By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Back in 1974 Bobby Baker began his career in education as Ripley High School’s art teacher.
The Wynne, Ark., native called the West Tennessee school home for 33 years. While with the Tigers, Baker was a teacher and in administration for 14 years concluding his stay as principal.
After a quick stop in the business world with Herff Jones Graduation Supplies, Baker quenched his desire to return to teaching by once again taking an art teacher job — this time at Tipton-Rosemark Academy.
And just like at Ripley, Baker is taking on more responsibility by accepting the Head of Schools position, effective July 1, at TRA.
“I heard about the art job here and thought it would be a good place to finish my career,” Baker acknowledged. “Teaching art is where I started. Lo and behold, six years later I’m here. Which through no planning of my own.
“It’s the 11th hour I guess,” he continued. “I was approached and asked if I had thought about it. I really didn’t seek this position to begin with. But I really thought I could be of service to TRA. So I threw my hat into the ring. The rest is history, here I am.”
Baker replaces the longest serving Head of Schools in the modern era for Rosemark, John Scott. Originally the heir to the position was Stephen Steiner. But that deal wouldn’t come to fruition leaving the spot available.
“I accepted it to be because it is a great place here,” Baker said. “Very family atmosphere and we pretty much know each other. Teachers know me through seeing me. The parents know me because I talk to their kids.
“Big shoes definitely, a lot of what TRA is today is because of John Scott,” he added. “That is pressure. He’s brought this school to the level it is at now. The facilities are in great shape. I hope to continue to build upon that.”
Scott served as Head of Schools for more than a decade overseeing new classroom technology, the building of the high school and performing arts center and several individual awards for faculty and students.
Baker has been a vital part of that growth the past six years serving outside of the classroom as a photographer, groundskeeper and faculty sponsor.
“What I bring to the table is an understanding of wanting to work toward making it a safer and more of a Christ-like situation for every student,” he said.
Christ and family are the two top priorities for Baker. He and his wife Jo have two daughters Jessica and Alex. Alex was expecting Baker’s first grandchild at the time of this interview.
The Wynne High School and Arkansas State graduate became a part of the fabric at Ripley High School for three decades.
“I think sometimes we don’t understand what we do effects other people more than we think,” he said. “Especially with these kids when they grow up to make decisions.”
On Aug. 6 the teachers of TRA will report back for in-service. Four days later the children return for the 2018-19 school year. But prior to the first school year under the guidance of Baker, he will be busy filling up positions, meeting with leadership and looking for additional ways to grow the school.
“I would not be here if this is not for me,” Baker concluded. “It’s serious business. I felt like this is where God wanted me.”
By Thomas Sellers Jr.