Combs’ Renaissance Man

A veteran public servant, Social Studies Department Chair Howard “Randy” Bunch is inspiring students to think for themselves in and out of the classroom.

Bunch is originally from Pennsylvania but moved to Arizona during his sophomore year of high school. After graduating from Marcos de Niza High School in Tempe, Bunch began his career of public service by serving in the United the States Army for four years as a combat medic and a paratrooper.

  “The military taught me a lot of discipline,” Bunch said. “I didn’t have much going in but it definitely changed me. It also really got me into doing a lot of extreme things. I’ve rock climbed the Tetons, rappelled off of helicopters and cliffs, and went off on some crazy desert hikes.” 

After his time in the military, Bunch completed his studies at Arizona State University with a degree in Criminal Science and a minor in History. This led him to become a juvenile probation officer, where he played a crucial role in helping teens turn their lives around.

“Working with those kids was something really special,” Bunch said. “I was able to get really close to them and get to know them as people; I learned a lot from them.”

“There is nothing better than working with the students and watching them grow. I love watching students work and slowly seeing the light click above their heads.”

— Randy Bunch

However, after 30 years as a probation officer, Bunch decided it was time for him to pursue his passion for helping others and serving in a different manner: teaching.

“Teaching was something I always wanted to do,” Bunch said. “In the beginning, I did want to become a teacher but I slowly became more interested in criminal justice and decided to pursue that.

This led him to earn a teaching certificate from Rio Salado College in Tempe, which brought him to CHS, where he has taught for the last five years. Since then, Bunch has easily transitioned into the role of a teacher.

“The best thing I ever did was getting into teaching, I love it,” Bunch said. “There is nothing better than working with the students and watching them grow. I love watching students work and slowly seeing the light click above their heads. It’s one of the greatest things.”

As an educator, Bunch’s main goal is to help his students become prepared for the real world.

“My goal is to develop critical thinkers and concerned citizens,” Bunch said. “I want my students to think for themselves and not accept every opinion that they come across. I want them to be able to use the information around them to form their own opinions so that they can make informed decisions, especially when voting.”

Bunch’s teaching style represents this goal, offering a unique environment for students.

“My teaching style changes with each set of students,” Bunch said. “Depending on the class, it can be more guided or more independent, it ultimately depends on what works for them and how they learn. I want to reach them and help them develop as students.”

This approach has created major success among the students, with many of them now excelling in his classes.

“Mr. Bunch’s style is definitely different,” junior Melody Borjon said. “He basically has you help yourself; he gives you the material you need to learn and helps you learn in the style that works for us rather than forcing us to do it his way. He lets us figure it out. I usually struggle to adapt to different teachers’ styles but not in Mr. Bunch’s class.”

This teaching style caters to all students, but Bunch has found the most success through this method with the ‘troublemakers’.

“I love getting the troublemakers and working with them,” Bunch said. “It’s something that has always come easily to me. Being able to relate to them and guide them in the right direction has always been a passion of mine. My time as a probation officer definitely helps with that as well. I have that repertoire and background.”

Whether as a combat medic/paratrooper, probation officer, or educator Bunch has devoted his life to serving others and the next generation. Finding joy in this, Bunch hopes to continue making a difference in people’s lives.

“My greatest joy is learning from my students,” Bunch said. “Combs really has some great people. I can say for fact that 99.9 percent of my students know more than I do. It’s an honor to be able to work with such amazing kids every day and help them reach their potential.”

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