Teacher of the year finalist Kuninsky: 'It's been a lot of fun'

Photo by Ralph

Photo by Ralph

LILBURN — When Steve Kuninsky first went to college, he intended to be a doctor.

“I always thought about being a teacher, but I thought medicine was the way to go,” he said.

Editor's Note

This is the fourth in a series of six stories highlighting the finalists for Gwinnett County Teacher of the Year.

Kuninsky didn’t become a doctor. The Duluth High School graduate withdrew his application to medical school and majored in biology. He then continued on to graduate school, where he got a master’s degree in science education.

“I always like science, especially biology,” said Kuninsky, who now teaches biology at Parkview High School. “I had amazing biology teachers who still teach in Gwinnett County who really influenced me and made me love the subject.”

In his classroom, Kuninsky said he wants to make learning as fun as possible. He also wants to give his students a chance to access the curriculum through hands-on activities. He wants his students to learn by doing, rather than just reading about a topic in a textbook.

“I work hard and put in a lot of hours,” said Kuninsky, one of six finalists for Gwinnett County Teacher of the Year. “I’m never where I want to be. Every year, I work to improve.”

One thing he’s constantly trying to improve is his students’ achievement on the Advanced Placement biology test. In recent years, more students have been taking the college-level class, but as the enrollment has grown, the school’s average score on the test has dropped.

If he hand-picked his students, Kuninsky said they’d probably all earn scores of 4 or 5 on the 5-point test. Still, 71 percent of his students made a passing score of 3 or higher on the test last year, an average that is well above the national mean.

Parkview has opened the class up to kids of all ability levels, and Kuninsky thinks that’s good, because the challenging material is a good experience for the students that helps prepare them for college.

Kuninsky teaches two AP classes during the day. He also teaches honors and gifted biology.

As for being named a finalist for the county’s Teacher of the Year honor, Kuninsky said he was “surprised and excited.”

“For me, that was a big deal,” he said. “It’s a huge honor ... and it’s been a lot of fun.”