What Inspires Dr Sally Baker — in 4 Questions

What Inspires Dr Sally Baker — in 4 Questions
EduGrowth Quick 4 Members Connect - Sally Baker

In this Members’ exclusive content, we interviewed Dr Sally Baker from the University of New South Wales. She recently participated as a keynote speaker in the HigherEd Showcase: How EdTech Can Bridge the Gaps in Student Equity. Read the key discussion highlights here

Dr Sally Baker is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Education at the University of New South Wales. Sally’s teaching and research interests centre on language, literacies, transition and equity in higher education, particularly with regard to culturally and linguistically diverse students, and refugee students in particular. Sally is the Chair of the national Refugee Education Special Interest Group for/with students from refugee backgrounds, supported by the Refugee Council of Australia.

We hope with these light Q&As that you can gain a little insight into what inspires thought leaders across the education technology ecosystem.

What is the best piece of professional advice you have ever been given?

Be kind to yourself. You cannot care for others, if you’re not caring for yourself. If you’re in a role that asks you to give of yourself, then take some time for yourself. 

What led you to work in the education sector?

I was learning Spanish when I was younger, and I really wanted to work in Spain. So I did a certificate in English Language Teaching. However, I ended up falling into community teaching in the adult education sector. And the moment I walked into the classroom, I knew I found my vocation. I found my groove almost immediately. I’m a natural communicator and empathetic, and I think teaching is an inherently caring profession. I found myself in a vocation I never thought I would work in, but instantly loved.

Now I’m a teacher of teachers and it’s an incredible privilege.

From K-12 through to tertiary education, who was a teacher that made a big impact on you and why?

I had a really wonderful lecturer when I was doing my undergraduate degree. I got pregnant when I was 17 and had my first kid when I was 18. I ended up doing my degree through Open University. It’s easy to feel quite isolated when studying at a distance, but there was one lecturer that I think saw some potential in me. He is now a great friend and mentor. He was the one who changed everything for me. Because of him, I went on to do a masters, and then signed up to do a PhD. He could see something in me that I couldn’t see in myself at that time. That’s what a good teacher does, they take the time to lift others up.

What 3 books inspire you or have changed the way you think about education? Fiction or non-fiction. 

Literacy: Reading the World and Reading the Word by Paulo Freire. This book was a lightbulb-moment for me.

The book that absolutely changed my life in terms of outlook and my professional sense of self is bell hooks’ Teaching to Transgress. It’s a truly amazing collection of essays.

I’m also a big Stephen King nut. I’m not a big fan of horror, but I think Stephen King writes a character like no other. I always enjoy his work. Particularly, I like his book On Writing: A Memoir of Craft. It’s a must have on the bookshelf.

Dr Sally Baker was a keynote speaker in the HigherEd Showcase in September 2021. Read this program’s key insights here