Math teacher wants students to understand the importance of a good work ethic

Jeremy Unger, Coal City High School math instructor and tennis coach encourages students to develop new relationships.

COAL CITY – When Jeremy Unger was in high school everyone told him he would become a teacher. His classmates told him he “just had that thing.”

The “thing” is a passion for helping people reach their potential and giving them the tools they need to get there.

“I know it’s cliche, but the reason I wanted to become a teacher was to help the students. That’s the number one,” Unger said.

After graduating from Coal City High School, he obtained his teaching degree from the University of St. Francis in 2009, where he played tennis. After graduation, he returned to his hometown as a math teacher and tennis coach.

“I had a very good education here. So, I knew I wanted to teach around this area, and in the nine years I’ve been here it’s been good,” Unger said.

Unger teaches advanced geometry, algebra 2, advanced algebra and trigonometry to all student levels. He said he tries to make himself available for students as often as possible, in case they need extra assistance.

“There are not very many mornings that you won’t find students coming in to get extra help from Mr. Unger. He always offers his time before school to offer assistance to the students of Coal City High School. He develops great relationships with the students. If there is a home activity, you find Mr. Unger there,” Coal City Superintendent Christopher Spencer said.

As the tennis coach and a sponsor for the ping pong club, the relationships he builds with his students extend past his classroom.

Former student Colin Hart still joins Unger for practice when he is available. He attributes his tennis career to Unger.

“I didn’t pick up a racket until my sophomore year. He gave me my first racket. He is a really good coach. He pushes you to perform your best and will work with you if you are willing to put in the extra work,” he said.

His teaching philosophy coincides with his ideals as a coach, he just expects his students to try their best and work hard.

“Just about any job that you have – that you do – typically a work ethic and good time management skills are crucial. That’s what I want them to understand. Don’t study the night before a test, you need to be doing things throughout. It’s not going to do any good in any job. If you’re going to pitch to somebody you can’t do it in two minutes and expect to nail it,” Unger said.

As the tennis coach and a sponsor for the ping pong club the relationships he builds with his students extend past his classroom.

Coal City High School allows its student to explore as many extracurriculars as possible, whether it be performing in the musical, competing in a state wrestling meet, or playing in a tennis match, Unger said it’s this type of flexibility in their students that prepares them outside the classroom.

“One of the most important things you have to be able to do is talk to someone and experience new things. You meet people, you develop new relationships, you develop new ideas, and you might find out you’re good at something that you never knew you would be,” he said.

Next year, Unger hopes to implement a racquet club, possibly with some pickleball and badminton. He said a student came to him a few years ago and asked him to sponsor the club Unger thought the idea sounded fun.

“It feels good to know they are comfortable coming to me and obviously I like that they respect me enough to ask me to do these sorts of things,” Unger said.