Mr. Baser “Carries On” For 23 Years
Asking Students Same Question
Mike Baser, who has taught in the Mesa High Social Studies Department since 1996, still asks the same question of his students today at the beginning of each class period that he asked those he taught on his first day of teaching 23 years ago – “What are you?” According to Mr. Baser, the most valuable thing he can impress upon each and every individual that studies under him each semester is the absolute reality to what he firmly advocates as the answer to that fundamental question – A MIRACLE! In recent years, he has added a second question, building upon the first, to his daily opening formalities – “And what can you do?” Without hesitation comes the earnest reply – ANYTHING!
Beginning with this daily decorum, classroom discussion evolves into topics related to the subjects that Mr. Baser, currently serving his twelfth year as Chairperson for the Social Studies Department, has taught over his 23-year tenure at Mesa High. His list of courses as an instructor include American History, regular and AP U.S. Government and Politics, and Current Events. Along with that, he has been – or is still – an advisor to Student Council (StuCo), Jr. and Sr. AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination), Jackrabbit Nation Orientation (summer program for incoming freshman) and the Mesa High Interfaith Club, which among other things, collaborates with the administration to organize and conduct the annual Baccalaureate Service for graduating seniors. He is also an AP Reader, tasked with evaluating and grading the essay portion of district AP exams.
The second oldest of four children born to a railroad worker, Mr. Baser says his high school alma mater, Canyon del Oro in the Tucson area, was the tenth school he’d attended by the time he was a graduating senior in 1981. He had a strong interest in drama and theater and earned an Associate Degree in Theater at Eastern Arizona College in Thatcher, then transferred back to Tucson where his family was living and attended the University of Arizona. After marrying and taking some time off from his studies to work in Reno as a district trainer in retail management, Mr. Baser decided to return to the U of A to pursue a teaching degree. It seemed the natural direction to take, given his underlying interest in history and knowing how he enjoyed working with people, especially with the youth.
While working on his teaching degree, Mr. Baser’s wife’s parents accepted a mission call for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, so he and his wife moved to Mesa to live in their home during their absence, and he transferred to ASU to complete his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Education with an emphasis in History. Despite his inclinations to return to teach at his alma mater in Tucson, after completing just one semester of student-teaching American History at Mesa High in the spring of 1996, Mr. Baser says he had no desire to go anywhere else! In August of that year, he was offered a full-time position at Mesa High and he has been teaching and touching the lives of students here ever since. Between then and now, he has received a Master’s Degree in Education from NAU and is certified in Political Science.
Mr. Baser says that to him it’s all about the students. “The kids have given me far more than I’ll ever give them,” he states. “I work with young people who face challenges and circumstances that I can’t even imagine, who somehow manage to ‘carry on’, if you will, and make good choices, and it gives me strength and inspires me in my life.” He feels that there is a unique and special spirit of loyalty and excellence, as well as extraordinary family involvement at Mesa High that all contribute to making it such a great place to teach, as well as a great place to go to school.
Single for 8 years after his first marriage ended, Mr. Baser says he essentially has his students to thank for meeting his wife of 11 years Anjum, whose children were his students, as well as friends of his daughter Olivia (also his student). He never met Anjum during the time he was teaching her children. It was sometime later that her son persuaded Anjum’s foster daughter (yet another student) to set them up on a blind date, and with Olivia’s encouragement, he initiated their first phone call, eventual first date, and ultimately their marriage. Between the two of them, they have five children and seven grandchildren, ages 1 month to 13 years.
When asked about what has meant the most to him as a teacher at Mesa High, Mr. Baser’s response was – other than the mere opportunity to meet and work with the exceptional young people he has been involved with and, most especially, the times a student has taken the time to personally say “thank you” – that it would probably be the various school-sponsored trips that he was able to traverse in the company of his students. Between the Social Studies Department, StuCo and AVID, he has had several occasions to travel to Europe and Azerbaijan, as well as New York City, Washington, D.C. and other cities and college campuses within the United States, always with the express purpose of expanding each student’s experience of learning, observing and determining for themselves the actuality of the answers to those two questions that he has posed in class on a daily basis throughout each school year; in essence, to help each one internalize the concept that Mike Baser decided – way back before the very first class he ever taught – would be what he would want his students to know more than anything else he could teach them. That each student, each person, is a miracle. That life, itself, is a miracle.
Thank you for 23 awesome years of teaching, Mr. Baser!
Way to Carry On!
Upper left to right: Baser as Bernardo in “West Side Story” during his senior year of high school (1981); Baser with Jannette Kasl, former Social Studies teacher at MHS; Baser with Judy Cotter
Lower right: Mike and Anjum Baser (June 2011)