never would have thought I would be a teacher at all. Even throughout my time at CC when I had amazing professors, I didn't really get how fun it could be to be a teacher. It wasn't until I was paraprof and working with students in the lab that it really clicked with me how much I connected with teaching. One of the things I am most surprised by also is how much of a lifestyle it is to teach at a boarding school. I am on duty at night in the dorm, I am doing weekend activities with the students. It's not a 9 to 5. It's a lot of hours, but it really is a lot of fun.

When I was in high school, I thought I was going to do something related to pure math. I had no idea what that would look like but if someone asked that's what I would say. And then in college, I really connected with physics. The only reason I signed up for physics was that I thought it would look good and help my chances of getting into CC as a female physics major. It was really at CC that I developed my love for physics. I loved seeing how much you can accomplish with physics and how the problems will have one answer. I had always struggled with subjects where the answers to questions might be objective. I was horrible at picking out what the main theme of a section of writing was, but physics had concrete answers that were verifiable.

When I got here and found out about the interim program, I developed a passion for helping the students have that experience. I went through the process of leading trips, then developing my own trips, then working with the committee. Now, this is the first year I am acting as the co-director for the program. I have developed my passion for experiential education and having the students go out into the real world. I also have the opportunity to share the things I am interested in with the students in multiple ways here on campus. I teach the robotics class here and volunteer at robotics competitions, I have students volunteer with me. If I have an interest in something there are venues to share that. We are encouraged to share our passions and hobbies with our students.

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