Locke Teacher Shares How Service, Commitment Aided Turnaround Work

Bakker Blog

For some educators, teaching is more than a career, it’s a commitment.

Sarah Bakker has taught English at Alain LeRoy Locke College Preparatory Academy for over eight years, and has only grown more in love with teaching, and the community that she serves. A second-career teacher, Bakker pursued her English credential and master’s degree at California State University, Dominguez Hills, after a 15-year career as a wedding photographer. Bakker started at Locke as a substitute teacher, and, less than a year later, she joined as a full-time English teacher. 

“I never thought that I would actually enjoy high school as much as I do,” Bakker said. Much of her joy comes from teaching students how to think critically and exploring new concepts and literary devices in class. “I just feel blessed that I’m just getting our students ready for life, college, and whatever they have planned ahead of them.”

In September of 2008, Green Dot Public Schools California began leading Alain Leroy Locke College Prep Academy, a former Los Angeles Unified School District campus. In the decade since, Locke had refined its curriculum to support more academic, social, and emotional growth, while demonstrating an exceptional increase in graduation and college acceptance rates. Beyond coursework, Locke students have gained access to innovative science and technology programs, such as JetSpace, and unique college-preparedness opportunities, including Senior Bridge

Bakker, in her eight years as an English teacher, has been hands-on in helping the turnaround school restore academic achievement, school spirit, and a college-going culture within the campus. ”It’s been an amazing journey. I feel really lucky to be a part of the process that has become part of the improvements that I’ve seen at this school. I feel proud to work here,” she said. 

Reflecting on the school’s progress, Bakker said that commitment of staff has been key in moving the school forward. “I feel like the colleagues that I have around me are proud to be here. We face challenges, but we’re all showing up for the good fight, which makes this work sustainable. In fact, we have a good team of people that have been here for a long time,” Bakker said. 

Peggy Gutierrez, the principal at Locke, has found Bakker’s commitment instrumental to the success of our students. “I have seen her grow into an effective teacher who is passionate about teaching. Her desire to help students succeed is evident every day in and out of the classroom. She is a valued asset to our school.” School leaders across Locke echo those same praises, recognizing the importance of having a teacher with a high level of commitment in each of our classrooms. “Ms. Bakker brings energy and enthusiasm to her classes every day. Students enjoy being in her class learning,” said Locke assistant principal, Augustin Vecino.

For Bakker, every new school day is another opportunity to help students achieve their individual goals. “I find my motivation in making sure that every single moment in my classroom is utilized to the maximum potential,” Bakker said. Locke Assistant principal, Toni Ginn, has seen Bakker advocate for students in a multitude of ways. “She is a team player who brings her best every day at Locke. She is multi-talented and will do anything for the students,” Ginn said. “She has been our drill team advisor and is now working on our yearbook. We are lucky to have her at our school.”

At Green Dot, we are proud to support our team of teachers who are steadfast in their commitment to serve our learning communities and help students make the seemingly impossible, possible. Through the implementation of learning acceleration, AP courses, robust professional development, and rigorous academics, our teachers have the tools necessary to help our students achieve success in college, leadership, and life.