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ODOC Teacher of the Year helps students thrive after prison

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

TAFT, Okla -- A good teacher is one students remember and always cherish – a person who is passionate and prepared. ODOC teacher Trish Baker said, “It’s our job as a DOC teacher to help them build that foundation.” 

Trish Baker is building foundations at Eddie Warrior Correctional Center. She’s among the 93 accredited ODOC teachers who help inmates earn high school and college degrees while incarcerated. According to Baker, “Everybody is on an even keel that way. And to me, they are students. They are here to do job. They are here to make better decisions. They are here to better themselves. Education is the number one step to do that.” 

Her 23 year teaching career has been devoted entirely to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. 

Baker inspires effective study and work habits, and an overall sense of respect in the classroom. She teaches math, literacy and life skills. 

Sometimes the most important lessons aren’t found in a text book. Baker said, “For most of their life growing up they’ve been told they are worthless. They won’t amount to anything. They will never accomplish anything. Part of our job as DOC teachers is to change that mindset and to make them know they have worth.” 

She doesn't only teach from the head. In the best classrooms, heart is involved too. 

In order to create a successful environment, Baker builds caring relationships with her students. It’s that partnership that facilitates learning. Inmate Coraima Chavez said, “She’s always a motivator. She’s an amazing teacher. She speaks to us as a human. She doesn’t speak to us as an inmate. She knows we’ve been through a rough place. She understands us and is very nice about it. She shows us we have value, more than anyone I’ve ever met.” Teaching assistant Kimberly Vargas added, “Every day, I see it when they come out. They are in tears. They say she’s the one I’m going to miss the most. 

Trish Baker will likely never know how many lives she’s impacted. But on occasion, she is rewarded with a success story -- like the inmate who earned her g-e-d at Eddie Warrior and did great things beyond prison. Baker recalled, “She continued her education when she went out. She is now a lawyer practicing law in the state of Oklahoma and Texas. You did that? Not by myself. Not by a long shot. But you planted the seed. I hope so. But I think that seed was already there. I just pour water on it so it could grow.” 

We all have that one special teacher who framed our lives for the better. 

Because of Trish Baker, countless inmates who had lost all hope, have reason to believe in themselves again. According to Baker, “I hope I did make an impact for each student that crosses my classroom. Just so they can make better choices in life.”

Trish Baker – the 2019 Oklahoma Department of Corrections teacher of the year. 

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