The Flinn Foundation and the Flinn Scholars Program recognize all of the talented and devoted educators in Arizona and their immeasurable impact on the lives of their students. Each spring, the Scholars Program ask members of the new class of Flinn Scholars to identify a distinguished educator who has had the most impact on their education. That educator is then honored by the student at the Flinn Scholars Recognition Luncheon in early May.
Class of 2023 Flinn Scholar Cameron Bautista recognized Arlie Hunt of Basha High School in Chandler. Bautista said of Hunt: “His influence extends beyond the phenomenal perspectives his classes gave me on the world; he truly taught me to accept my emotions and was always there for me when I needed his support.”
In his own words, read more about Hunt’s career as a teacher and what inspires him in the classroom.
1. How long have you been a teacher?
This is my 26th year of teaching. This is my 14th year at Basha High School.
2. What subjects do you teach?
Currently, I teach Advanced Placement (AP) Human Geography and AP U.S. History. I have taught five other subjects over the course of my career. I came to teaching AP classes relatively late in my career. I began teaching AP Human Geography eight years ago. That was wonderful because it allowed me to reinvent myself and rejuvenate my career.
Human Geography is everything wonderful about geography and social studies. Geography often focusses on landforms and countries. Human Geography is about understanding the processes underlying the current distribution of human activities on the surface of the earth. Human Geography deals with such fascinating topics as social factors, like language, religion, and culture, in addition to economic activities, like agriculture, manufacturing, and services.
3. What inspires you about these subjects?
Human Geography is simply fascinating for both my students and myself. It deals with understanding the world we live in and the world of tomorrow. I love helping students understand why the world is the way it is. It is so exciting to see them make connections to contemporary events, world patterns, and their own lives.
AP U.S. History is thrilling to teach because it is challenging. The challenge of teaching a year-long course in less time than college students have (due to AP testing in May) and the level of detail students need means that I must be at the top of my game every single day. Additionally, I love this subject, because it requires a change to thinking processes. Students must conceive of people and events as parts of a continuum. No longer are events discrete facts simply for memorization; they are an integral part of the whole, and as such are vital to understanding the development of America.
4. How do you engage with your students in the classroom?
Firstly, I employ a philosophy of love and respect. I treat my students as people, not children. I ask them how they are doing if I notice something is off. I am understanding if they need more time with an assignment. They have busy lives, and they appreciate the flexibility. I frequently tell them I love them. And it’s true. I love working with intelligent and hardworking people who are challenging themselves to be better. I also believe that students learn better in a positive and supportive environment. I go out of my way to be positive and encouraging every single day.
5. How did you encourage Cameron Bautista during the Flinn Scholars application process?
Cameron is amazing and very self-motivated. We had conversations where we discussed which aspects of his educational and personal life I could emphasize in his recommendation. Then, of course, there was the time it takes to compose three 300-word personalized essays.
6. What was your reaction when Cameron told you he would like to recognize you as his Distinguished Educator at the annual Flinn Scholars Recognition Event?
Interestingly, my reaction was mixed. Externally, I was very appreciative of Cameron. Internally, I was thrilled. Yet this was tempered by the fact that this honor is for doing just what I do. Day after day, year after year, I do this.
After attending the Recognition Event, my respect and appreciation for the Flinn Scholarship went through the roof! I was so impressed. What a magical experience these students are in for. I am currently in the process of reaching out to my current juniors that embody the Flinn Foundation values. I tell them about the program and all the amazing things I heard at the Recognition Event.
7. What do you believe is a teacher’s role in helping students be prepared for college and compete for scholarships?
I think the most valuable thing a teacher can do is to help students think through their strengths and weaknesses. Helping them to see themselves through another’s eyes is valuable. This not only prepares them for future interviews, it also allows them to fill in possible deficiencies.
8. What do you find most rewarding about teaching?
Seeing growth in these amazing young people. In the Chandler Unified School District, we teach Human Geography as a sophomore class. Approximately 50% of my students are taking their first AP class. They often experience homework and critical-thinking shock when they arrive. But through the course of the year, they adjust and grow and discover that they are capable of succeeding in AP classes. And a vast majority do extremely well on the AP exam.
In AP U.S. History, I get to see students develop as writers. They often start the year writing in generalities, lacking detail and connection. Somewhere around the middle of the year it really starts to click and they become excellent writers. Students who have graduated will write me and thank me for helping them develop critical-writing skills. That is rewarding.