LOUDONVILLE — Sharon Baker is living proof that someone who lived the role as a non-traditional student can succeed.

Baker just retired after teaching for 27 years at the R.F. McMullen School in Loudonville. She first did a year of substitute teaching in the 1990-91 school year, ending up serving as a long-term substitute; the next year served as a kindergarten teacher; then as a first grade teacher for 19 years; then for two years running a multi-grade classroom; and finally for the last five years as a second grade teacher.

She did not begin her teaching career, however, until she was in her mid-30s. A native of Wooster, she graduated from Wooster High School and then attended Ohio State University in Columbus for two years, pursuing a sociology major. She then got married and moved to the Mohican area, and about a decade and two children later, returned to school at Ashland University, completing work on an elementary education degree and a teaching certificate. She started substituting in the 1990-91 school year.

Her husband Neal, who originally is from the Dover-New Philadelphia area, has always been a self-employed building trades specialist, and today the two of them run Secluded Cabins, a group of vacation rentals and an event center. Their specialty is hosting weddings — they have 23 booked this summer, which is what she will be doing in retirement.

Neal and Sharon also raise Black Angus and Waygu cattle on their Holmes County farm.

The Bakers have two grown children, both graduates of Loudonville High School.

Son Cabot, who lives in St. Louis with wife Mell, is an electrical engineering technology imaging specialist for B.C Technology based out of Salt Lake City, Utah.

Daughter Michelle (Aaron) D'Amico, has two daughters, ages 4 and 2, and lives in Knoxville, Maryland.

Mrs. Baker enjoyed fostering a warm, close relationship with her students over the years, and said she feels a surge of satisfaction today when she sees them graduate from high school and move successfully on in life.

She also expressed appreciation for the principals she had the privilege of working under: Sally Warbel, Patty Miller and Annette Gorrell, and her always supportive fellow staff members.

"We work as a team at McMullen," she said.

Mrs. Baker is also thankful for the support the Loudonville and Perrysville communities provide to students. In the future, Mrs. Baker hopes to volunteer, and possibly substitute teach, at the McMullen School to support the classroom teachers and help students in need. Mrs. Baker wants to "stay connected to see, and be a part of, all the great programs and progress happening in our schools."