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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Everyone has a story: Michael Bonner

Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat

Michael Bonner, a UA history professor, grew up in Valdese, North Carolina, and has had a variety of teaching jobs including having tutored child actors from casts on such networks as Nickelodeon.
Gordon Bates
Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat Michael Bonner, a UA history professor, grew up in Valdese, North Carolina, and has had a variety of teaching jobs including having tutored child actors from casts on such networks as Nickelodeon.

“”Everyone has a story”” is a weekly segment in the Arizona Daily Wildcat that aims to tell the story of an interesting person on the UA campus. This week, the Daily Wildcat interviewed UA adjunct lecturer Michael Bonner, a former tutor to child actors who teaches three upper-division history courses and a TRAD 103 course.

This UA history adjunct lecturer from a small Southern town tutored Hollywood celebrities before making the trip to Arizona.

Michael Bonner left his hometown of Valdese, N.C, to attend North Carolina State University.

After getting his master’s degree at East Carolina University, he moved to California to establish residency and get his doctorate degree from University of California, Riverside.

While attending UC Riverside, Bonner tutored cast members of the Nickelodeon variety show “”All That”” in academic subjects.

“”That was a neat job,”” Bonner said. “”They were nice, very respectful.””

Amanda Bynes was one of Bonner’s students.

Bonner also taught basketball techniques to Bynes and his other students for their physical education.  

“”She was good,”” Bonner said of the actress. “”I don’t want to say ‘vicious,’ but she would hack people in the game if she had to,”” he said with a laugh.

Bonner’s small-town upbringing was a far cry from his southern California celebrity teaching experience, but he maintained his small-town outlook.

“”Hollywood’s not that big a deal,”” Bonner said. “”You shouldn’t have stars in your eyes when you see celebrities.””

Bonner’s ancestors immigrated to Valdese in 1893.

“”They picked the mountains of North Carolina because it reminded them of the Alps,”” Bonner said.

When Bonner was growing up in Valdese, there were only about 2,500 people in the town.

Valdese is one of the few Waldensian communities in this country.

The Waldensians are a European, pre-reformation religious Christian sect that make up a huge portion of the Valdese population, Bonner said.

“”I used to get teased when I was a kid for being Waldensian, but I didn’t care, we run the town,”” he said with a laugh.

Valdese is one of two places in the country to have Waldensian churches. The other is located in Rochester, N.Y.

At age 15, Bonner started working at the Waldensian Bakery, which helped pay for his undergraduate degree. Bonner returned to work at the bakery during summers and holidays.

Bonner’s Southern upbringing sparked his interest in the early history of the United States.

“”Growing up in the South, I was always fascinated by looking at the history around me,”” he said. “”It’s kind of like being a history whisperer. In the South, you can look around and see where all these events took place. In other places in the country, you can’t necessarily do that. Southerners have a distinct past, and most of it’s not too pretty.””

Bonner teaches a TRAD 103 course and three U.S. history classes. His specialty is Civil War history.

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