Elkhart Central teacher makes top ten for Indiana Teacher of the Year

Sep 11, 2017


Kristin Baker (in the tan sweater) watches her drama students play improv games in her classroom at Elkhart Central High School on September 6, 2017.
Credit Jennifer Weingart

Kristin Baker, a teacher at Elkhart Central High School, has made the top ten in Indiana Teacher of the Year competition.

Kristen Baker’s drama students teach each other improv games in her classroom. Baker said she likes to let the students in her drama and speech classes dictate the direction of her instruction..

“We have got to be more innovative to where they’re excited to come to school,” Baker said, “Because they are curious. They are insatiable learners so we need to tap into that instead of being like I need to dictate to you knowledge that you need to know. We need to find out where they are and what they’re excited about and spiral from there.”

Baker said when students learn creatively they do better in life.

“Knowledge is on Google. I mean, yeah it’s important to have a base content knowledge of subject areas but what employers are looking for is creativity, collaboration, compassion, out of the box critical thinking, problem solving, leadership. And those things are not on any standardized test,” she said.

Last year Baker turned a class assignment to give a performance based on a life experience into an original play. It featured students telling stories about simple things like first crushes and first kisses to  heavier topics like being raised by deaf parents, having cerebral palsy, and losing a brother to gang violence.

She said she thinks that’s what caught the Teacher of the Year judges’ attention. She said she plans on doing that show in the school every four years.

Baker is also part of a team working on creating a similar community-wide show of storytelling called “Stage for Change” in the Spring.

Baker said her favorite part of teaching is seeing the transformations in her students.

“My classes are a system to build confidence and get rid of fear. And so seeing that happen in just one semester such an awesome thing,” she said.

Baker is the only arts teacher in the top ten. She said winning would be an opportunity to speak out for the arts.

“It would be really neat to be the Indiana State Teacher of the Year just because I’m an arts teacher and usually they’re in the more traditional subjects,” Baker said, “so I think it would be nice to be able to advocate for teachers of the arts.”

The final 10 candidates for teacher of the year will be interviewed by a committee, then some will be selected for classroom observations. The top three will be chosen and the winner announced in November.