ECC professor teaches students to apply psychology to everyday life

Dominic Di Palermo , Editor in Chief


Dr. Sharon Baker talks to her Introduction to Psychology class on Mar. 15. (Dominic Di Palermo )

Dr. Sharon Baker is a professor at Elgin Community College with a unique approach to helping students learn psychology by applying it to their own lives.

Baker developed her interest in the field of psychology because she realized that people close to her would always come to her to talk through their issues.

“I have always liked helping other people, and for whatever reason, my friends or other people would gravitate towards me in terms of sharing their problems and they trusted me with that information,” Baker said. “I’ve always enjoyed helping people and helping them to find their own reality of what happiness and success is because it is individually decided.”

Her passion for helping people led her to pursue a career in clinical psychology. Prior to starting at ECC, Baker worked as a clinical psychologist for children in the system of the Department of Child and Family Services.

“I was a psychologist that provided services for children who were physically and sexually abused, and they were in the DCFS system, so the department of child and family services,” Baker said. “At that time, I was providing therapy and I was also providing testing; sometimes doing family therapy, sometimes doing individual therapy and sometimes doing group therapy.”

Baker started at ECC 20 years ago. She worked as an administrator for seven years and for the 13 seven years has taught various classes in the psychology department such as, Introduction to Psychology, Abnormal Psychology and Human Growth and Development Psychology.

Baker utilizes her experiences from her clinical psychology career to help students better understand the material that she teaches in her classes so that students can apply their learning to their own lives or future careers.

“When I teach Human Growth and Development which talks about parenting and development in general I’m always using clinical experiences from working with children and adolescents as well as family,” Baker said. “I try and use that clinical experience to bring the textbook experience to real life, so, I think I’m blending the two.” 

Throughout her career Baker has always been involved in teaching. During her clinical psychology career and her time as an administrator, Baker taught psychology part-time at Chicago State University and ECC.

Her interest in becoming a full-time teacher developed after viewing statistics that the pass/fail rate in psychology at ECC was about 50%. This prompted her to want to teach psychology in a way that was easier for students to understand.

“I mean, most students would say, ‘Well, psychology is challenging because of the theories, and terminology and the theorists,’” Baker said. “So, I just wanted to make it more relatable and more practical for, hopefully, students to be more successful then.” 

From the beginning of her teaching career until now, Baker’s goal has remained the same. She aims to get to know her students, create a community in her classrooms and help students understand curriculum by applying their learning to their own lives. 

Baker has two favorite parts of being a psychology professor.

“I would say number one is engaging with my students,” Baker said. “And then number two, I Iove it when students have that ‘aha’ moment, when something that was discussed, explained or shared helps them to connect to that information.”

Baker said that psychology is a great field to pursue but she offers a piece of advice for students going into the profession. 

“Pursue your passion in psychology but also remember to take care of yourself, because if you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of others,” she said.