A Valpo Life in the Spotlight: Joe Baker

By: Barbara Jo Adkins Last Updated: June 19, 2013

joe-baker-1“Volunteers are vital because they give us the opportunity to provide individual attention to kids,” Jon Groth, Principal of the Porter County Career and Technical Center said.

Volunteering his time and energy for the Porter County Career and Technical Center (PCCTC) is why Joe Baker is a Valpo Life in the Spotlight. Baker has been volunteering there for the past two years, spending close to 400 hours each year with the Electronics and Computer Tech class.

Groth added, “It’s been invaluable for Joe to volunteer here and spend individual time with individual students.”

Baker is a retired engineer. Originally from Buffalo, NY, he came to Indiana to work for McGill Manufacturing. He worked as an engineer for over 52 years. The last 25 of those years were working at Weil-McClain.

joe-baker-2Baker retired in July 2010 and after that is when he approached fellow Valparaiso Kiwanis Club member Jon Groth to volunteer at the PCCTC. That following school year in 2011, Baker began his volunteer efforts at the school.

Baker wanted to volunteer at the PCCTC because, “I am a product of a vocational education. I have utilized that education I learned in high school more than any other education I have had or learned in my career. College is important, but in a manufacturing industry you learn more by a hands-on experience and learn by your mistakes,”

The reason Baker continues to volunteer is for the students.

Baker said, “Mr. Kenning and I, we guide these students through hands-on experiences. They retain what they learn by doing. One of the first things kids learn is the concepts of electricity and 55 years later, I am still using the same basics in electricity that I learned. I do this because I cherish my vocational education and it developed into a very rewarding career for me and I want to instill that same vigor in these students.”

Working in the manufacturing industry for over 50 years, the transition of working with adults over students can be different or more challenging; but not for Baker.

“Expectations are a little different working with adults than with students. Adults have a concept of an idea or what it may be that you are talking about and sometimes may understand a concept more, but with students, they ask questions. They might not always understand something but they are willing to ask questions,” Baker said.

Baker volunteers alongside David Kenning, the Electronics and Computer Tech teacher.

“Having Mr. Baker volunteer for the Electronics and Computer Tech class has been fantastic,” Kenning said.

Then he added jokingly, “He can take over for me now so I can retire.”

Kenning added, “As I am getting older, it is getting harder for me to keep up with the kids and it is nice to have an extra pair of eyes in the classroom. It has especially been wonderful to have someone volunteer that knows the subject matter. Mr. Baker has been instrumental with our solar program. It allowed me to expand the program in a new dimension, and that dimension being the solar rooftop project.”

Kenning continued, “Having Mr. Baker volunteer in our class has specifically meant that I can be twice as effective with trouble-shooting with students because I can give more one-on-one attention to a student. High school students have little patience sometimes; wanting questions answered quickly and having Mr. Baker in the classroom speeds up that process which allows us to answer those questions faster, keeping students on-task.”

Joe Baker plans on coming back for the 2014 school year, volunteering his time once again to instill vigor, answer questions and help teach the basics in electricity that will hopefully help a student have a fulfilling career as he himself had for over 50 years, that is why Joe Baker is a Valpo Life in the Spotlight.