BATH TOWNSHIP — With Friday marking the end of school for many area districts, finality was a common theme in many classrooms. For a fourth-grade classroom at Bath Elementary School, however, that notion was heightened by the fact that the teacher, Michael Hunt, was retiring after 37 years in education.
“I’ve been in this room for 15 years,” he said. “Prior to that, I was in first grade for 19 years, and that was downstairs.”
Hunt was a trailblazer during his early years at Bath, being the first male elementary classroom teacher in school history.
“We were a rare breed,” he said. “When I started in education, all my classes were geared more toward middle school, which was much more socially acceptable. I had to do one class where I came here at worked in a first-grade classroom doing reading stuff. When I got in the classroom, I really liked what I was doing there. So it changed my entire direction of where I wanted to go.”
The principal at the time refused to hire Hunt, saying that he did not want a man teaching in his school. However, after two years working in the Catholic education system in Wapakoneta, that principal retired and his replacement hired Hunt without even interviewing him.
“After one year in second grade, I moved to first grade and taught for 19 years,” he said. “I didn’t move out of first grade because I didn’t like it. The reason was more that I couldn’t spend my days on the floor with kids anymore. First grade teachers are either down on the tiny chairs or on the floor, and my knees couldn’t take that anymore. Plus after a week of being in fourth grade, I found out that these kids got my jokes. First grade kids didn’t have a sense of humor.”
Being an educator for that long has brought its share of interesting situations for Hunt.
“I have one boy in my class this year whose father I had as a first grader,” he said. “It’s not too bad. I can look at that student now and go, ‘I can remember when your dad did this.’ So I’ve had some second generations coming through. The strangest situation I had was when my youngest son was in kindergarten and his teacher was a former first-grade student of mine.”
Hunt has encountered many changes in his job, such as increased accountability, both from pupils and from the state, in terms of his teaching material and methodology, creating longer days and much more paperwork than in the past. However, Hunt can look back on his career and truly say he has no regrets.
“I like what I do,” he said. “If I didn’t like my job, then I might have regrets, but that’s never been the case. I’ve never regretted the decisions I made. Things have changed, and I’ve tried to change with them. I look at what I do as valuable. If I didn’t like what I was doing, I wouldn’t have stuck with it this long.”
For Bath Elementary principal Chris Renner, Hunt’s retirement will be a major loss for the school.
“As an elementary principal, you always want to look for good teachers,” he said. “If you can find good male teachers, it’s a nice extra bonus. When you look at someone like Mr. Hunt, who has devoted 37 of his life, you don’t find too many guys who are good at being with little kids every day. It’s really a neat thing.”
As Hunt prepared to send his class out for lunch, as he exhorted them to behave properly in the hallway, he ended with the words, “Be impressive,” perhaps the best two words to summarize his time at Bath Elementary School.