Shaping Young Lives

Rwaida Baz Bates has been that inspirational person for countless children in the Saginaw Public School District for the past 23 years.

Saginaw teacher guides students to success

Not everyone remembers every teacher they had over the course of their educational journey, but it’s likely that most individuals have at least one memorable teacher who stood out and made a lasting impression in their life.

It might have been due to a unique or passionate teaching style.

It might have been the way he or she went the extra mile to help a student with coursework.

Maybe it was the kindness and caring the teacher showed in a student’s interests or personal issues.

Rwaida Baz Bates has been that inspirational person for countless children in the Saginaw Public School District for the past 23 years. Currently a Title 1 reading teacher at the district’s Jessie Loomis Elementary School, Bates helps struggling students master their reading skills. She has taught fourth through sixth grade students as well as conducted reading interventions for students from kindergarten through the sixth grade who are at Tier 3, where more individualized and comprehensive teaching support is needed to improve academic outcomes.

But even the mentors have mentors.

“There were many amazing teachers in my years in school. Mrs. Katheryn Atwater, my fifth grade teacher, was the one who really made a huge impact on my view of education and style of teaching,” Bates said.

Life-changing teachers not only believe in their students, but they also help students believe in themselves — sometimes when the student isn’t even part of the classroom. For Bates, her life was changed thanks to simply being able to work alongside an impactful educator.

“I decided to go into education after taking a class that required hours with middle school students in a social studies classroom at South Middle School with a phenomenal educator, Jim Church,” she said. “I loved every moment of that experience. I could not wait to go back every day. I did not want that class to end.”

Once sparked, the fire has only grown in intensity. The energy and enthusiasm Bates brings to the classroom has been recognized on numerous occasions. Her teaching has been honored in this magazine’s annual “Greatest of the Great Lake Bay” readers’ poll and she has been nominated for the Crystal Apple Award.

“Those awards are because of my students, parents, colleagues and our community,” Bates said.

Internally, Bates has been noted for the top Accelerated Reader points for students in the school district. She said her greatest joy is simply watching her students learn, improve and grow.

“Most of my students remain in contact with me over the years,” Bates said. “I get to meet their children, spouses and extended family members. My students become my family. It is not a one-year school year for us. It is a lifetime bond.”

She’s had numerous stories of student success throughout her decades of teaching, where students with difficulties in their academic studies or personal lives were able to turn life’s tragedies into triumphs; however, one student in particular stands out among the crowd.

“One student my first year teaching came from a very low-income family, was in a special education program and had rough home life, but he turned out to be a successful man with a family, careers out of state and is a great father,” Bates said.

Kim Lawrence’s son went through Bates’ classroom soon after the family moved to the area.

“It was a new school, and at the time I was looking for the best teacher,” Lawrence said. “She was recommended to me.”

The experience was so successful and rewarding that Lawrence made sure four more of her children had Bates as a teacher.

“She cared about the students — their well-being, making sure they had the proper clothing and nutrition. I noticed that right off,” Lawrence said. “I could go on and on about her. She’s fantastic teacher.”

Students may be her first passion, but Bates has a close second with fitness. She and her husband own and operate two Pure-NRGY Fitness gyms in Saginaw at 4605 Bay Road and 4367 Bay Road.

“I am blessed to have the opportunity to have two careers that I am so passionate about: students and fitness,” Bates said. “We go through life hoping that we find the love of something that gives us that joy. I am humbled that I have two.”

 

Art Plays

Public Arts Midland worked with local artists to place 14 decorated pianos throughout the area for the Painted Piano Project. The project allowed artists to work on designs during their free time in an empty space in the Midland Mall. From floral designs to Michigan-inspired artworks and a celebration of Midland’s sister city of Handa, Japan, these beautiful painted pianos brought art and music together to create the perfect harmony. To see more pianos, visit facebook.com/publicartsmidland.

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