Jennifer Miller
Freelance Writer
July 28, 2017 // Schools

St. John the Baptist, South Bend, welcomes Leon Baker

Jennifer Miller
Freelance Writer

Leon Baker

“This is not a job — it is a calling,” explained Leon Baker, newly appointed principal of St. John the Baptist School, South Bend.

Retired from his first career as a commissioned officer in the United States Army and about to retire from his second career in education, Baker felt called by the Holy Spirit to serve the students of St. John the Baptist.

Originally from Oregon, Baker studied in a military preparatory school and then at West Point United States Military Academy, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in science. With a passion for learning he continued his studies at the University of Virginia, earning a master’s degree in English language and literature.

Baker then taught at numerous military and private schools — wherever his military duties took him —for over 20 years. He always enjoyed and appreciated a classical understanding of education during his time in the classroom and incorporated the arts and music into his lessons, understanding that the liberal arts education teaches to the whole person.

“Everything is connected in our learning; there are not just separate dots of math or science. Our center is Christ,” he explained. “Find the true, the beautiful and the good and you find God somewhere there.”

After Baker retired from the Army in 1993, he longed to continue sharing his passion of English and education but was accustomed to military-style schools. Howe Military Academy in Howe had an opening for an English master and department chairman, so Baker and his wife made a home in LaGrange County and at a Catholic parish there.

He taught in both in the private and public sectors for 23 years, most recently at St. Thomas the Apostle School in Elkhart, until he heard about the position at St. John the Baptist.
Father Glenn Kohrman, pastor of St. John the Baptist and Holy Family, said, “Our search committee was really impressed with Mr. Baker. He seemed to have a passionate Catholic faith and a great love for the kids and a real sense of helping them discover a real sense of the true, the good and the beautiful.”

“Father Glenn has the Holy Spirit’s phone number,” Baker said. “I prayed about it… if you are quiet, you can hear the Holy Spirit speaking. I thought, ‘maybe I can make a difference.’ The Holy Spirit called me here.”

He is excited about the new opportunity. “We are working in conjunction with the diocese to eventually run St. John with the Catholic classical education model. We look forward to the classes being completely integrated: God is operative in all of that — they are not just English and math classes.

“Catholic education here allows us to serve the souls of my students and faculty,” he said. “God gave us reason and the ability to fulfill the commandments. Look at Brother Andre: He used every talent that God gave him, and he served God.”

Baker also shared that he has five children and nine grandchildren, and he tells every parent and adult that he loves his students as he loves his own children.

In the upcoming school year he hopes to “help capture the moments in time of learning… perhaps with an opportunity to teach and assist my teachers in finding the freedom to vary instruction student to student. At the end of the day, the Holy Spirit is in charge, I am not.”

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