This week's Hometown Hero is Jillian McGuire Gonch of Albany. Jillian is a teacher and coach who "always puts the needs of her students and players first," according to the person who nominated her.

She is the assistant coach of women's basketball for the Albany Lady Falcons and a special education teacher in the Albany district.

As part of the “Hometown Heroes” series, we’ve partnered with County Waste and Latham Ford to celebrate local unsung heroes for their good deeds and honorable work.

We asked Jillian a few questions about her work. Here’s what she had to say:

Q: What inspires you as a teacher and coach?

A:  I've been blessed to have had many amazing role models in my life. From my family to teachers, coaches, and my students. I didn't plan on the path I took, but have been blessed to find my perfect place to share the knowledge and inspiration given to me. Every day, good or bad, I'm reminded of my purpose. I get to celebrate the learning of my second grade students and share my passion of basketball with my team all in the same day.

Q: What’s the most rewarding thing about what you do?

A: How much my students and players have taught me. Seeing them recognize the talent and special things I see in them and growing as people. Teaching in any form and watching the growth is the most amazing thing! Every day I learn something new and every day I'm lucky enough to recognize the little things that keep me going. As David McCullough once wrote, real success is finding your lifework in the work that you love. And I absolutely love what I do!

Q: What are some challenges? 

A: Education is very challenging at this point. The impact of changes and assessments is stressful on everyone involved. The hardest part of teaching is seeing the stress impacting my students. It's so difficult to see sadness and stress instead of the joy and hope I'm used to seeing. Coaching is a different challenge. To not only develop basketball players, but also teach them the importance of balancing and giving their best every day. I only hope that I am impacting them as so many of my coaches have.

Q: Do you consider yourself a “hero?” Why or why not?

A: I am certainly not a hero. I’m a teacher. I'm blessed to be able to share what I've learned, to participate in the growth of future generations, and hopefully continue to do so for a long time. My husband and all of the men and women of the Armed Forces are heroes! I'm just lucky.