Welcome back to the POP QUIZ! This is a regular, yet totally unexpected, feature where we ask students, parents, staff, our friends, and partners to answer a few questions about what they are learning, reading, and thinking about. Today we feature Montrell Baker. Now in his second year as CIS Site Coordinator for Loy Norrix High School, Montrell serves in the very school he graduated from in 2001! As a young student, Montrell attended Lincoln for kindergarten, Parkwood Upjohn from first through sixth grade, and then Milwood Magnet Middle School. Montrell went on to earn two Master Degrees from Western Michigan University, in Education Leadership and Sport Management. A proud KPS parent of eight-year-old Luke, Montrell works closely with his CIS site team at Loy Norrix to help students stay in school and achieve in life. As he puts it, “You won’t get rich working with youth, but the reward comes from seeing them grow and get better at something. That is payment in itself.”
Alright, Mr. Baker: pencil out, eyes on your own paper. Good luck.
What is something interesting you’ve recently learned?
I’ve been researching alkaline diets. I’m learning about consuming more green, leafy vegetables and limiting dairy products and meat consumption.
I tend to use the word smooth a lot. It fits my personality because I’m quiet and laid back. That’s how I want life to be—smooth. As in let’s have a smooth transition. Let’s have a smooth day today.
What are you currently reading?
I’m good at starting books but don’t always finish them. Right now I’m reading The 50th Law by 50 Cent. It’s based on a book written by Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power.
Will you finish this one?
I will. My sister got me the book. She’s a big reader and can usually find books that keep my attention.
You graduated from Loy Norrix High School. Thinking back to your years with the Kalamazoo Public Schools, who was one of your favorite teachers?
Three come to mind. Mr. [Derek] Wheaton was my second grade teacher at Parkwood. He was a great, great teacher. I saw him recently during TJ Duckett’s Turkey Drive and he recognized me, even remembered my first and last name.
Mr. [Adam] Hosler was my math teacher at Norrix. He was knowledgeable, funny and allowed me to be myself in class. Math was my favorite subject. He’d write out his agenda and assignments for the week. When I’d finished all my work, he gave me more. He worked with me and kept my attention. He’s still teaching at Norrix.
Coach Chris Andrews—he’s now Portage Northern’s head baseball coach—he was one of my favorite coaches I’ve ever encountered. He knew how to relate with student athletes, knew how to discipline and keep us on track. We were 8-1 in football. Being a coach now [coaching his son’s team and having coached Linden Grove Middle School girls and boys hoops and football at Kalamazoo Central] I tailor my style after Coach Andrews.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
When I was a kid I wanted to be a head coach for varsity football. As I got older, that changed to athletic director/assistant principal. Now as a Site Coordinator, I have the opportunity to serve in a leadership capacity, supporting students by overseeing the supports and programs that come through our school-based program. I really enjoy working with the youth.
Behind every successful student is a caring adult. Who is your caring adult?
Two. My mom and my grandad. My mom she always instilled in my sister and me early on to be a leader and not a follower. Always give your best and work hard. Let your work speak for you. You don’t need to be much of a talker. Let your actions speak for you. My mom’s always there for moral support. When I was younger, she was there at 95% of my school and sporting events, cheering me on.
My grandfather, Les Owens, instilled discipline in me, taught me that once I start something I have to finish it. Don’t quit. Be a man of your word. Be a man of confidence. I looked up to him as a kid. He was a deacon in the church and he also coached rocket football. Growing up in Northside neighborhood, I’d see all types of people look up to him and come to him for help.
Thank you, Montrell!