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Marc Biunno • Journalism • Roosevelt Intermediate School This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category.

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On day one of Marc Biunno's journalism class, I knew he was not an ordinary teacher. He ambled down the hallway in a sweater vest and greeted us with, “Ah, journalists! You are about to embark on air-conditioning. So enjoy it. 'Cause it's awesome.” I chuckled to myself. This guy is a character!

In a school built in 1926, an air-conditioned room is an oasis – and as we stepped in, we were confronted by newspapers plastered on every available surface. Headlines screamed for attention; pictures demanded a double-take; keyboards begged to be rejuvenated; the clock buzzed with anticipation.

When he became a teacher, Mr. Biunno's goal was “to be someone who is important to kids,” and he definitely achieved this as he led us to discover the importance of our newspaper. We'd go to him with questions and struggles and he'd give us input – help us work through issues, while teaching us to open our eyes and make little things extraordinary. “You don't learn from lessons,” he emphasized. “You learn from experiences.”

Mr. Biunno showed us how unique an opportunity being a journalist is, and that our voices could be heard through a class centered around students. It was much, much more than just a class. He taught us, impassioned us, and in turn, we were dedicated to our mission: the newspaper. Always stressing the importance of relying on each other to complete our task well, Mr. Biunno – or “The Biunnocorn” as we affectionately called him – was the center of our journalism family. He said, “This class is messy – that's what I love about it. But out of the mess comes a beautiful newspaper.” His charisma seeped into us; students voluntarily came to school an hour early to work on the paper. I watched kids who usually grumbled through the school day come alive in the midst of this adventure.

I never could have imagined journalism without Mr. Biunno – but on a freezing day in January, he entered room 103 for the last time. Since he'd broken the news to us that he'd been chosen to be an assistant principal a couple of towns away, we'd all been trying to forget that soon he wouldn't be our teacher anymore. “Pull up your chairs,” he said. “Let's talk.” We did, and he said, “I can't think of a better way for us to end our time together than in the middle of this process, this endeavor, of creating a newspaper.” He took out a tissue and wiped his eyes.

People have a hard time understanding why it was so difficult for Mr. Biunno and his students to say good-bye. “He's just a teacher,” they say. “How can you be friends with a teacher?” But his role went far beyond the curriculum. His teaching philosophy was evident in all he did, said, and in the way he interacted with us. He never “paints a group of people with one brush,” and to him “failure is information.” He encouraged us to question society and not let its standards dictate who we are: “I really respect those of you who just do your own thing.”

He put the importance of learning first and grades second – in fact, he wants to entirely reform the educational system. “Do you know what the GPA is that college officers look for for being nice to someone, or for being helpful?” he asked. “There is no GPA for those things, but those are the things that matter!” Mr. Biunno wants students to take ownership of their learning and become independent in how they think and live – and he provided us with an opportunity to do this before he left.

Our new teacher had never taught journalism before, and Mr. Biunno wanted her to feel supported. To this end, we students were given the chance to become advisors for the following semester. The process was a unique, real-world experience: he interviewed each of us, asking questions about journalism and how we would handle different situations. I was very fortunate to be chosen, and I will never forget what the experience taught me about being a leader and having responsibility over something that matters.

So as our class sat there on his last day, laughing, crying, talking, he told us, “Just care about something to the point that it rips your heart out if you leave it.” When I'm a teacher, the sign on my classroom door will read: “Welcome to the Journalism Experience.”

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category. This piece won the June 2012 Teen Ink Educator of the Year Contest.





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This article has 3 comments. Post your own!

VelaneDeBeauteThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Dec. 11, 2012 at 6:04 pm:
Its not just that he taught you guys something you won't forget, but I've visited portions of your memory concerning him and earned myself lessons. That is the perfection of a teacher. Your's is an article very well written! :) 
 
LifeWriteThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Dec. 15, 2012 at 5:17 pm :
Thank you, I'm glad I could help you understand a bit of his impact on myself and others!
 
TrishDestinyzThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. replied...
today at 7:43 am :
He's beyond amazing! You are so lucky to have had a teacher like him i wish i would!
 
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