Nicola Baker was “born to be a teacher.”
The South Surrey-raised mother of four also loved Slurpees, owned her mistakes and delighted in seeing her students grasp the math concepts she endeavoured to share.
“She was a brilliant teacher, a brilliant person; a leader in her family and a leader at the school,” said Judy Henriques, Baker’s aunt and a former teacher herself. “My kids grew up with her and she taught them how to read and write.”
The sentiments are among many likely to be shared this coming Monday (June 13), during a service at Gracepoint Community Church celebrating Baker’s life.
The 38-year-old died unexpectedly on June 6.
“In a nutshell, Nicola passed in her sleep,” Henriques said. “At this point, we don’t know exactly why.”
Staff and students at Earl Marriott Secondary were shocked by the news Monday morning.
Baker had taught Grade 8 to 12 students in her time at the high school, but had mostly Grade 10s this past year, Henriques said.
One Grade 12 student described Baker as “one of the few people I knew that genuinely cared about doing right by those who depended on her.”
“She was great at her job, and a lot of that came from her ability to understand students,” said Ethan Peverley. “She saw that some were fortunate enough to immediately take in every bit of a lesson thrown at them, while others needed more time to fully soak everything in.”
Peverley added that Baker “also dealt with troublemakers in the funniest way I’ve seen, as she’d say just the right things to make them question ever acting out.”
Baker was the youngest of three sisters, and part of an “enormous” family that included at least two other teachers aside from Henriques. Baker’s sister, Lori Anne Weiss, is a science teacher at EMS.
Henriques, a South Surrey resident who is now acting director of instruction for the Surrey School District, described her niece as “a sweet soul” who took care of others, humble and pragmatic.
“While she was thoughtful, she could get the job done,” she said.
Baker was also a “great storyteller,” Henriques said.
“She would tell a story in a way that, you would’ve been there.”
Baker is survived by her husband Sean, their four young children, her parents Mary and Philip Du Quesnay, sisters Weiss and Renee Ridge and numerous other family.
Monday’s service is to get underway at 11 a.m. at Gracepoint, 3487 King George Blvd.