Phil Baker is an instructor for the Access Education programs at the University of Winnipeg (U of W). This is his 50th year as an educator.
Photo by Keeley Braunstein-Black
“I’ve taught for 31 years in the public school system. I worked as a teacher, school psychologist, special education co-ordinator and principal,” he says.
After his time in public schools, Baker joined the U of W in 2000 as an instructor and academic advisor in Access Education. He was soon appointed as the executive director of the department.
During his time at the U of W, Baker developed the Community-based Aboriginal Teacher Education program, Immigrant Teacher Education program and the Winnipeg Education Centre program. With curriculums like these, Baker aims to pave paths forward for disadvantaged communities, immigrants, inner-city students and Indigenous groups.
“We try to make a difference in people’s lives,” he says.
In 2013, he was given the Marsha Hanen Award for Excellence in Creating Community Awareness for his efforts in providing opportunities through education to Indigenous communities, marginalized groups and disadvantaged people.
“I’ve always been interested in students of all ages. The WEC (Winnipeg Education Centre) program is 50 per cent Indigenous, 25 per cent newcomers and 25 per cent low-income students,” Baker says.
He shares a connection with his students and stays committed to his role as an instructor. Though he’s been a teacher for 50 years, he says he still learns a lot from his students.
“I’ve learnt how strong my students are,” he says. “If I had the issues they’ve had, I wouldn’t be able to function. These are stories of resilience and how they overcome.”
Through his teaching and programs, Baker continually urges and motivates his students to grow and excel.
“Everybody needs opportunities. I call my students in the Access programs diamonds in the rough. With opportunities and a little bit of polishing, they shine and do remarkably well,” he says.
What was your worst grade in university?
“It was in chemistry. I got a C. I am an arts teacher and found out quickly that science is not for me.”
What is one piece of advice you’d like to give to your students? “Have a dream (and) pursue it. It might be hard, but keep trying. It will be worth it.”
What is the best thing about your work?
“The best thing about my work is the relationships – the relationships with my students, colleagues, staff and the partnerships I’ve established over the years with the school divisions. It’s all about relationship-building.”