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Exceptional education teacher Archer Bunner hula hooping with fire during a performance. (Provided by Archer Bunner)
Exceptional education teacher Archer Bunner hula hooping with fire during a performance.

Provided by Archer Bunner

Teacher feature: Archer Bunner

April 3, 2019

Archer Bunner was the teacher of the year this year and teaches the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) class, math inclusion classes for Algebra 1, and helps students in the alternative program, but she does much more than just teach. She also goes to prisons to lead AVP workshops, leads the AVP club in recycling around the school every week, helps lead AVP Indiana and even fire hula hoop dances.

One of the many classes Bunner teaches is the AVP class which helps students understand positive ways to communicate and deal with conflict.

“AVP class is service learning, so the idea is twofold, leadership development and conflict resolution,” Bunner said. “Conflict resolution being like how well do I know myself, how well do I react to other people, how well do I react to my triggers or my buttons, and how do I find ways to react more positively that lead less likely to violence.”

Bunner mentions that the AVP class is not like traditional classes. Not only are there no tests or quizzes, but it focuses on topics normally ignored in a high school class.

“It’s much more about how do I be a better person, a better version of myself, how do I be healthier, how do I interact with people which is not what we typically teach in high school,” she said.

Bunner not only teaches the Alternatives to Violence class, but she also leads the AVP club. The club members choose an issue to focus on each year and find ways to solve the problem. This year the club is focusing on recycling, encouraging teachers and students to recycle more.

“We are trying to do recycling, trying to start with white paper and eventually have a program where the school recycles much more than that,” she said.

We are trying to do recycling, trying to start with white paper and eventually have a program where the school recycles much more than that”

— Exceptional education teacher Archer Bunner

The class and club are not the only AVP programs that Bunner is involved in, she also helps run AVP Indiana, a non-profit organization started in 2011. Bunner explained that the main goal of AVP Indiana is to set up workshops in the community and prisons, which do the same activities as the class in a much smaller amount of time, about 18-22 hours over the course of two or three days.

“We do less workshops in the community, more in the prisons,” she said. “We have done a few at Earlham, we did a conflict resolution training mediation process training with the RA’s at Earlham this past year and a couple times we have done things like that with the staff of Earlham. We have had some general community workshops where anyone can show up and we do the workshops, but the majority of them happen in prison.”

She also facilitates in prisons about two or three times a month, doing conflict resolution activities done in the class with prisoners to improve the way they handle conflicts.

“Prison work is really interesting,” Bunner said. “Prisoners are just other people like you who made a mistake, and some of those mistakes are bad, some of them are really terrible, but the types of people who tend to be in an AVP workshop in prison are your more mature people. People who have realized that they made a mistake and are just looking for skills to help them when they get out.”

The prison, community, and school workshops in Indiana were started through AVP Indiana, but there is also an AVP National which some high school students are involved in.

“This year we are taking six students to the national conference,” Bunner said. “So we will meet with facilitators from around the country and even some from around the world. We are going to Oakland, California at the end of May and we get to be a part of that bigger community and realize that AVP is more than just our little class.”

Archer Bunner performing with fire for a small crowd.

Another activity that Bunner does outside of school is fire dancing, or fire hula hooping. Bunner started fire dancing when she met a friend in college and began developing more skills in hula hooping before adding fire to the equation.

“I made this friend Roger who had poi, which are the strings that have the balls on the end of them and you make patterns with them,” she said. “He had a pair of fire poi and he would let people practice with them.”

Bunner has practiced and become skilled at fire performing, so it is less dangerous after practicing for a long time, but she still sometimes makes mistakes that can cause accidents.

“Fire performing is dangerous, but it is less dangerous than people think,” Bunner said. “It is dangerous but it is hard for me to burn myself. Because of the way the hoop is built there are metal rods attached to the hoop which have Kevlar rope on them, Kevlar rope doesn’t burn, only the fuel on the rope burns so because of the way the hula hoop works, because the fire is constantly moving it’s fine. But the worst thing I’ve ever done was I have caught my hair on fire once and my pants sometimes.”

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