Indian Creek High School’s valedictorian hails from a long line of teachers who, in their spare time, have been making honey in central Indiana as beekeepers for more than a century.
Michael Hunter’s parents own a fourth-generation honey farm, where he learned the value of honest labor. They both also are teachers who taught him to value education.
They helped motivate him to be first in his class, a goal he’s had since middle school. Hunter said he accomplished it through hard work, such as by setting aside time to study every night and meeting one-on-one with teachers if he ever struggled.
He said he couldn’t slack off, because other students were always eager to move up a spot.
“Both my parents are teachers at Indian Creek, and they pushed me to be a good student,” he said. “Once I got into deeper learning in high school, it was more
interesting to me, and I just kind of realized that doing my best was a great goal. It kept me on the right path and focused on my academics.”
His father taught him to study subjects for 10 minutes every night so he’d be prepared for tests and wouldn’t have to cram material in at the last minute. Hunter also made flash cards that helped him memorize Spanish vocabulary, historical facts and chemistry formulas.
“Repeatedly looking at them burned them into my brain,” he said.
Hunter asked friends or teachers to explain anything he didn’t understand. He sat down with the teacher anytime he scored poorly on a test, so he could learn from his mistakes.
When possible, he’d ask for a retest.
“I wouldn’t be satisfied if the grade was a bit lower than what I was used to ,” he said. “I’d get angry and use that as motivation.”
Hunter said the value of education was instilled in him at an early age.
Hunter’s father, Tracy Hunter, teaches biology and environmental science at Indian Creek High School. His mother, Chris Hunter, teaches family and consumer sciences at the middle school.
They also own Hunter’s Honey Farm and a Christmas tree farm outside Martinsville. Hunter worked at both, mostly during summer vacation or winter break.
His duties included shaking Christmas trees, baling them and tying them to the car. He did grounds work, mowed grass and led the occasional school group.
Some mornings, he rose early to move bees to farms across the state while it was still dark, so they would get less agitated. He also helped bottle honey and ship boxes.
Beekeepers are often known as being reclusive hermits, but that’s not possible at a big commercial honey farm that has tours and a gift shop, Hunter said.
“It’s an interesting place to work, and people are always interested in it,” he said. “They ask how many times have you been stung and that type of stuff. But it also allowed me to be more well-rounded, required me to interact with people and taught me math.”
More than anything, it helped give him a work ethic.
“It taught me about hard work, not to do things halfway, and to do your best,” he said. “You have to be honest, make sure you’re giving the exact change. It taught me about honesty, which a person needs for success in life and to feel good about your success knowing that you are where you are rightfully.”
Hunter plans to attend Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, where a Lilly Endowment scholarship will pay for his tuition in full.