Good teachers are remembered for going the extra mile and establishing a connection with their students outside of the classroom. Mr. Kunin is one such teacher, making an effort to get to know his students through extracurricular activities where he says they are often happier.
Before teaching, Mr. Kunin attended Randolph from 6th-9th grade, then Grissom and MIT. He became interested in his extracurricular activities in middle school. A talented mathematician, he went to a summer math camp and multiple math tournaments throughout middle and high school. He also enjoyed exercise and games, including contra dancing, ultimate Frisbee, juggling, and basketball. Before 8th grade, he had no experience playing basketball. Even though he got very little playing time, he stuck with it because he enjoyed the game and wanted to learn. However, in 8th grade, he fractured his eye socket in a game and was out for the rest of the season. To this day, he still can’t look up with that eye. But the accident didn’t make him give up his love for the game. He continued to play basketball for fun with his high school math team and continued to learn the way of the game and got a lot better. Now he’s the official stats keeper and an assistant coach for Randolph’s varsity basketball team.
These many sides of Mr. Kunin make him an exceptional teacher and mentor. He stands out in my mind not just as my 8th grade math teacher, but as my basketball coach, math team coach, and advisor. In the classroom, there isn’t much room for anything but test prep, but on long bus rides to basketball games or math tournaments, we could all loosen up and have a blast, and even crack a few jokes, some of which have been the funniest I’ve ever heard. (If you get the chance, ask him how to catch a pink elephant.)
Not only did I get to know a different side of Mr. Kunin through these extracurriculars, but he improved my overall understanding of these subjects. As I see Mr. Kunin transition from strict math teacher to fun basketball coach, he helps me move from the logical problem solving of math to the logical flow of a basketball game. And even though math club meets after school and the competitions are on the weekends, it’s worth joining not just for the experience, but for the fun you have along the way, learning advanced math in a more relaxed environment. From improved skills in both math and basketball to memorable contest experiences, Mr. Kunin has made a lasting effect on my life as a great teacher, coach, and mentor.
(Editor's Note: He's also very good at limbo, as shown in this video of a 2010 Middle School house competition. Music by the UAHuntsville steel drum group.)
This story appeared in the Spring 2012 Randolph magazine. Ryan is a member of the magazine's editorial board.