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APUS Alumni Stories: Ensuring That Wars Are Not Forgotten

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By Melanie Conner, Student and Alumni Affairs Liaison and Michael Buster, AMU Graduate

AMU graduate Michael Buster recently launched “Forgotten Wars,” a podcast that focuses on wars that have affected millions of people but are not well-known or have been forgotten entirely. The focus of the podcast ties in nicely with Michael’s personality and with his current profession as a high school history teacher in the inner city of Phoenix.  

Michael Buster, AMU Graduate

Michael says, “I teach for the underdog, the kids who are often neglected. I like sharing history, so I can tell stories that matter but are forgotten.” Michael says that his heart has always gone out to the underdog, and he thought that his podcast audience and students interested in wars would appreciate learning about forgotten wars that matter and that helped shape our world today.

Learning and Teaching about Forgotten Wars

Michael’s first season of “Forgotten Wars” will focus on wars between the British and White South Africans for the control of South Africa. Michael learned about these wars during his master’s program at AMU, and he says that it was humbling to receive assistance from many higher education professionals at the university as he began his research for these podcast episodes.

Michael observes, “My master’s in European history gave me much more humility and made me slower to make sweeping statements about different periods in history. The more I learned in my master’s program, the more I was struck about how much there is to know about any given topic.”

Having been interested in history since elementary school, Michael handwrote a 17-page paper about the American Revolution in elementary school. He completed a bachelor’s in Secondary Education: History from Arizona State University.

In 2012, Michael began teaching history in 2012 and currently works at a Title I school. He has also taken part in Arizona’s Red for Ed movement.

If you’d like to connect with peers to share your love of history, consider joining our Historical Studies Honor Society or The Saber and Scroll Historical Society!

Adapting to Virtual Teaching

In his day-to-day role of being a teacher, Michael teaches three 90-minute blocks a day. He incorporates virtual platforms into his daily routine, including Kahoot, Gimkit and Nearpod.

Michael notes that things have definitely been challenging with virtual teaching. He says, “I and other teachers are going through trial and a lot of error, trying to figure out how to make the personal connections with students that were so vital when we used to meet in person.”

Also, Michael says that the most time-consuming responsibility has been lesson planning for a totally different environment. He observes, “Most of what we did the previous year does not work online, so going back to the drawing board has been really time-consuming.”

What inspired him to pursue a career in the education field? Michael says, “I wanted to help kids who statistically weren’t supposed to do well.”  

Motivating Students to Learn

As a teacher in a Title I school, Michael notes that the biggest challenge he faces is motivating kids to do the hard work and the not-so-fun things. He says that approximately two-thirds of his students want to go to college, and he wants to help them stick with their goals and focus on their accomplishments.

But getting them to excel academically has been a challenge. He also says that getting parents to join the academic journey and to hold their kids accountable for doing their schoolwork has been another challenge.

Michael overcomes these challenges by giving his students practice in reaching their dreams, helping them to see their dreams and giving them real opportunities. He strives to make his class a caring, comfortable place where students want to be.

Michael says, “I have students write essays several times per semester to bridge the gap between their college dreams and their current ability. I facilitate full class discussions (Socratic seminars) on historical topics that are also tied to current events. I try to bring in guest speakers at least a couple times a school year.”

Pursuing National Board Certification

Michael’s goal is to make himself better at his job. In 2021, he plans to pursue National Board certification to become a nationally board-certified teacher.

Melanie Conner is a Student and Alumni Affairs Liaison at the university. Having worked in higher education for almost 10 years, Melanie enjoys cultivating relationships with students and alumni. She has undergraduate degrees in education from Germanna Community College and in sociology from the University of Mary Washington.

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