BY JACLYN ROSE –
The daughter of two educators, Sherry Baker proudly followed in the footsteps of her parents with her career of choice. This year she retired from Rich Mountain Community College after 37 years of dedicated teaching.
Baker was born in Jonesboro, Arkansas, but moved several times back and forth between northeast Arkansas and southwest Missouri. After graduating high school Baker went on to obtain two degrees from Arkansas State University and one degree from the University of Arkansas, all in the area of vocational education.
In the summer of 1977, Baker applied for three different open positions at various vo-tech schools in the state of Arkansas, one of those was at Rich Mountain Vo-Tech. When interviewing with then President, Dr. Spencer, Baker was confident her single status would prevent her from receiving the job offer and was confident she would instead hear from a different school. Several days later, however, she received the call from Dr. Spencer and after a couple days of considering, accepted the job and moved to Mena. “I graduated on August 12, moved to Mena on August 14, started to work on August 15, and Elvis died the next day. I thought, uh-oh! The world is coming to an end,” Baker said with a laugh.
It was her plan to simply stay in Mena for two years and gain some experience before moving on but as it turned out, Baker met her husband, Charlie, in Hot Springs and married him on July 7, 1979. “My friend told me if I married before age 26, I would not be an old maid, I married Charlie exactly one week before my 25th birthday. Marriage requires a lot of give. You have to learn quickly that it is not about you. I’m sure there were times that either of us could have walked out with just a little bit of convincing but I learned from my mom and dad who were married just shy of 55 years, when my dad passed away, that when things aren’t quite right you just have to wait until the smoke settles and find the real fire,” said Baker.
The Bakers are blessed with two daughters, Betsy and Carrie, and two beautiful granddaughters, Bailey and Bevin and loved raising their girls in Polk County. “I always heard good things about Mena Public Schools and there were some teachers that we didn’t necessarily want our girls to have, but we left it in God’s hands and they both always had great teachers,” Baker stated.
Throughout her tenure at Rich Mountain Community College as an Office Technology Instructor, Baker has seen many changes. “I quickly learned not to say, ‘it can’t get better than this!’ I started out with 24 electric typewriters, then moved to memory typewriters, then to magnetic card typewriters, and you could save stuff and I thought that was pretty cool and you couldn’t get better than that,” explained Baker. “Then we had a stand alone word processor with an eight inch floppy disk and I thought, this is great, it can’t get better! Then we started getting computers and I shut up! With each new technology it just gets better.”
In 1992, Baker started the Baptist Student Union, now called the Baptist Collegiate Union, with only a handful of students. “Getting it going was a real slow process, I started with a noonday program with lunches on Friday from 11am to 1pm and two people showed up, then four people showed up and I was so discouraged, but it was never about numbers,” explained Baker. Currently, there are 13 churches on board to prepare lunch and approximately 40 students that attend regularly. This is a ministry Baker, with the support of President Wilson and Rich Mountain Community College, plans to continue after her retirement.
“When I think about my time here I think about the verse in Jeremiah, ‘For I know the plans I have for you, declares The Lord,’ God knew, even though I did not. I cried from Lake City to Little Rock thinking I had made a mistake, but He knew this was the right place for me,” Baker said with a smile.