Feature Teacher

Making an impact

Mike Buskirk

Photo by Andy Towle. |

Mike Buskirk


At which PUSD school do you teach? Rim Country Middle School.

What is your college degree and education? AA from Palomar College, California. BA in instrumental music from San Diego State, master’s in instrumental conducting from Southern Oregon University.

Why do you teach? When I graduated from high school, I was playing in dance bands at Camp Pendleton (Marines) and Miramar Naval Air Station. Vietnam had just finished and everyone was getting out of the service so the recruiters were looking for people. I thought about jumping up to help protect our country. But then I thought, “If I become a teacher, I can teach kids how to get along with each other. Then when they grow up, we might not have any more wars.”

I started to go into counseling but realized I could have a greater impact using music as the vehicle. I don’t think politicians will ever agree. If we are going to create world peace, I truly believe it will come through the arts — music and dance, art and sculpture, drama and books — for that is what we have in common. We must focus on our commonalities and diminish our differences.

Personal motto/words of wisdom? If you think you can or if you think you can’t — you’re right.

Tell us about your family: Married 25 years to Daria Mason — flutist (not flautist), vocalist, director at PHS and Payson Choral Society. Son Kit, 18, freshman at Northern Arizona University, engineering, French horn, vocalist. Son John, Jr. at PHS, drum major for the band, euphonium, trombone in jazz band, vocalist. Pets — lots of cats, 60 fish and I feed about 80 wild birds over the winter.

What’s your biggest pet peeve? Negative attitudes.

What is your favorite activity? Spending time with family, especially if we are making music — singing, playing hand bells or in any ensemble.

Why did you choose to teach in Payson? It is the size of my hometown of Escondido where I was born. In 1990, my 2,400-square-foot house in the forest on four acres costs about the same as my sister’s 45-year-old 600-foot square house on a sixteenth of an acre in Escondido. We are within one day’s drive of family. People will say, “Yes, sir,” instead of “#%*!” you!”

In school who was your favorite teacher and why? Mrs. Blackman (second grade) saw my potential and started me on cross-multiplying fractions, binary and various other bases, and taught several of us Spanish.

Mr. Skipwith started me in band in fifth grade and then moved me into the junior high band seven months later. Mr. Arndt gave me a love for science (which is coming in handy now that I teach three sections of engineering). Mr. Harrison, high school band, showed me that I really could do anything I set my mind to.

What was your favorite subject in school and why? Art, music, metal shop, musicals — I could create things.

What was your favorite year in school and why? Eighth through 12th grades — in each one I had a personal epiphany, which helped shape the person I became.

What family influences brought you to where you are today? We went to a big church (1,200 members) twice a week and were involved in the running of it — we served our Lord.

My father was very patient and observant of details, often questioning why. Mom was creative and helped me find alternative ways to accomplish a task.

She also fostered ESP among my siblings. My sisters made me realize — girls are not like boys at all! My cousins and several exchange students who lived with us made me more accepting of individual and social differences.


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