Meet the Teacher: Matt Hunckler, Niles High School

Educators are perhaps the greatest population of unsung heroes in Berrien and Cass County. This school year, Leader Publications will publish a weekly spotlight featuring teachers throughout the district, giving the community a chance to get to know the hard-working individuals shaping their children’s lives. Throughout the next school year, their answers will be published in the newspaper that serves each school district.

Name: Matt Hunckler

School: Niles High School

Grade(s)/subject(s) taught: 6-12 grade/choir

Where did you attend college? St. Mary’s University, Winona MN (BA)(1981)  IUSB (MS)(1993)

How many years have you been teaching? Thirty-seven years

How many years have you been with your current school? Twenty-nine years at Niles High School

Why did you decide to become a teacher? I was inspired by my teachers and my coaches to work hard, to have a vision and to achieve goals. I wanted to pass that on to other kids.

Outside of school, what do you enjoy doing for fun? Spending time with my family, fishing, canoeing, swimming, playing basketball with my sons, cooking and repairing things.

What is one thing your students may not know about you? I’m the same age as Michael Jackson (if he was still alive).

Who is your favorite fictional character and why? Scrooge, because I like stories where the leading character changes for the better, and he absolutely changed.

When you were a student in the grade you teach, what were your favorite hobbies? Playing basketball, playing my guitar, singing in the choir, playing in the jazz band, and building things with my hands (like ham radios).

How would your co-workers describe your teaching style and personality? That I work tirelessly, am trying to always stay positive, love to see a job done well, and am willing to be flexible.

Who is your biggest role model and why? Probably my father and my father-in-law (in that order).  They were both fathers of large families (they both came from small families).  They both worked tirelessly, to the end of their lives to provide the best they could for their family.  They were also very involved with their communities and made a positive difference in other’s lives.

How has education changed in the last 10 years? Distractions like cell phones and the internet, have become a major challenge in all of our lives.  Learning how to balance these and still hold high standards is the one of the greatest challenges.  Also, attendance, violence in schools, gun shootings, protecting and securing our kids have become serious issues in the last 10 years.

What is your best advice to parents to help their child continue growing academically? Remind your children that colleges are not suffering economically and there are scholarships galore available at almost every major university.  If you work hard and maintain good grades in high school, apply to the college of your choice. If they accept you, they want you and will help you get an education at their school.  Apply for those scholarships (apply for many scholarships. They are hard to fill out but save you money — lots of money). Colleges want hardworking students and will help you if you continue to work hard.

If my students learn one thing this year, I hope it is… To not be afraid and to do what is right.  Stand up for what is just and what you believe in.  You are not alone and others will stand beside you.

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