Any Savannahian with a television set will recognize Dawn Baker as the bubbly lady who delivers two newscasts each weekday on WTOC TV. She has been at the station for the past 26 years, so there are some who may not even remember a time when Baker wasn’t a fixture in local news.
But what they may not know is that the award-winning news anchor is a native of Riceboro, Ga., and was educated in both the Liberty and Chatham County Public Schools. She was an Honor Graduate of Savannah High School and earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Broadcast Journalism from Howard University in Washington, D.C.
After working for a year in Wilmington, N.C. as a reporter, Baker returned home in 1989 and joined the WTOC team as a reporter. She worked as a general assignment reporter and covered both the education and court beats and now co-anchors The News at 5:30 and THE News at 11:00. Baker will be the second speaker in the Savannah-Chatham County public schools Passport to Excellence Lecture Series on Thursday, October 29, from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. at Savannah High School, located at 400 Pennsylvania Avenue. A few days ago, she took a little time out to answer questions about her life and career. Q: Looking back on your public school education, what subjects or aspects best prepared you for your career? A: Definitely, the subject that best prepared me for my career was English, especially those grammar classes. I actually enjoyed diagramming sentences in the eighth grade and again in high school. I remember being at the old Savannah High School with those sentences going all the way across those threetiered blackboards. I didn’t realize at the time how much it would improve my writing skills but it really did. Also, I had a mom who was an English teacher. She was my grammar police all of my life. It was frustrating when I was young. She would say, “If you can not speak properly, do not speak at all.” I learned to appreciate her approach but that was much later on, probably when I was in my mid-30s. Q: How did attending a public school prepare you for life? Did public school offer life lessons that you might not have learned elsewhere? A: I certainly learned about people from different cultures and backgrounds in school. I moved from the little town of Riceboro, GA when I was in the eighth grade. Savannah High was the largest school in Chatham County with about 2400 students of different races and socioeconomic backgrounds. I learned how different we were but also how similar we were. It taught me tolerance and respect for people who have different viewpoints. I learned how to be tuned into the feelings of others. Q: What is your foremost piece of advice for public school students preparing themselves for their careers? A: I would tell them to adopt an attitude that they’re always going to do their best no matter what they do in life and never allow anyone to place limitations on them. It’s important to take education seriously. No matter what field you go into, education is the foundation for everything you do in life. I would also advise them to never give up, set high goals but be realistic. Always have a backup plan, because life will happen and things may not go the way you expect them to go. Everybody isn’t an “A” student nor can everyone aspire to a grand career, but everyone is important and should do their very best in the job that is right for them. Q: Why did you agree to participate in the Passport to Excellence series? A: I believe as good citizens, all of us should look for opportunities to partner with the schools. The Passport to Excellence series is unique. I believe it’s the first time the school system is showcasing people who are products of the local school system as living examples of what the students can become if they get a good education and set their goals high. Most schools have career days but they don’t necessarily feature local people. I think that’s extremely powerful. I am also very excited to know that I’m speaking at my alma mater. Many young people may not know that Savannah High School has a long history of being a strong academic school. Many successful people who live around the world were educated there.