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Bitney Prep’s climbing teacher gets students to reach higher

Submitted to The Union

For six years, Mike Baer has taught the Bitney Prep climbing class and has inspired students at all levels of ability to embrace the sport. Baer has spearheaded the construction of the only indoor climbing gym at any Nevada County high school. He’s also the faculty advisor for the Bitney Climbing Club and has been the lead chaperone on a number of climbing field trips for the school.

Baer has had a lot of great climbing teachers in the past who led him to embrace the sport and want to teach it himself. One of his greatest joys is helping his students get confident enough in their climbing that they, in turn, start teaching other students. “I get excited to see kids excited,” Baer says. “In the process, they learn about themselves.”

Bitney Prep High School embraces access and opportunity for all of its students and is guided by the motto of “One Student At A Time.” Baer sees the climbing program at Bitney as a logical extension of that philosophy. “When you give students the tools and the confidence to succeed, they will succeed and be empowered by that success.” To this end, Baer does multiple fundraisers throughout the school year in order to purchase climbing shoes and harnesses for his students, as well as pay for the various field trips the Climbing Class takes throughout the year.

Through Baer’s class, students have had the opportunity to climb at Pipeworks in Sacramento, Grand Arch in Rocklin, and Mission Cliffs in San Francisco, as well as local climbs around Donner, Bowman Lake and the Auburn Quarry. “Whenever we see something we can climb, we get on top of it,” says Baer.

“I get excited to see kids excited. In the process, they learn about themselves.”— Mike BaerFaculty advisor for the Bitney Climbing Club

In addition to his work with the climbing class, he also runs a Dungeon and Dragons club at Bitney, empowering a different type of student in a completely different arena. Because of his ability to get students to be their best selves and to bring out that greatness in others, Baer is always listed as one of Bitney students’ favorite teachers and the rest of the community, from staff to parents, constantly sing his praises.

“In a way, Baer is Bitney,” says Bitney’s Director Jonathan Molnar. “His ability to connect with students and challenge them in a safe and supporting environment is what Bitney’s all about.”

Bitney Prep is a small charter High School located in the Brunswick Basin area of Grass Valley. Originally chartered over 20 years, Bitney started out as a college prep academy but has shifted focus in the last five years as part of the Big Picture Learning Network.

Bitney’s 90 or so students each spend all day, every Wednesday, at an internship of their choice. Through this program, they learn from local business professionals and discover which career path may be right for them. Bitney has student interns all over the county, at local veterinarian hospitals, radio stations, artist studios, newspapers, automotive repair shops, elementary schools, and other small businesses of every shape and size.

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