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Passion for students leads Gunderman back to classroom
Posted On:
Friday, August 25, 2017
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Passion for students leads Gunderman back to classroom

Every child you pass in the hall has a story that needs to be heard. Maybe you are the one meant to hear it. -- Bethany Hill

When Amy Gunderman accepted the job as Franklin County Schools Child Nutrition Program Director six years ago, it was a logical career path move. She would work at the central office and receive a significant raise.

From the time Gunderman left her teaching position at Phil Campbell High School, where she taught Family and Consumer Sciences, she felt a void being disconnected from her students. That void continued until this fall, when Gunderman returned to the classroom at PCHS after stepping down from the CNP director position, a move that cost her $17,000 a year in salary.

But for the Phil Campbell native, teaching has never been about the money.

“At the time Mr. [Gary] Williams asked me about coming to be the CNP director, it was December of 2011, right after the tornado,” Gunderman said. “Almost right away, I wished I had stayed in teaching. I missed the kids and wanted to be back in school, but there wasn't an opportunity.”

That opportunity came this summer after the Family and Consumer Sciences teacher at Phil Campbell retired. With two children enrolled at Phil Campbell (one in fifth grade and one in 11th grade), Gunderman applied for her old position, and earlier this month she returned to the classroom.

A teacher since 1994, Gunderman was back where she belonged—teaching on a daily basis.

“I've always loved and enjoyed kids," she said. "I felt if I took the Child Nutrition Program director job, I'd be able to reach more kids and help more children. But when I got into the job and realized how many government restrictions were put on child nutrition, there was so much paperwork, that was really all I was doing.

“I didn't have much chance to get out and teach many nutrition lessons and interact with kids like I wanted to do. I wanted to do more nutrition education, but there just wasn't time with all the regulations involved in that job."

Franklin County superintendent of education Greg Hamilton said he hated to lose his CNP director, but he appreciates her passion in wanting to return to the classroom.

“Amy Gunderman has done a great job as the CNP director the last several years," Hamilton said. "Her love for teaching children has ultimately led her back to the classroom. I commend her for what she does for our school system."

Gunderman is a 1990 graduate of Phil Campbell. She earned her undergraduate degree in Secondary Home Economics Education from the University of Montevallo in 1994. Her husband Gary is a teacher at Tharptown High School. Her teaching career includes stops at Austin High School, Haleyville, Mt. Hope and Phil Campbell. She will continue to serve as CNP director until a permanent hire is made this fall.

“It was important to spend time with my kids," Gunderman said. "Lara is in fifth grade, and Anna Beth is in eleventh grade. Leah is in her second year at Northwest-Shoals Community College. I really feel like we're put on earth to make a difference, and I didn't feel like I was making a difference in that CNP job.

“The saying I want on my tombstone a hundred years from now is that it doesn't matter what's in your bank account or what house you lived in, but whether you were important in the life of a child. I missed that and felt I wasn't making a difference in the lives of children."

In just two weeks of school, Gunderman said her experiences with her students have reinforced that she made the right decision in returning to the classroom.

“Every day it's something different," she said. "I had a seventh-grade girl come in one day crying because she was lost and couldn't find her class. Different things happen every day. Kids come talk to you, and I realize I did the right thing in coming back."

She is teaching four classes, including food and nutrition, seventh-grade teen connections, and housing and interior design. And her daughter is in her first-period class, so that's another perk of returning to PCHS.

The biggest difference for Gunderman is the new school. When she left in 2011, classes were being held in portable units and at local churches.

“It's a really nice school. It's nice not to have to worry about roof leaks and things like that,” Gunderman said. “The facilities are very nice. With me being at the old school and coming back to this, it makes me very appreciative of what we have. The whole time I went to school at Phil Campbell we didn't have air conditioning. I know what it's like to have a swimming pool in the classroom because the roof is leaking.

“I tell my kids all the time how wonderful their school is and how thankful we should be. The kids are very appreciative, too. There's no litter on the ground. They respect the school. There's no writing on the bathroom walls. It's great to see the students genuinely proud of their school."


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