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Runyon blends passion for teaching with service to country

Photo: Rylee Smith

Fairmont Physics teacher Chad Runyon thoroughly teaches his students during class.

By Nikki Kelley, Features Editor

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Inevitably, being a high school teacher and instructing teenagers every day can sometimes be pain. But being a high school physics teacher, a husband, a father and, on top of all that, a member of the Navy Reserve can be even more overwhelming.

Fairmont physics teacher Chad Runyon, however, seems to succeed in all four of these activities and, most importantly, he still enjoys everything he does each day.

After graduating from Purdue University, Runyon immediately joined the Navy, where he started in active duty flying helicopters. After 9 years, he retired from active duty and switched to the Reserve, where he has served for another 11 years. Although Runyon loves teaching and is proud of what he has sacrificed for his country, he says working in the Reserve has still been quite difficult.

Interruptions to family and teaching

On June 12, 2011, Runyon left Ohio to do Reserve duty in California. Because he didn’t return to Ohio until Dec. 21, 2011, a substitute teacher replaced him for the first semester of the school year. This wasn’t as hard on Runyon, though, as it was on his wife, Jennifer and his 12-year-old son, Jack.

“Overall, it was more troubling on my wife and family than it was on me,” said Runyon. “But it was still difficult for me, too, because I couldn’t take my son to soccer practice, go and meet with a teacher and all those things that tend to fall on my wife and are tough on my son as well. I think if Jack was a little younger, it wouldn’t have mattered as much, but now that he’s older, it was harder on him for me to be gone that long.”

Despite the fact that serving his country as a part of the Navy Reserve can be tough on Runyon’s family, he stays confident and continues to be excited about his Reserve responsibilities. Runyon has continued working in aviation; however, instead of being called a pilot, Runyon is now an Aerospace Engineering Duty Officer.

“I work on aircraft engineering issues. Specifically, what I’ve been doing is aircraft survivability,” said Runyon. “Our goal is to increase aircraft survivability by collecting the data about what bullets, missiles, rockets and specific weapon threats do to our aircraft. Then, we try to get that information to engineers who work well with fixing and increasing the survivability rate for the aircraft.”

A desire to make a difference

At the same time Runyon transferred to the Reserve, he also made another big decision in his life: choosing to be a physics teacher. “I think, like any other teacher, I’ve always wanted to do something that I enjoy and can have fun doing as well,” said Runyon. “But I also wanted a job that I could look back on and feel that I had a positive impact on a few kids’ educational experience and made a bit of a difference each day.”

After teaching Physics for 9 years, though, Runyon knows that physics isn’t an easy subject for everyone. Because physics requires skill in both math and science, some students need an extra push or explanation in order to understand some topics. Runyon tries to find new ways to teach things to students every day.

“I try to influence my students to read more things and use the Internet to watch videos in order to try and learn better and also easier,” he said. “I’m always trying to learn better ways to present material. For example, I had students watch a real-life example on YouTube of a rifle recoiling, which plays into the topics of impulse and momentum.”

Runyon’s colleagues understand that this is what makes him such a good teacher: He always tries to help his students learn. “He works really hard to come up with ways to explain physics because physics is not an easy subject to teach,” said Science Department Chair Pat Fife. “He has a lot of good resources like different graphics and animations that he uses to try to help make physics as visual as possible to his students.”

A full life … and busy days

Runyon’s days are full. He manages to arrive at school promptly at 6:30 a.m. every day, and he usually doesn’t leave until all his students have been helped. Yet, he still maintains a life out of school. At home, he spends time with his wife, who is an art teacher at the University of Dayton, and his son, who is in sixth grade, and all of his animals – a host of pets consisting of two dogs, three cats and the bees that he keeps when the weather is right.

Besides writing physics problems and coming up with new classroom technology to use, Runyon enjoys going on a little adventure once in a while or doing pretty much anything outdoors. “I plan to go up to Minnesota soon with my son, dad and brother and go portaging,” said Runyon. “The idea is there are no motor boats allowed, so you have to bring your backpacks and carry your canoes from place to place. I really love doing activities like that.”

The challenges Runyon has faced and overcome are endless, and the contributions he makes to Kettering’s students, his country and his family are priceless – but exhausting. In the end, though, Runyon still looks back and wouldn’t change a thing.

“I definitely don’t regret any of the decisions I’ve made in my life,” he said. “I think I’ve been lucky to be able to pursue things that interest me, and it’s rewarding for me to make positive impacts on other individual’s lives. I think I could do other things as long as I was making a positive contribution, but I don’t know if that would be quite as fun. And plus, I wouldn’t get to interact with folks like everyone at Fairmont.”

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The school newsmagazine of Kettering Fairmont High School.
Runyon blends passion for teaching with service to country