Stanislaus Military Academy’s Ron Kunnen may be relatively new to the education field — he’s only been teaching for five years — but he’s already making a huge impact on his students and school. The dedication Kunnen has shown to education and making a difference in the community earned him the 2017 Juvenile Court, Community and Alternative Schools Administrators of California Teacher of the Year award.
“Teaching in alternative education requires a certain character, dedication and spirit that not only connects with these students but also inspires them to learn and invest in their future,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson. “Ron’s commitment to his students and his unwavering belief in their abilities helps them to believe in themselves.”
Kunnen teaches Building Trades and Construction at the Stanislaus Military Academy, located in Turlock. His students receive real-world industry experience while learning about community participation. Kunnen’s classes have worked with Habitat for Humanity on home construction projects, built more than 30 free community “little libraries,” and constructed tables and benches for the Stanislaus County Office of Education outdoor education program, Foothill Horizons, which serves more than 6,500 sixth graders annually.
Kunnen said it was very “humbling” to be awarded the Teacher of the Year award, especially since he’s a “late bloomer” as a teacher. He said that teaching is a “good fit” for him.
“I try to teach them to respect themselves, respect others and give back to the community,” Kunnen said about his main goals when working with young adults.
His supportive and compassionate mentoring style is making an impact on his students, including one who wrote: “I learned many valuable lessons with Mr. Kunnen. He taught us to treat ourselves with the respect we deserve.”
Each county office of education nominated one court, community or alternative education school teacher for the award. The JCCASAC board reviewed applicants and selected the winner. Kunnen, along with 10 other nominees, were honored at a special Teacher of the Year luncheon ceremony during the JCCASAC state conference at the Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe in Truckee.