Incumbent School Board Member Nina Lou Bunting knows teaching.
Bunting is a relative newcomer to Indian River School District (IRSD) governance — she’s running for re-election to her second (three-year) term on the School Board.
However, she was busy elsewhere prior to her first term — wrapping up a 39-year career in elementary education around the IRSD.
Bunting is a lifelong native. Raised in Selbyville, she attended the “Selbyville School,” grades K through 12.
“We didn’t have to worry about snow days back then — the town kids just walked to school,” she recounted. “The country kids, we knew we weren’t coming, and the teacher who lived in town just doubled up for the teachers who lived out in the country.”
She remembered her father pulling her to school on a sled when she was little.
According to Bunting, it was quiet in “Slower Lower” then — in fact, no one wanted to move to Sussex County.
“Even in high school — I had teachers who lived in Pennsylvania, whose families wouldn’t move down here,” she said. “They would come down during the week, room in houses in Selbyville and return home on weekends.
“It was hard to get substitutes, too,” Bunting continued. “I remember, in 10th grade, the biology teacher would get snowed in up in Pennsylvania, and I had to teach biology.
“The principal would leave the intercom on so he could help me with discipline, and I taught. I taught my class biology.”
According to Bunting, classes were larger in those days. She said she there were 36 students in her graduating class and it wasn’t until a few years later that the school moved to two classes per grade.
That was 1960. Bunting made valedictorian that year (but she downplayed the accomplishment, noting the small pond).
What’s more, she was the 1959 Miss Delmarva. That earned Bunting a $1,000 scholarship, enough to pay for her first two years at the University of Delaware (UD).
Bunting went to UD for a year-and-a-half (she also became Miss Delaware during that period — 1961). However, she caught mononucleosis and was sent home sick.
She married her boyfriend, Franklin, in 1962. Bunting said he’d been the star quarterback at John M. Clayton High School and later at Wesley College. “He was the guy all the girls wanted,” she smiled.
She taught third grade at Lord Baltimore that year, on an emergency certificate — according to Bunting, area schools were hard-pressed to attract help in those days.
That marked the advent of a busy season, as she went back to work in local kindergartens and started taking college courses again — all while raising three children, (born 1964, 1966 and 1968).
She credited her parents and grandparents for helping to make it happen, by taking care of the children while she was in class.
It took Bunting until 1972, but she finally earned her Bachelor’s degree, in home economics. That would have certified her only for nursery and kindergarten, but she said she’d taken elementary education courses as electives, so she was cleared to teach up to the third grade.
She returned to Lord Baltimore, and remained there for eight years. (Bunting saw her own children pass through her classroom during that period.)
“I loved it,” Bunting said. “I loved being employed, after all those years of going to school.
“Of course, my kindergarten years were marvelous, too. I think I did some of my best teaching even before I got my degree,” she added. “There were so many things, when I went to college and started learning ‘how to teach,’ that I thought I had invented myself.
“Everything is an update — the newest and the most improved,” Bunting pointed out. “By being state Teacher of the Year, I belong to the national Teachers of the Year, so I’m involved with the national meetings, and with people throughout the country.
“And getting the latest with the school board, I’m abreast of everything that’s coming out,” she said. “As I read the literature, I think, ‘Okay, we did that in the 1960s — okay, we did that in the 1970s, oh yeah, we did that in the 1980s.”
Bunting admitted the arrival of the photocopier had been the “greatest thing since sliced bread,” and said modern technology was be a great teaching supplement.
However, she added, “I feel the use of computers is linked to how well a child can read, so I’m old-fashioned.
“The children have to receive their basics, and there’s no getting around that,” Bunting said.
She finished her “plus 30 (credits)” toward an elementary education degree in 1976.
By 1980, Bunting had her master’s degree in education — but she’d already won Teacher of the Year by then (1979).
“That was a highpoint — next to the birth of my children,” Bunting stated.
She said the Miss Delmarva/Delaware titles had been geared toward earning money for college, and sort of pushed by her parents and people in the community.
“I never felt like it was something I had done myself, but being Teacher of the Year was something I accomplished,” she said. “Not that they weren’t all God-given talents, but it was a talent I had worked on, and improved myself to get.”
She retired in 2001, after another 21 years in education (Frankford Elementary), and joined the School Board a year later.
The Buntings live in Dagsboro.