A direct relationship

Physic teacher Randy Baskin shares his story

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Rider Media file photo

Mr. Baskin watches former students Ashley Flores and Lily Tran complete a lab in AP Physics 1.

Manasvi Reddy, Copy Editor

Every year,  Randy Baskin begins his Honors Physics class the same way. He asks the students what the most important word in the English language is before tying all their responses back to a single word: relationships.

For Baskin, relationships between people, places and experiences have shaped the path his life has taken him from a small Oklahoman town to his impending retirement.

Baskin, who is Rider’s nominee for the 2020 Wichita Falls Independent School District Secondary Teacher of the Year, was raised in a small town called Vinita in the hills of northeastern Oklahoma. After graduating, Baskin moved to Tulsa to pursue a degree in mathematics and physical science at the University of Oral Roberts.

“While I was there, I met a professor that I really admired. He had his Ph.D. from Princeton, and I thought ‘I wanna be like that guy,’” Baskin said.

This professor would end up writing Baskin a stellar recommendation when he applied to Princeton for graduate school.

“It’s funny, it seems like life is pretty much all about relationships, the people you encounter along the road, along the journey, that influence you,” Baskin said.

While at Princeton, it seemed that Baskin had his life planned out. He had every intention of pursuing a doctorate and teaching at a university. Then, he received a phone call that would reroute his life entirely.

“I had another really good friend that contacted me and said, ‘Hey, you’ve got to come to Odessa, Texas. The economy is booming, and our company needs people who are good at math,’” Baskin recalled. “I thought I’d go to Odessa for a year.”

He deferred his admission to his graduate program, but after transitioning to his new life in Texas, Baskin decided not to return to his studies.

“It was only for a year,” he said. “ (But) I was just enjoying the job, and I met my future wife there.”

Though he never intended on going into working with high school students, the prospect became more appealing once his wife, Shirley Baskin, began teaching.

In 1990, Baskin started teaching at Rider, and five years later he was teaching Advanced Placement (AP) classes. In 2004, the Perkins-Prothro foundation started an AP program for WFISD. The National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) came into classrooms, working with teachers to help them prepare their students. Baskin would soon leave WFISD to join the company for a decade.

“It was really fantastic,” he said. “We just made such a difference in terms of working with teachers and students, writing study guides and AP problems, and I got to go to Hawaii, Alaska, Key West, traveling everywhere, all across the country.”

In December 2015, Baskin left the NSMI and returned to Rider to teach physics, a subject which he, yet again, ties back to relationships.

Randy Baskin

“I love physics because it’s all about mathematical relationships, and I feel pretty passionate about it. But I also see that there is a direct correlation there with our human relationships,” he said. “The most important things in life are the relationships that we have with our family, our friends, our faith, and then, for me, my students. For me, the greatest pleasure in teaching has always been the students and the relationships that I have with many of the students.”

This isn’t the first time the 2020 WFISD Teacher of the Year nominee has been recognized for his outstanding teaching. In the past, Baskin received West Awards and was nominated for both Teacher of the Year and Tandy Scholar.

“He can teach students from the highest achievement level to the lowest achievement level and actually turn them on to the love of physics,” said Stacie Martin, his long-time colleague. “He just has a knack in the way that he instructs people.”

His nomination did not come as a surprise to many. Outside of his regular teaching, Baskin dedicated a significant amount of time in the University Interscholastic League Science competition, placing multiple students at the state level. He also took over Rider’s science department chair when Steven Henderson left.

“Randy is a master teacher. He can explain quantum physics to a duck — and the duck could then explain it to a frog,” said Henderson, who is now WFISD’s Secondary Science Coordinator. “He never likes being the center of attention, but always attributes his success and the success of his students to others when that success, in actuality, should be attributed to him.”

The honor is even more meaningful given that this is Baskin’s last year at Rider. After serving WFISD for more than 18 years, he plans on retiring at the end of 2019-2020.

“He is my go-to person if I ever have my own questions about the mysterious world of physics, and I will miss having our ‘Physics guru’ on campus,” said Bryce Henderson, Steven Henderson’s son and Baskin’s colleague. “He is irreplaceable. I will also miss his wit and sense of humor; he always has perfect comedic timing.”