Joseph and Helen Galloway drove their daughter to P.S. 144 in Forest Hills, N.Y., a school that until that day had an all-white student body.
"There were lots of people outside. My father took my hand and walked me to class," recalled Baker, who is Pomona Unified School District's deputy superintendent of instructional services.
The fact her father missed work that day was unusual but it was a far from ordinary day since Baker was one of at least two African American children who enrolled at the school located within an affluent neighborhood.
The bright little girl did well academically. She had skipped second grade and was in a program for gifted students.
In retrospect, things were far from perfect.
"I was invisible," Baker said.
She faced subtle racism.
"I wasn't treated poorly but I wasn't treated well," she said.
No one hurled racial slurs at her, and she wasn't bullied on the playground. Teachers did not call on her in class. During her time at the school she made two friends.
Baker felt she was never really welcome at Forest Hills.
The treatment "was not with the intent to be willfully abusive," Baker said. "It was like a disregard."
Such experiences could have had a negative effect on Baker but they didn't.
"I don't carry emotional scars," the La Verne resident said. "Fortunately I had parents who nurtured me."
What the experience did do was turn Baker into a woman who is aware of those around her, of the importance of acknowledging people and valuing them.
Before transferring to Forest Hills, Baker attended kindergarten and first grade at P.S. 123, her neighborhood school in Queens.
She was comfortable at her neighborhood school where her sister and many of the children who lived on her street were enrolled.
The move to Forest Hills came without a warning from her parents.
"Those were the days when you woke up in the morning and you went wherever they wanted you to go," she said.
The Galloway's decision to move their daughter to Forest Hills, which was a distance from her neighborhood, was not taken lightly, Baker said.
The neighborhood school provided a quality education, she said.
Transferring their daughter was about recognizing the efforts of those involved in the civil rights movement, Baker said.
Both of her parents were involved in the civil rights movement particularly Helen Galloway and her family some of whom had experienced overt racism and violence in Virginia, said Jacqueline Galloway-Blake, Baker's sister.
The Galloway sisters' mother, a teacher, and their father, a truck driver for the U.S. Postal Service who worked part-time as an electrician, wanted to recognize the work and struggles of those who had fought for civil rights and educational equity, Baker said.
At Forest Hills, Baker was often described as a quiet and shy child by her teachers.
But there was more to her than that.
"She was intelligent, very observant and obedient," Galloway-Blake said. "She was a child people wanted to be around."
In sixth grade Baker had a teacher named Miss Kirschenbaum who was encouraging, spoke with her in and outside of the classroom and even invited her to her home for lunch occasionally.
"She saw me, and I started finding my voice," Baker said.
Although Baker's family members were firm believers in public education, Helen Galloway moved Baker to a faith-based school with a largely African American student body for religious reasons, Baker said.
The move allowed Baker, who by then was an 11th grader, to flourish. She was acknowledged, became active in school activities and began taking on student leadership roles.
"I had a voice. I was talking," Baker said.
Galloway-Blake said the experience resulted in her sister being an advocate for young people and someone who "cares about and speaks up for the weak among us."
She is giving "voice to the voiceless," Galloway-Blake said.
Baker said she is glad her parents sent her to Forest Hills.
"I do believe it really helped me," she said. "It gave me some resilience."
It has also led to her calling on fellow educators to take the time to know their students, children's parents, staff and colleagues.
"School has to be a place where people feel valued," Baker said.
Every student has something to offer.
"You don't just see an (Academic Performance Index) score" in a child, she said. "We see what skills and assets they have that can enrich the school."
Baker "is a true instructional leader," said Pomona Unified Superintendent Richard Martinez. "She inspires and she definitely motivates."
Baker believes everyone can learn, Martinez said, adding that belief is not limited to students. Adults, and educators in particular, must sharpen their skills in order to better prepare students.
She believes "every child deserves the best we have to offer," Martinez said.
He added that he and Baker believe giving their best is part of a moral responsibility to prepare students so that one day they will be ready to serve and lead their community.
Reach Monica via email, follow her on Twitter @PomonaNow, or call her at 909-483-9336.