When describing your favorite teacher in school, the obvious qualities come to mind – helpful, friendly, understanding, compassionate, smart and always pushing their students to succeed. These tremendous traits and more are the definition of Steve Kuninsky, a nine-year veteran of Gwinett County Public Schools, a Parkview High School biology teacher and this year”s Gwinnett County Teacher of the Year.
Originally planning to be a doctor, Kuninsky realized teaching was his passion during his college days when his interest in helping people learn and understand science exceeded his desire to practice medicine. “I would always help my friends with their homework and problems with science. Along the way, I decided I would be happier teaching than in medicine,”# he says.
Since joining Parkview High School in 2002, he has been an exemplary role model to both his students and fellow peers by showing them that learning is more than just sitting at a desk and teaching is more than just lecturing. “Something that I”ve learned (as a teacher) over the years is that I can”t just lecture and have the students take notes. You have to have the students actively learning and actively participating,” said Kuninsky. “I don”t believe in just teaching by telling, I believe in teaching and learning by doing.” He encourages experiential learning in his classroom through working in groups, doing labs and even taking the students outside to do activities.
“All of my students are different. They all learn differently and all not in exactly the same way. I have learned from them that I can”t approach teaching in a way of “one size fits all,” ” Kuninsky says. He has discovered that by varying his teaching methods each student will stay more engaged in the topic. “You”ve got to keep it interesting and keep the students guessing. Some students learn better by reading a textbook, while others need the hands-on experience.”
He has also explored teaching through practical application. “We review current research and what”s being done in science outside the textbook, so students that are interested in science can see what”s happening now and get excited about different areas they can go into when they”re in college. ”
Above all, Kuninsky really cares about his students and wants to educate them through assignments that are valuable. “I like to give them work to do that will make them better people, help them become more intelligent and successful when they leave high school.” He continues, “I feel it”s my responsibility to prepare them for the real world.” He believes these kinds of qualities are what makes him a better teacher for his students. “I work hard and I put a lot of time into what I do. I expect the best from myself, just like I expect a lot from my students.”
Kuninsky also has admiration for his employer – Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS). “One of the things I love about GCPS is they do a really good job at providing the teachers with the resources that they need to educate their students effectively.” At Parkview High School, he loves the great teachers and administrators who put the students” education and well being in the forefront. ” – Everyone here really cares about the students. We do a good job of working together as a team. We really work to make our school a better place and provide a positive environment for the students,” says Kuninsky.
So what”s up next for Kuninsky? Next year he will continue to teach biology and will be co-chair of his department at Parkview High School. “I want to continue to become a better teacher. Even though I”ve won Teacher of the Year, I still feel I have so many areas where I want to improve,” he says.