Paul Gunty: Math teacher, swim coach known for his coolness under pressure retires


Maria Shaugnessy

From swim coach to math teacher, Paul Gunty contributed to the Lab community in many ways.

He’s cool under pressure, always has a plan, the guy with a distinct walrus mustache who you want handling any crisis.

For 30 years, Paul Gunty has been a friendly, supportive and passionate member of the U-High community with titles of math teacher, adviser, swim coach, operations coordinator and many others, but at the end of the 2019-20 school year he will take on a new title: retiree.

Mr. Gunty has always been passionate about math. To him, there is something really exciting about a well-done proof or finding the solution to a difficult problem. Mr. Gunty fell in love with teaching, because it allowed him to share this passion with students.

“When I first applied to Lab, they actually misplaced my application,” Mr. Gunty said. “They filed it under German and eventually figured it out, and I got my interview,” Mr. Gunty said, “but boy am I glad they did.”

Mr. Gunty started teaching at Quigley South High School, his alma mater, until it closed in 1990. When he started teaching at U-High that year, he was surprised by the different kinds of thinkers among students and teachers.

“They’re taught to think broadly,” Mr. Gunty said. “It’s like I’d be standing in the classroom, asking a question expecting one answer, and I’d get five different ones related to the question. It was just a different kind of thinking and a different atmosphere from the all-boys schools I’d gone to and taught at before.”

Mr. Gunty’s easy-going and open-minded teaching style blended well with the unique thinking styles of Lab students. 

“It’s all about breaking down everything into pieces in many different ways, so it works with everyone’s different thinking,” Mr. Gunty said. “Through all of my years of teaching and coaching, it’s been about finding the right way to break things down for each student and that’s where being easy-going is so important.”

Mr. Gunty’s philosophy motivates him to be consistently available to work with students and colleagues. For junior Danny Han, a student in Mr. Gunty’s AP Calculus AB class, Mr. Gunty’s flexibility in thinking and willingness to help makes all the difference.

“He’s really just always there for us,” said Danny, who is also in Mr. Gunty’s advisory. “If anyone needs math help in advisory or after class, Mr. Gunty is always willing to lend a hand, and it’s not only for math. If we ever need advice or help on anything else, Mr. Gunty is always available for us. We’re going to miss that a lot.”

Mr. Scroll feels the same about Mr. Gunty. 

“He just does whatever needs to be done,” Mr. Scroll said. “He could always run the show, and no one would think twice about it, because he is as cool as a cucumber in crisis … and you don’t have to ask him about it.”

Mr. Gunty has also served as finance and operations coordinator, an administrative role that handles work related to data, compliance, emergency preparedness, accreditation and other projects, and who provides a critical teacher perspective to school operations.

Just as Mr. Gunty is consistent and supportive in the classroom, he is the same in the pool as a coach.

“It’s always incredibly exciting for me when the swim team does well,” Mr. Gunty said with a smile. “I have some very fond memories of being in the stands and just celebrating the swimmers on the team, no matter how they did.”

Mr. Gunty has coached swimming for more than 40 years, including at Lab since 1990 as assistant and head coach working with both boys and girls teams.

Athletics Director David Ribbens said, “Coach Paul Gunty is a decidedly dedicated teacher and coach, and he has been for his entire professional career, a rare accomplishment that speaks to the heart of who Paul Gunty is as a person. I am grateful for his commitment to the students and to our entire Lab community.”

Horace Shew, a 2018 alumnus, spent all four years of high school on the swim team and said it is this support and general positivity that made all the difference on the team.

He also fostered a really great team environment and was just always there for us. He’s just a great coach.

— Horace Shew

“He’s very caring, so he’s always checking up on his swimmers,” Horace said. “He also fostered a really great team environment and was just always there for us. He’s just a great coach.”

As Mr. Gunty says goodbye to each of his roles as a teacher, coach, adviser and colleague, he is looking forward to spending time with his family and exploring some of his other passions such as space exploration and playing golf. Mr. Gunty has been a solar system ambassador with NASA since 1998 and has shared his passion through talks at libraries and at Lab.

“Every few years, I visit with the kids at ESH and show them the moon rocks and talk to them about space exploration,” Mr. Gunty said with a smile through his walrus mustache.

Mr. Gunty’s significant impact on Lab for three decades will be missed, and he will miss the community.

“I do genuinely enjoy teaching, and I’m going to miss it a lot,” Mr. Gunty said, “but really I’m going to miss the people, and there really are some great people I’m going to miss.”