Position: Physical Education Teacher/Sports Coach
School: Highland Park Middle School
School District: Highland Park Independent School District
City, State: Dallas, Texas
About the Nominee: Jay Baker was nominated by Maria McLendon, the parent of a student. Coach Baker is the physical education teacher at Highland Park Middle School, as well as the coach of the middle school Boys' Cross Country and Track team. His nominator, Ms. McLendon, says that her son has flourished since joining the Cross Country team and has benefited tremendously from Coach Baker's mentorship.
Coach Baker is focused on building a team with heart that nurtures and cares for one another. When attending practice and training for meets, Ms. McLendon's son is not simply developing physical strength and endurance. He is also learning values such as compassion, camaraderie, teamwork and tenacity. In every communication that Coach Baker sends to team parents, he talks about how much his athletes are learning and improving. He also talks about how hard they're working, how proud he is of the men they're becoming and the sportsmanship they are demonstrating to one another and their peers. Coach Baker never mentions winning or losing because that is not his focus. His focus is developing athletes with character.
According to Ms,. McLendon, Coach Baker's LifeChanger status was solidified for her when she attended her son's first cross country meet. At the end of the meet, the boys huddled with Coach Baker and he told them how proud he was of their improvement, behavior and performance. He asked the boys to stand and they put their arms around each other's shoulders. Coach Baker bellowed, "On this team, what's your job?" In unison, the boys responded, "To love each other!" Coach Baker asked, "And, what's my job?" The boys responded, "To love us!" Ms. McLendon said she had tears in her eyes watching this huddle! She knows her son is getting good direction in so much more than athletics because of Coach Baker's mentorship.