Educator Exhibits Passion for Community Colleges

Although Deborah “Debbie” Baker had “no intention of becoming a teacher” when she began her undergraduate studies, the field couldn’t escape her, as it almost runs through her blood.

“I come from a long line of teachers,” she said. “My grandmother was a teacher, my mom was a teacher.”

It wasn’t until she began taking education courses that Baker fell “in love” with teaching and the impact she could make on a student’s life. Once she found her way in the classroom, she “never looked back.”

Several years after Baker completed her bachelor’s degree in English from California State Polytechnic University-Pomona, she began working as a high school English teacher, mainly in southern California.

“I teach students, not content,” she said, adding that teachers have to be versatile and interdisciplinary in their approach. “I’m most interested in learning and providing opportunities for students to learn regardless of the subject,” Baker added.

After completing a master’s degree in educational technology at DeVry University in 2012, Baker enrolled in a Ed.D. program in higher education and community college leadership at Northern Arizona University.

She joined the University of Phoenix faculty in May 2012, where she served in several positions, working as a program design manager for the College of Education, an instructional designer, an English and communications adjunct faculty member, and an academic assessment manager.

Today, Baker currently serves as an instructional designer for the Maricopa Center for Learning and Innovation (MCLI) for the Maricopa County Community College District, with its headquarters based in Tempe, Arizona. As one of the three instructional designers in the MCLI, Baker works to support the professional development needs of the faculty, administrators and staff across the 10 independently accredited colleges in the district to provide them with quality services, programs and resources for Maricopa students.

In this role, Baker is still able to provide opportunities for students to learn, but instead of doing so directly in the classroom, she works with the faculty and administrators to support student success across the college.

“So rather than working with individual faculty on individual course development or materials or creation or content or any of that,” she said, “what we do is much more about what kinds of professional development do we need across the district to support district initiatives, and also, not just supporting the needs of the district-identified needs, but what are the needs that we’re hearing come to us from the faculty across the district that we can then provide professional development around?”

The programs that are supported in the faculty professional development services include faculty development committee, Maricopa Excellence in Teaching, learning grants, Maricopa Summer Institute, Maricopa Institute for Learning Research Fellowship, adjunct faculty personal growth, faculty personal growth and learnshops/workshops.

The MCLI also offers innovative international/intercultural education services that helps faculty members prepare students for successful participation in the global community. Maricopa programs that benefit from this resource include study abroad, global forums, faculty professional development abroad, international partnerships, student global leadership training and international travel review.

The services and events that the center conducts are also open to higher ed faculty and administrators outside of the district as well, Baker said.

“We’ve done some workshops, in person, on-site at specific colleges,” Baker said. “We’ve done conferences and day-long events – bringing in outside speakers that we coordinate and work with, faculty and administration across the district to plan and coordinate those events to ensure that they meet the needs of the faculty. We’re [also] starting to do more with online professional development as well. Webinars, things like that.”

Working in the Maricopa Center for Learning and Innovation is a lot of fun, Baker said.

“It’s very creative. It’s very dynamic and there’s always something new going around here,” she added. “So there’s always something, a new project to dig into,” which makes the work exciting.

Outside of the professional development events, Baker also helps restructure Maricopa’s developmental education policies such as the Guided Pathways program where she works in collaboration with the district’s leaders in those areas.

Looking to the future, Baker’s first goal is to finish her doctoral studies at Northern Arizona.

“I intend to stay in the community college system and remain focused on student learning,” she said. “That’s my goal.”

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