(Editor’s note: This is the ninth installment of the Community Wisdom series produced by students in Dave Engen’s Community Storytelling class at Minnesota State University. A short introduction by the students is followed by excerpts from their interview with the subject.)
Mymique Baxter is the principal of Kato Public Charter School, a public school in Mankato serving 60 students in grades 6-12. Prior to her time at KPCS, Baxter worked for eight years in the College of Education at Minnesota State University. Her approach to her students is truly honorable, and her success as a Black woman gives courage to young individuals of color who may not have been exposed to Black representation in leadership positions. Baxter earned her undergraduate degree from Tuskegee University and her master’s degree from Minnesota State University. She and her mother, Maria Baxter-Nuamah, both earned their doctorates in 2015 from the College of Education at Minnesota State University.
— By Brandon Petersen and Raquel Woods
‘God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called,’ so you don’t have to know your destination to be a leader. You just have to start moving in the right direction and make the first move on your way to success.
My favorite subjects in high school were science classes — physics, general science, and biology. I believe it was because they were taught to me by three Black females. They were mentors before I even knew what a mentor was. When I was in high school, I didn’t know it wasn’t the norm to have people of color as teachers. I didn’t know until later that some students went through their whole high school careers without ever having a teacher of color.
Education to me is making sure that I and the people I’m working with are passing on skills and knowledge to the next generation. We’re making sure students can continue to move on in their life and be successful. Education is basically giving back and keeping the ball rolling.
Kato Public Charter School is all about being student-centered. We ask students, what do you need? What do you need to feel safe in your environment and what can we do to help you with those things? We listen to them and we allow their voices to be heard. We can’t give students a completely safe space because no space is completely safe, but we can give students a place to be brave and we can give them a place in which they feel comfortable.
Being principal, my job involves a little bit of everything. As the students enter, I’m saying good morning to kids and seeing how they are doing. During morning announcements I may tell students, “Picture day is coming up, testing is coming up,” or whatever. I stop in several classrooms most days, just to see how kids are doing, so they don’t think it’s weird when the principal stops in the classroom to say hello. I work on emails, meet with administration and address student and staff issues daily. Sometimes, I might even drop a Chromebook off at a student’s home just to make sure they are staying connected.
Because I am a Black woman, I always see diversity or people always see diversity in me. There are other young people behind me that are diverse. I need to create a path for them to walk in that has fewer obstacles than I had. If I can, I will reduce those obstacles, but I feel that for people of color there are always going to be obstacles in front of them.
There are not a lot of Black females who are leaders in education. There are not enough to actually shift the dynamics of historical racism. But it’s ever-changing. I think these young people coming up, they’re more open. I believe in the future there will be a shift and there may be a time when people don’t really see diversity except for that it’s there, but it may not affect how people live and how people work and what they do. I think it’s about two or three generations away. But it’s coming.
I’m not in this profession for the awards or the money. I just like to feel satisfied at night knowing that I’m doing the right thing for kids. Adults usually can find their way and figure it out, but sometimes our kids get lost in the shuffle. I want to be here for them. I want them to know that there’s somebody who cares in their corner.