PORTSMOUTH — Dan and Paula Baker are not only admired and respected educators in the St. Philomena School community — they are beloved. Always an example of kindness, the couple are excellent teachers and those who nominated them for a Lumen Gentium Award in Catholic Education agree, they are true models of Christian discipleship.
Honored by the diocesan award, Paula and Dan feel that this recognition is a way to shine light on the great works of their school community.
“I feel humbled by the award,” explained Paula. “But, we take it that we are symbols of all of the good that is going on at this school. It’s not necessarily about us. We appreciate it so much — the beautiful words that were written, said and thought.”
Dan and Paula Baker are two people who have made Catholic education their life’s work said nominator Jennifer Abbate, adding that between them they have given 90 years of their lives to Catholic education and have been teaching at St. Philomena School since 1971.
“There are many reasons why former students have sent their own children to St. Philomena School. Dan and Paula Baker are two important ones,” said Abbate. “Perhaps three words that can describe them both are energetic, kind and gentle. When Dan and Paula first started at St. Philomena School, there were many more Faithful Companions of Jesus Sisters on the faculty, and a unique trait of the charism of FCJs is gentleness. Today, the school is still owned and operated by the Sisters, but the faculty and administration is comprised of all lay people.”
She added that the Bakers are a big part of why that charism lives on and are helping to teach it to their students through their actions.
“The Sisters had such a unique way of teaching and being with the children,” said Paula. “I think we learned that from them. We take what they taught us and carry that with us.”
“When we came to St. Phil’s, the Sisters totally trusted what we were doing because the children were learning,” said Dan. “There was the freedom to teach and the school continues to do that. The parents are so on board with all of that. They are really all in as far as supporting all that we do.”
For the Bakers, there have been so many blessings from being a married couple, living out their vocation to educate together at St. Philomena’s. Dan explains that it was his wife’s example that taught him to become the teacher that he is today.
“She would say I have a natural ability, but the professionalism of being a teacher I think I learned from my wife,” said Dan. “Paula will not only teach them the ABC’s, but they also know that they are loved.”
Along with their own family and their school family, for Dan and Paula Baker they are each other’s greatest blessing.
“He’s the best teacher there is. He brings the joy,” said Paula.
“But, Paula brings the heart,” added Dan. “We really complement each other.”