Garnished with new speed bumps and a mound of dirt next to McFall Hall, Collegiate has welcomed several new faculty this fall. Among them is Philadelphia native Sarah Baker, the new Assistant Head of the Upper School.
Sarah Baker was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She attended The Episcopal Academy, a K-12 private school similar to Collegiate, for 13 years. Her favorite class in high school was Latin, but her relationship with the language wasn’t love at first sight. She claims that she struggled with the different structure of Latin in middle school. Baker remembers her ninth grade Latin teacher spending her lunch period working with her on her Latin skills until it all clicked. She recalled, “After years of what felt like running on a treadmill, I finally started to gain ground.” As Baker began getting better in Latin, her appreciation for the language grew, and she continued to study it throughout high school and college. Baker said it was the dedicated teachers she had at school, like her Latin teacher, that eventually inspired her to become a teacher herself.
Graduating from The Episcopal Academy, in 2001, Baker went on to Duke University with the intention of following in her parents’ footsteps and studying law. It wasn’t until her junior year that she realized her true calling in life is giving back to the world by teaching. After graduating, she spent a year teaching Latin at The Agnes Irwin School in Philadelphia before going back to get her masters degree in educational leadership from The University of Pennsylvania. She is coming to Collegiate from the same school she went to as a student, The Episcopal Academy in Philadelphia, where she was an English teacher and class dean.
When hearing about the opening of the Assistant Head of Upper School position here at Collegiate, Baker considered it a “’How could I not?’ moment in life.” “If I could have custom-designed a job for my next step, this would be it,” Baker comments on her job here. Her primary focus as Assistant Head of the Upper School is to ensure that students are fully supported in their academic endeavors. She will be working with both teachers and administrators with the goal of creating a “challenging and supportive intellectual and academic environment for every student here.” In addition to performing her duties as Assistant Head, Baker is also teaching one section of English 9. Excited to be able to teach the high school newcomers, Baker remarks that English 9 meets students at a “nexus of the concrete and the abstract,” and she feels lucky to be able to guide them through the transformation. “It’s going to be a fun year,” she said with a smile. One of her students, Caroline Laskin (‘20), says that Baker “seems really nice.” Laskin proceeds to describe the cookies that Baker brought for the class that were from Saint-Malo, France, the setting of their summer reading book. Matthew Gelozin (‘17), who is recovering from leg surgery, is grateful for all of the help he received from Baker about missing class and post-surgery arrangements. “She tried to make everything as easy as possible for me,” he comments sincerely.
In a perfect fusion of coincidence and irony, Sarah Baker loves to bake. She enjoys cooking at home, reading cookbooks, and restaurant hopping. “When I joke with people, I tell them: Collegiate is great and all, but I’m really here [in Richmond] for the food,” Baker comments on the emerging restaurant scene in Richmond. Given the choice of any sort of English elective to teach, Baker says hers would be in food writing. In addition to being a foodie, Baker also enjoys practicing yoga, reading (no surprise there), and spending time with her two dogs. Wherever you might come across Baker, either greeting students in the parking lot, working in her office by the Sharp Cafe, or at a sports game after school, she always possesses the same enthusiasm that Collegiate is so lucky to have. Please help to welcome Ms. Baker to Collegiate!
Featured photo courtesy of Sarah Baker.