For the last 25 years, that’s what his Marion science and math students have known him as.
A fixture at the high school – and the community – since ’98, Tony Baldwin has taught generations of Marion students physics, chemistry, biology, algebra, trigonometry, calculus, and robotics, among other classes.
And after 25 years, Mr. Baldwin will be retiring in the spring. Going out while he still loves what he does.
But make no mistake, he won’t be done working. He’ll just be moving on to a new adventure, helping people in some capacity, whatever that may be.
It’s a bittersweet time for him; excited for what’s to come, but knowing he’ll miss those daily interactions with his students.
We caught up with Tony recently where we learned a little bit more about his life, his family, and his teaching career. We learned that Tony Baldwin is certainly more than just another face in the crowd.
Marion Press: Where were you born and raised? What kept you busy as a kid?
Tony: Lake City. I was in 4-H for horses, from age 9 to 16. I did both pleasure shows and the speed shows – the [speed shows] were called fun shows, where you’d go between cones, and do barrel racing and all that.
MP: So did you grow up on a farm?
Tony: No, we just had acreage. My aunt – she wanted to learn more about her horses – invited me to be a part of 4-H so she could go too. And I used her horse; I stayed with them a lot. And then eventually my parents bought me my own horse, and we eventually had up to 5 horses at one point. My sister got involved, and my dad got involved. We drove horses with a cart; my dad and his friend actually made a cart. It was fun, and we did a lot of trail riding. We camped a lot. One of my parents friends had 80 acres, and we built a camp out there, with a big pavilion. We’d have at least two camping trips there a year, and people and their horses would gather. We’d have maybe 30 horses there, and go on trail rides to the lake, and swim with them. Those were good memories.
MP: Did you always want to be a teacher? Where did that come from?
Tony: I always enjoyed working with kids. Lake City goes to Camp Rotary every year, and winter camping. And I became a counselor in high school for that. I did that all through high school and into college for several years – it was usually during my spring break. So I always knew that I wanted to.
But I started in engineering. I had some substitute teachers – parents of some of my friends and my sister’s friends – and they were in engineering, and made their money, and came back to be teachers. So that was kind of what my plan was. I was in engineering for a year and a half – I tried a couple of different kinds, mechanical and civil – and then it just wasn’t as enjoyable as I thought it would be, so I thought, ‘Why not just do what I want to do anyway?’
I was at Michigan Tech, and found out that they did have a teaching program there, so I switched into it. Luckily, I had almost had all of my math classes through engineering, and a lot of the science, so I just had to add on a few classes.
MP: When did you get your start teaching? How’d that come about?
Tony: ’98. I was done after the winter quarter, so I subbed in the area during the spring. I was subbing here, and they told me that Dorald Giddings was retiring and that I should apply, so I did. And it just worked out.
MP: What were your first impressions of Marion?
Tony: I liked that it was small, and everyone seemed to know everyone. I think that’s huge. I did sub at [a bigger school] a few times. And even the subs, you were just a number. There were so many kids, and even adults. It wasn’t a family. And coming here, it was a family. Everyone was nice, and helpful.
MP: When it comes to math and science, you’ve taught just about everything over the last 25 years.
Tony: The only math class I haven’t taught is geometry. And the only science classes I haven’t taught now are earth science and physical science. I’ve taught physics, and chemistry, and this year I really enjoy teaching biology. It’s just stuff that I’ve enjoyed. It came easy for me. I’m not a big reader, or writer, and history made me fall asleep! I just wasn’t interested in that.
MP: And this is your last year, that’s got to be bittersweet.
Tony: It is… But I want to go out while I still love it. And I’m ready to move on to something different. I won’t be done working – I don’t know what that is yet – but something where I’m helping people, possibly kids.
MP: What have you enjoyed the most about teaching?
Tony: Working with the kids, and making those relationships with the kids, and having fun with them. That is, I think, the most important thing.
MP: What year did you move to Marion? What have you enjoyed the most about being a part of the Marion community?
Tony: 2003. The small town, that’s what I grew up with. When we were looking for a house, I really wanted to find something in the country; I wanted to have horses, and animals – I loved raising animals. My wife, Lynn, already had two kids – Cameron and Cassidy – and we had Keegan on the way, and it was hard to find a 5-bedroom house. Everything we looked at, you’d have to make a 5th bedroom. We tried to find one that had a room that you could do that with, and we did, and it was in town.
Living on [Eighth St.] at the time, the Grundy’s were pregnant with Nolah, there were two [other couples] in the neighborhood who were pregnant, so it was all kids in the neighborhood. It was funny because you’d tell your kids to go play in the road! It was a dead end, and it was safe, and there were a lot of kids in the neighborhood for our kids to grow up with.
MP: Speaking of kids, what keeps you busy in your free time?
Tony: The grandkids! We have 3; they’re 4, 3, and 1. During Covid, we just had the two, and we had them 3 to 4 days a week. It was really awesome, because they’re really close to us. All of our kids have good careers now. Keegan’s in college to be a mechanic and he’s loving that. Cameron is an airplane technician in Wisconsin, and Cassidy is a pediatric nurse at Devos in Grand Rapids. Cassidy and [her husband] Leon asked me to become ordained, and I actually performed their marriage. And Cameron is getting married in the summer, and they asked me to do it too. That was pretty cool.
MP: What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
Tony: Always stay positive. Always look for the good. You can find the bad easily, so always look for the good in everybody.
MP: Who have been your role models over the years?
Tony: My parents, Tony and Cathy, definitely. They were both hard working, and good role models. Several of my teachers at Lake City really inspired me to become a teacher, and enjoying what I do. I stay in touch with a lot of them.
MP: What will you miss the most when you’re done teaching?
Tony: Just seeing the kids and talking with them. Those relationships. The daily interactions.