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Focus on Students: Rockwood Summit High Teacher Leaves Lasting Impact by Challenging and Encouraging

Our theme for the 2022-2023 school year here in Rockwood School District is “safe, focused and fun.” Our main focus is on our students and ensuring that they have every opportunity to realize their potential. Part of our strategic plan, The Way Forward, involves recruiting, attracting and developing outstanding staff members to provide the best instruction and educational opportunities for all students. Here is a story of one of our outstanding staff members.

Rockwood graduate Kendall Spencer smiles at a sporting eventEarly in her sophomore year at Rockwood Summit High, Kendall Spencer turned in a paragraph analyzing the themes of “To Kill a Mockingbird” for Dr. Gregory Baum’s advanced language arts research and presentation (ALARP) class.

As someone who normally received stellar grades, she was shocked by the score she received. Luckily, the grade didn’t count because she and her classmates had the opportunity to meet with Baum, revise the paragraph and use it in an essay for a final grade.

“He helped me understand the shortcomings in my writing and how I could improve on them, even though I wasn't the most receptive at first,” Spencer said. “I worked harder on that essay than I ever had in my entire life and couldn't have been prouder when I got back an A. Though I wouldn't have guessed at the time, I knew he was proud of me as well.”

Now a sophomore studying sport management at the University of Michigan, Spencer said she still regularly uses the skills and traits Baum and his ALARP class helped her hone four years ago.

Spencer said her writing improved tremendously during her time in ALARP, and the presentation skills involved in the class have also been beneficial as she pursues her degree. She hopes to one day work in the front office of a sports organization, and her dream job is to be the general manager of the St. Louis Cardinals.

“Dr. Baum really wanted us to be our best,” Spencer said. “You could tell in everything he did for us that he truly cared about us growing both as students and as people. At times, this was really frustrating, as I was being pushed a lot harder and it forced me to rise to the occasion and improve my writing. He was always available to talk, whether it was about an assignment or just about anything at all.”

Rockwood educator Dr. Gregory Baum smiles in his classroomBaum, the 2020-2021 Rockwood Summit Teacher of the Year, is now a librarian at the school.

Spencer said the bond she shared with classmates in Baum’s nine-student ALARP course has also left a positive, lasting impression. Whether it was coming up with nicknames for each other or giving spirited performances during read-alouds, the whole class became a tight-knit community.

“I probably spent as much time in his class during my junior year as I did sophomore year because I was always visiting to ask for advice or to talk about what was going on,” Spencer said. “He encouraged me to go after things that I may have otherwise not done and helped me get through the harder times just by being available. His class was a safe haven of sorts, and I always felt comfortable being myself and sharing my ideas.”