Position: Middle School Math Teacher
School: Hoboken Charter School
School District: Hoboken Charter School
City, State: Hoboken, New Jersey
About the Nominee: Chris Kunkel is a gifted teacher who enhances the lives of his students and goes above and beyond his main responsibilities. On his own personal time and weekends, he often spends time with his students, working with them on projects or organizing trips to local educational events. Mr. Kunkel is a hard worker who not only covers his core topic of math, but covers all areas of STEM. He has a passion for learning and exploration that shows in his interests and in the activities he introduces to his students. This growth mindset ends up creating educational opportunities and experiences for students that would not otherwise be available. It also establishes a similar growth mindset of life-long learning in those that he touches. Additionally, Mr. Kunkel has demonstrated exemplary leadership at the school level. As Hoboken Charter's robotics advisor, he has led the school's FIRST Lego League Robotics team to win top awards, including the Rookie Inspiration Award and second place project award. He is also the school advisor for Future City, a a project-based learning program where students in grades 6-8 imagine, research, design and build cities of the future. Under his leadership, the HCS Future City team has won a plethora of awards at competitions, including the Safest City Award, Most Innovative Power Generation System Award, Most Sustainable City Award and Best Use of Land Surveying Practices Award. Mr. Kunkel also received the Innovator of the Year award from New Jersey Charter Schools.
Most importantly, he is the advisor for the HCS chapter of Girls Who Code. This organization encourages female students to pursue STEM careers by teaching them how to code and giving them exposure to jobs in the STEM field. Mr. Kunkel's chapter has achieved national recognition. For example, two of his students, Maya and Lucy, joined Girls Who Code and built a website called "Get The Lead Out," after hearing about the Flint Water Crisis. Their goal is to educate middle and high school students about lead poisoning and how to prevent it. The website received coverage in the Huffington Post, and because of Mr. Kunkel's efforts, Maya and Lucy are interested in pursuing careers in engineering and biochemistry, respectively.