Instead of spending his days tanning in the Miami sun or fly fishing along the Snake River, 68-year-old Artie Hunter goes to work an hour early every morning to teach kids math and science.
He skips lunch to tutor kids that pack into his classroom, then stays after school to help more students, except for Tuesdays when he teaches after school at a young parents program.At the end of the day, Hunter reads up on Einstein's Theory of Relativity and "all that junk" before getting ready for sleep. His wife calls him the "Energizer Bunny."
The Utah Teacher of the Year nominee says he would become a "stark raving idiot" if he had to stay home every day, away from the junior high teens at Eastmont Middle School.
Over the past 37 years, more than 6,000 students have been taught by Hunter, described by former principal Marvin Reid as a "scrawny, little 120-pound man . . . (with) more love and understanding for students and people in general than anyone."
Hunter, who was born on the day the stock market crashed in 1929, learned not to waste time during the years of the Great Depression.
He once taught for 2 1/2 hours in the dark when a blackout left classrooms at Eastmont pitch dark because he didn't want to waste classroom time.
While walking around the school to check on teachers, Eastmont Principal Catherine Jensen said she walked by Hunter's class to see him working out a math problem on the board while a student held a flashlight for him.
"It was evidence of the respect the kids have for Artie, because they allowed him to keep teaching and putting problems on the board during the power outtage," Jensen said.
Hunter's first job took him to Los Angeles, where he was teaching when the Supreme Court decided the landmark case Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education against segregated schooling.
Buses divided up both black and white students between schools in upper and lower class neighborhoods, Hunter said. Many white students were placed in private schools by parents who did not like change.
After a couple of tense years, things became better, Hunter said. "The kids got a whole different concept of what life is."
Hunter left California for Utah in the '70s because he said he found himself baby-sitting instead of teaching.
"Here, I really enjoy it because I'm back at teaching. I'm back at the board and can teach," he said.
Besides " 'riting and 'rithmetic," Hunter believes students should be taught "how to cope with all aspects of life." Hunter spends five minutes of class talking about the thought of the day.
Jensen said when she transferred schools to become principal at Eastmont, she made sure Hunter could come along, too, because she wanted a teacher like him at her school.
Hunter's influence can be seen in some letters he has received from students.
"I started to like school a little just because of you," wrote one boy who said he really hated going to school.
Another student, who had to learn how to function in a wheelchair while still going to class wrote, "It was too hard and physically demanding for me to get around by myself . . . without you pushing me around in that chair and cheering me up I was so frustrated with my new disability, I can't imagine where I would be now."
Sometimes, though, Hunter cannot reach everyone. He talked about one of the suicidal students he counseled who ended up taking her own life despite Hunter's efforts.
"It hurts him, if he gives everything, and he doesn't help everybody," Jensen explained.
"Many (kids) get to the point in their own lives that there is no hope, and they won't allow you to help them," Hunter said. "I try to help them make the conclusion that there is hope."
Hunter says he plans to keep teaching for another two years, at least until he is 70. It may seem mind-boggling for some, but not to the Energizer Bunny.
What he does every day is simply more than teaching.