Staff Spotlight: Wolcott Baird


Photo courtesy of Paula De Megret-Murray

Baird’s ideal legacy is simple: to inspire his students by creating a positive learning environment.

A recent survey distributed by The Oracle voted math teacher Wolcott Baird as WS students’ favorite teacher. From being a popular teacher and tutor among the student body to being an inspiring cross country and track and field coach, Baird has impacted many lives throughout his 22 years working at the school.

Before Baird began his career as a teacher, he was a United States Marine Corps officer for several years, leading him to meet an amazing group of people on base.

“I was a marine corps officer for five years prior to getting into teaching,” said Baird. “My favorite part of being in the military was probably the people I was with. I met some really great human beings.”

Baird first learned to teach as a Marine Corps instructor. This experience was instrumental in his transition to becoming a teacher. 

“Right before I got into teaching, I was at Quantico, at officer candidate school, and I was a formal instructor there,” explained Baird. “I kind of cut my teeth teaching there and then I decided that I was going to make it a profession. I think a lot of what I have learned in the military has helped me [in the classroom] over the past twenty years,”

Though he has been teaching math for over twenty years, at the Naval Academy Baird studied both mechanical engineering and history, which led him to start his teaching career on the social studies path. 

“I went to the naval academy for my undergraduate studies and there I was a mechanical engineering major for a couple of years, but about half way through, I ended up switching to history because I always liked math and history,” said Baird. “I did my student teaching at Alexandria City High School as a history teacher, but when I started applying for jobs in the county, there were very few. The current softball coach, [Kristopher] Benton, was the [math] department head, and I have known him pretty much my whole life. He said ‘What are the odds you want to teach math?’” 

Baird has been teaching math ever since. 

Throughout his teaching career, Baird has made himself known by many students as an understanding and compassionate instructor. In addition to teaching several classes, Baird offers math tutoring to students who do not have him as a teacher.

“Overall [Baird] has been a huge help to me. He helps by sitting across from me and writing upside down, which is super cool, and he fully explains everything and ties all of the math I’m learning into math I’ve previously learned. He keeps it lighthearted by not making me feel inferior when I’m not understanding something and always tries to put something in simpler terms which can always be useful,” said sophomore Julia Welsh. “He takes his time, but then also has a lot of confidence in me and my math skills, which boosts the way I feel about my abilities.”

Baird’s teaching style allows him to connect with many of his students, often leading them to have success in their math classes. Baird believes that his teaching style centers around creating a comfortable learning environment. 

“I’m just myself. I always try to have a fairly safe environment where kids feel like they can ask questions and not be judged and I think that helps,” said Baird.  “I know the math is difficult, and a lot of kids come to me either not liking it or being good at it, but I try to break it down in a way that it’s not that hard because even the highest level math that we teach is very doable, and it’s logical, and I try to kind of teach that way.”

On top of being a celebrated math educator, Baird has also built positive relationships with student athletes through being a cross country and track and field coach. 

“I think what’s great about being a coach different from a teacher is that most of the kids are out at the sport because they want to be,” said Baird.  “I like to see everybody improve, but it’s more about that everybody’s out there [working hard], which I’ve always appreciated. Then you get to form good relationships outside the building, which is awesome too.”

Many cross country and track and field athletes at WS have developed a connection with Baird in that he inspires them to succeed in their sport.  

“[I met Baird] during cross country season. He was just a generally really caring and nice person,” said freshman runner Kennedy Leary. “He always pushes you to be your best, so I really enjoy that about him.”

Baird is also popular among students due to his notable style of wearing Birkenstocks. The story of Baird’s Birkenstocks strangely began when a good friend of his needed his car. 

“I had a really good friend of mine, he’s Singaporean, and he was a foreign exchange student at the naval academy. He’s one of my best friends on the planet and a super nice guy. I last saw him probably 25 years ago,” explained Baird.  “He was without a car for three months, so I let him have my car for three months.”

After Baird sold his car to his friend for one dollar at the DMV, he biked to work for a period of time. Once his friend was no longer in need of the car, he wanted to thank Baird for his generosity with a pair of Birkenstocks. 

“He took me on base, and he bought me Birkenstocks. The cork is very rigid when you first buy them, but he was right. I’ve worn them ever since. [Birkenstocks] are just comfy,” said Baird.

Whether it be his teaching, coaching, style, or personality, Baird is the favorite teacher among the student body according to The Oracle’s recent survey. However, the thing that matters most to Baird is making sure that he creates a positive impact on others. 

“I got into the profession of both teaching and coaching to positively influence as many people as possible. That’s it. If I have done that, awesome,” said Baird. “If I can positively influence one human, then I think I did a good job.”