Where are they now: Wayne Baldwin
Profession: former Nipher teacher - Location: Kirkwood KSD Teacher in 1976
At the 2017 Class 4 District 2 Cross Country Meet, a 5-foot-10 man in his 60s with a gray beard and tanned skin awaits as herds of cross country runners pass by. He sports cargo shorts and a red, polyester tank-top with “Kirkwood Cross Country” written across it. He hustles alongside the race course with the KHS varsity runners. When a KHS runner takes the lead, Wayne Baldwin waves his tattooed arms in excitement. On Oct. 21, the KHS varsity cross country team placed third at Washington, Mo. This placed the team to be one of 16 Missouri schools running at the MSHAA State Championship Meet.
“We still have to run like somebody is chasing us,” Baldwin, KHS cross country coach, said. “The minute you think you got this in the bag, you are going to be run downed. That’s how cross country works. Each week, you got to step up on the line, gun sounds, you have to run hard as you can.”
Sean McCarthy, English teacher, first coached track with Baldwin in 1999. Then, in 2006, Baldwin invited McCarthy to be the assistant cross country coach, a job he kept until 2016.
“He has built this program, and it’s amazing,” McCarthy said. “It’s all because Coach Baldwin is passionate about what he does, and invests himself totally in it.”
Baldwin started to coach cross country in 1982. He also coaches track during spring. When he is not on the track or Kirkwood Park, Baldwin often substitutes. In fact, Baldwin has been a part of KSD since 1976, when he started teaching science at Nipher Middle School.
“I considered myself incredibly fortunate to secure a job at Nipher after three years of teaching experience,” Baldwin said. “I wasn’t interested in being a principal or counselor. It was never on my radar. I had a teaching job, and I was going to do it to the best of my ability.”
Though he retired from teaching at Nipher in 2011, Baldwin said he continues to be involved in the district. He has no plans to walk away from what he loves anytime soon.
“I love the whole notion of schools,” Baldwin said. “I love the school schedule, and I love doing school work. You come into any school, and it has positive vibes. Any school I’ve been too, any school in KSD, any school I’ve been associated with, there is this positive energy.”
Growing up, teaching was something Baldwin said he took for granted. Baldwin said teachers have played a big part when he was a teenager. But Baldwin didn’t consider education a career opportunity, much less that he would pursue teaching for 44 years. Instead of students raising their hands, shouting “Mr. Baldwin,” he imagined patients calling for “Dr. Baldwin.”
“Because I was smart and loved science, my mother believed that I had to be a doctor,” Baldwin said. “She held doctors in very high esteem. She was over the top about it. So I went along with my mother’s dream.”
Baldwin majored in biology at Truman State University, known as Northeast Missouri State when he attended. He took the Medical College Admission Test, and applied to medical schools. Baldwin then found himself in sitting in a room with doctors interviewing for the University of Missouri School of Medicine.
“I got all the way to the end of the interview, everything going fantastic, and he asked the question, ‘Why do you want to be a doctor?’” Baldwin said. “I looked him dead in his eyes and said, ‘I don’t. I want to be a teacher.’ That was it. I didn’t walk away from the interview, saying, ‘Oh man, I just screwed myself over,’ because I meant it.”
Baldwin said his mother was not happy about his decision. But in 44 years of teaching, Baldwin does not have any regrets. Throughout different generations, Baldwin said he is happy to have a lasting impact on students’ life. Josh Robertson, senior and captain of the boys’ Cross Country team, believes he has.
“Half of the things I’ve learned from high school is from Baldwin,” Robertson said. “I feel like I wouldn’t be a half of the person I am right now without this sport and coach being close to me.” Even though Baldwin turned 65 this year, he has no plans to walk away from cross country anytime soon. Baldwin is fit – he runs or bikes daily, and his passion for the sport has not died.
“Whatever I had to put in, [the 35 years of coaching cross country] was worth it, no doubt,” Baldwin said. “[It was worth it] because I grew as a human being, and I got to interact with thousands of human beings came out of the experience better.”