Emily Baker, Rec & Ed Child Care Site Specialist

Emily Baker grew up in Midland a couple of hours north of Ann Arbor in the Great Lakes Bay region. She is the oldest of three children, born to a stay-at-home mother and a father who worked as a real estate appraiser. Baker enjoyed reading and writing and playing sports growing up. Her avid reading habits were influenced by her mother’s book collection, and her love of playing soccer was inherited from her father’s athleticism.

Baker attended Central Michigan University and pursued English in secondary education. Having years of experience working with school-age children, she decided to switch gears and seek a career in elementary education.

In 2018, Baker accepted a job as the Child Care Site Supervisor at Angell Elementary. The following school year, she stepped into her current role as the Child Care Site Specialist. This past fall, she had the privilege of reopening the Angell aftercare program and reconnecting with the staff and families she met during her first year working for Rec and Ed. In January, Baker reopened the Wines aftercare program alongside her colleague and Program Director Veronica Nola. The two are currently supervising the program. 

During Baker’s five years with Rec & Ed, she has shown a gift for connecting with students, parents, and staff, says Jenna Bacolor, the district’s executive director of Community Division, Student and School Health.

“Her work this year to develop and provide high quality, engaging lesson plans and materials to all program sites is an extension of her commitment to all of these groups,” says Bacolor. “Feedback has been very positive!”

Baker resides in Ypsilanti with her husband and cat, whom they spoil with love and chin scratches. The pair spends their days trying new restaurants on the weekend and tent camping in the summer.

What do you enjoy most about your job?
I love building authentic connections with my students. They make me laugh, they keep me on my toes, and I’m impressed by the ways they express their creativity when we provide them with art projects.

I’ve also had the wonderful opportunity of working at many of our AAPS elementary schools. It’s allowed me to continually forge new relationships within our community. I’ve been able to witness the wonderful work of our many principals, teachers, office professionals, custodians, and other staff. It makes me proud to be a part of such a caring, inclusive community.

Can you describe a typical day?
I work on the administrative team and on-site at our Before and After Care programs.  My work days generally involve responding to staff needs, program planning, and supervising aftercare.

How important is Before and After Childcare for parents in AAPS?
Our Before and After Care programs are a critical service for parents in AAPS. Across socio-economic brackets, many households have two working parents. Parents rely on childcare so they can work, contribute to the community, and provide for their families. Our programs help bridge the gap between parents’ work schedules and the school day.

How do you make the after-care hours an enriching time for students?
Our programs offer structured free-choice activities in art, literacy, science, and physical activity. Students have the opportunity to engage in free play, have fun with friends on the playground, and participate in instructor-led art and science projects.

What would you most want people to know about AAPS Rec & Ed?
AAPS Rec & Ed offers a wide variety of services for our community. Our organization provides infant, toddler, and early childhood classes; runs camps during school breaks; offers enrichment and fitness classes for youth and adults; hosts the popular Safety Town program in the summer; offers youth and adult sports programs; and provides before and after school care during the school year.

What can you tell us about the new approach to Rec & Ed programming you developed that your boss, Jenna Bacolor, says has improved program quality and made staff happy?
Our Extended Day Program Before and After Care team has enacted our vision of serving as an extension of the school day. We want our programs to complement our students’ educational experiences during that time. Program directors Veronica Nola and Tamiko Davis have helped me create monthly program activities for our seven sites running childcare. These activities reflect what students are learning in class. We’ve celebrated national observances, such as Black History Month, International Volunteer Day, Reading Month, Social Emotional Learning Day, and Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

It’s been a joy to experience students’ enthusiasm as they celebrated International Volunteer Day by making blankets and donating them to children in need through Project Linus, and as they celebrated Black History Month by creating Alma Thomas and Jean-Michel Basquiat-inspired art, and conducting a wind tunnel experiment as they learned about Mathematician/Engineer Mary Jackson.

It takes time, money, and planning to implement program activities. Every month, staff receive project plans and a bin full of program materials. The staff appreciates the streamlined process of program planning that allows them to focus on the most important piece: having fun running these activities with their students.

I love meeting with our staff on Thursdays and seeing their excitement as I hand them their bins of brand-new program materials. Their enthusiasm has been as infectious as our students’. I’m grateful for the work our childcare staff does for our community.   

Have you taken Rec & Ed classes yourself? Any favorites?
I have taken Rec & Ed adult fitness classes. Paddle Board Pilates was my favorite!

What’s the happiest part of your day?
I love my team. When we’re working together and collaborating, we’re usually laughing and having fun. This dynamic helps us effectively tackle challenges. I’m grateful for my coworkers.

What’s one of your hidden talents?
I can say the Peter Piper tongue twister really fast.

Favorite website:

Apps you can’t live without:
Google Maps, Notes, Google Calendar, Reminders, and Clock app.

If you could know the definitive answer to any one question, what would that question be?
How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop? Alas, the world may never know.

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