Learning from Mitzi Bass

Mitzi Bass
Originally uploaded by CameronMagee
Mitzi Bass has been teaching at Henderson longer than most of her students have been alive. The 2008-2009 school year will mark her 22nd year, and Bass says she’s not going anywhere.

Bass, pronounced like the fish, not like the clef, currently teaches three courses under the English umbrella here at HSU. These courses include Masters of Western Literature, Masters of Western Literature Honors, plus English A and B.

Bass has desired to be a teacher since elementary school, and attributes her influences on becoming a teacher to both her mother and her high school senior English teacher. Almost everyone has something that just comes naturally to them, for Bass, it’s grammar. Bass said that she had always loved “reading stories, telling stories, and writing about stories”.

Bass grew up in Texas before making the tri-state journey to George Peabody College for Teachers in Tennessee. After graduating and marrying in 1972, the couple moved to Arkadelphia. Bass married a Political Science major, who brought them to the town on a job offer from Ouachita Baptist University. The ravine romance between Bass and her husband has survived decades, with both of them still happily employed at their respective universities. Bass appreciates the inter-collegiate marriage, and says she has never considered crossing 10th street. “I’m very happy here at Henderson,” said Bass. She has two children, and now three grandchildren.

Bass has her Bachelor’s degree in English, with a minor in oral communication. Her masters is in English education. It did not work out for Bass to go for a doctorate on her time frame, but strongly encourages students wishing to follow in her footsteps to do so.

Bass challenges high school seniors to read difficult things, and write about them. To students that have already made it to Henderson, her sole advice is to simply show up to class, and come prepared. “So many issues could be completely avoided if people just did that,” said Bass.

“If my students are going to take the time to write something,” said Bass, “I’m going to take the time to read it.” Bass not only reads each of her students’ work, but she also takes time every night to read the text she has assigned. Doing the homework herself, along with the students, is something that she has made a habit of. “I teach 15 hours, plus 10 in the office, but I’m actually putting in about 50 hours a week,” said Bass.

With being in the teaching field for so many years, Bass has seen technology trying to sneak into the classroom, and has held the door open. “I am amazed every semester,” said Bass, referring to the information students are getting access to every day. With the rise of laptops and smart phones, research that used to take hours in a library can now be done from a dorm room. “With that comes the responsibility of correctly documenting those sources,” said Bass. She praised Henderson’s support system for technology, and credited the university for being a good teacher of technology for her.

Bass was excited to comment on the new HSU president, praising him as “a bright energetic president, who has the best of Henderson students at heart”.

Bass struggled with the question of choosing a favorite writer. “I know this sounds crazy,” said Bass, “but it’s the writer we’re discussing in class each day.” Bass truly has a passion for literature, that is clear to her students. Even after teaching almost the same curriculum for over a decade, she still gets excited every day just about entering the classroom, and possibly introducing the students to a writer they’ve never read before.

Bass’s philosophy is that the most important things to learn while on a college campus are not necessarily in the textbooks. “Developing a love of learning,” said Bass, “is one of the most important things to get done while on campus.” Bass also wishes for her students to, “Grow an appreciation for diversity”. Bass’s final advice to her students included “acquiring skills and knowledge such as critical thinking for the real world”.

“I treat people like I would want to be treated,” said Bass. “That’s pretty much the essence of what it means to be the ‘School with a Heart’”.