By David Fong
TROY — When Michael Bunck left home for college, he figured Troy would remain a fixture in his rearview mirror.
“Honestly? No. I never thought I’d be coming back here,” said Bunck, now a physical education teacher at Troy High School and Cookson Elementary School. “When I left for school, I thought I was leaving for good.”
All of which goes to show just how the vagaries of life and the impetuousness of youth can lead someone off the beaten path — or, in Bunck’s case, right back home again. In the eyes of Cookson principal Stephanie Johnson, Bunck’s decision to return to his hometown has been a tremendous benefit to her school.
“He’s tremendous,” Johnson said. “He just has a way with children. We are extremely lucky to have him in our school and in our district.”
Following his graduation from Troy High School, Bunck had every intention of getting a degree in education, but had no intentions of studying to become a physical education teacher. Soon after he arrived Ohio University, however, Bunck learned studying physical education would be the quickest path into the “real world.”
“I chose physicaly education because I love teaching, but I also found out after my freshman year I could get immediately into the field and become hands-on, learning from other teachers,” he said.
Following his graduation, however, Bunck found that while it was easy to get into the field as a college student, finding an actual paying job wasn’t quite so easy.
“In physical education, there aren’t a lot of job opportunities,” he said. “A lot of districts are either cutting physical education entirely or at least slimming down the programs.”
So Bunck started working at Skyline Chili in Troy and applying for any job openings he could find. When he heard of a job opening in Troy, he immediately applied. He was called in for a morning interview, and received a return phone call from school officials later that day — right in the middle of the lunch rush at Skyline.
“My boss at Skyline came and told me I needed to call the board office right away,” Bunck said with a laugh. “I told him I had to run my line, because we were right in the middle of lunch. He told me they could find someone to handle it — I needed to call them right away.”
Bunck was offered a job within the Troy City Schools, and the next thing he knew, he was going from serving chili to setting up kickball games.
Bunck said he loves his job and the opportunity to interact with school children both on the elementary and high school levels.
“I love it,” Bunck said. “I remember my mother always told me to look for the uniqueness in each student. That’s what I try to do. I see every one of my students as an opportunity to change someone’s life, even if it’s by doing something as simple as teaching them how to throw a football.
“I know I wasn’t the greatest athlete in high school and when I was in school, there were some kids who didn’t like gym class. I think I have a mental connection with those types of kids. I want to put them in the best position to be successful and gain some confidence.”
As the physical education teacher at Cookson, Bunck also has the opportunity to work with many of the district’s special needs students — an area in which Bunck excels, Johnson said.
“The job he does with our special needs students just comes naturally to him — he’s very intuitive,” she said. “He’s been very successful in modifying what he does in his class to make sure they are included and having fun. The other thing that I think is fabulous is the way he not only does things with the special needs students, but the way he notes the kids who may need a little more attention or a little more support.
“He’s able to find the kids who maybe have some issues going on at home or don’t feel included at school and give them the extra support they need. He’s very intuitive about finding those kids. He’s very upbeat and a very caring person.”
Bunck said it’s all in a day’s work in a profession he loves.
“I know not every student I see is going to be a great athlete,” he said. “When I see that, I think, ‘What can I do to make that student successful?’ And if I can’t make them as successful as they might want to be, what can I do to make sure they still have fun? Some of our students are in wheelchairs, so when we play basketball, we’ve got rims where we can adjust the height. I know for some students, they fear shooting the ball and having it bounce back and hit them in the face — so we use a soft foam ball for them.
“It’s all about giving the students confidence and letting them have fun. That’s what I enjoy the most about my job.”
Contact David Fong at [email protected]; follow him on Twitter @thefong