As Troy Unzicker was making his way through the Gering Public Schools, his experiences with teachers gave him a desire to be an educator.
Now, with 20 years in school administration under his belt, Dr. Unzicker is thankful for those days that shaped his future.
“I had a great experience in Gering,” Unzicker said. “It’s probably why I’m in education. So many great educators. There are so many names I could rattle off who influenced me into education. Just a great experience all the way around through there. I can tell you, I was sitting in a classroom my junior year of high school and I knew I wanted to be a teacher and a coach at that time. I followed through on it finally after I spent a little bit of time in the military. After that, I got back and finished my degree and got into the business.”
Many of the relationships Unzicker built when he was a student have carried forward for him as he worked as a teacher in what was then the North Loup-Scotia school system, then as principal in Mitchell and as superintendent first at Kimball and for the past eight years in Alliance.
“To this day, I still have conversations with former teachers from there that I’ve stayed in touch with through the years,” he said. “Of course, they reach out when they see I’ve done something and they comment. I guess we try to use social media in the appropriate way, so I still stay connected to several teachers and administrators I had back in that day, and it’s wonderful to see that the care they had and they showed back then was genuine because they’re still talking to you today, and still proud of what you’re doing.”
While the impact of teachers and his time in the Air Force have been significant, Unzicker credits his parents, Bob and Roy Ann for much of his success,
“My mom and dad started out with nothing,” Unzicker said. “That’s one of the things I think they helped to start to instill in me is my work ethic. My dad worked hard at what he did, and my mom was right there supporting him all the time. You know, a lot of his successes started maybe a little bit more after I graduated, although he was on the school board when I graduated. That was his first political office, I guess. And he did hand me my diploma, so that was a very unique thing. Having a school board parent was interesting. My daughter had to grow up with that being an administrator’s daughter. I was blessed, I was able to hand her her diploma. I’m so proud of what they’ve done. He obviously served as the mayor of Gering for several years, and a businessman in the Scottsbluff-Gering area with great success.”
Today, Unzicker is proud of where he is and his family. His wife Susan is the director of the Alliance Chamber of Commerce, and daughter Tabitha is a teacher and the head volleyball coach in Bayard.
“I’m at a point in my life where I’m extremely happy,” Unzicker said. “I’ve got a wife who’s hung with me for 27 years, and a daughter that’s grown up and kind of followed my same path, teaching and coaching in Bayard. I’m extremely proud of both of them and what they’ve become as well. Be happy for what you have, I guess.”
Looking back, Unzicker said he wishes he had been a better student.
“You know, everything happens for a reason,” he said. “I really believe that. One thing I wish is that I would have used my talents a little more than I did. I was always very strong academically, but I was one of those kids that if I could get a B, that was good enough. I look at that now, and if I would have pushed myself, how much farther I would have gone. I’m just happy with things that happened. There’s good and there’s bad, and I think it all happens for a reason.”
As an educator, helping kids to grow has been a priority for Unzicker no matter what level he’s been on.
“It still is the association with the kids, especially,” Unzicker said of his motivation. “As you go up the ladder you lose some of that association. As a teacher, you have that direct contact all the time. As a coach, you have that direct contact all the time. Then, as you move up to principal, you lose a little bit of it. As superintendent, you lose even more, but it’s always been the association with the kids.”
He even stepped back in as a coach when Alliance found itself in need.
“A couple years ago, we couldn’t find anyone to coach the girls basketball team, and they asked me to step back in and take it,” he said. “Our team was down, and we knew that was going to be the case. People told me I was crazy for taking the team. That last year, we had a terrible record, 0-23, but great kids, and that association with the kids is what keeps me going.”
The days in the Gering schools have stuck with Unzicker, even more so the people and the atmosphere in the school at that time.
“I tell my girls in basketball I’m 106 years old, but when I was growing up, there was such a strong sense of community in town,” he said. “In the school system, on the athletic teams for example, when I participated there was always huge support. It wasn’t just the parents following the teams. You had community support. You had student body support, and it was wonderful. … You could walk through the hallways and every kid you knew, and every kid was your friend, and if you were on the football team, they supported you. If you were on cross country, they supported you, even if they didn’t support anything else.”
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