Moffat County High School has many teachers that help students grow and influence them through the course of their four years in high school. These teachers mentor, educate, and guide students as they take part in classes, groups, and clubs. They help shape the people that students will later become. Tom and Sylvia Duncan are two such teachers that have affected many students’ lives as they have passed through the doors of MCHS. Both have taught with the high school for over a decade. Mrs. Duncan is retiring at the end of this school year, and will be missed by both the students and faculty alike. Mr. Duncan, however, is staying on to teach classes next year.
The start of both Mr. and Mrs. Duncan’s teaching careers came from advice they received from their fathers. “My father told me that instead of being part of the problem in the world, be part of the solution,” Mrs. Duncan said. “Teaching is one idea to me that helps with that in the big picture.” But for Mr. Duncan, the advice came in a different way. “My dad said, ‘What are you going to do with an English degree?’” So from there he went on to get a teaching license from Indiana University. It was at the university that Mr. Duncan first met Mrs. Duncan, who was working on getting a degree in teaching also. “His idea was to get a teaching degree and that encouraged me as well,” Mrs. Duncan said.
After graduating from the university, the pair went on to teach at The Leelanau School, located in northern Michigan. The Leelanau School is a private boarding school, and for the Duncans, teaching there was a different experience than teaching here. “It was like being as close as a family with the students,” Mrs. Duncan said. The class sizes were as small as 100 students, and Mrs. Duncan recalls, “putting in a lot of 18 hour days." At that school, Mr. Duncan taught art classes and Mrs. Duncan worked as a counselor as well as teaching English classes. They worked at the school for nine years before moving elsewhere.
At Leelanau and MCHS, Mrs. and Mr. Duncan have taught the same age group of students from the ninth to twelfth grades. Mr. Duncan still enjoys teaching the high school age group best, but Mrs. Duncan finds pleasure in teaching all ages, although she has mostly taught at the high school level. She enjoys teaching “the whole range, from age 14 to 18.”
At MCHS, both Mr. and Mrs. Duncan teach similar classes to those they taught at The Leelanau School. Mr. Duncan teaches the classes: Basic Art, Art 1-4, and Sculpture 1-2; Mrs. Duncan teaches Advanced Vocabulary, Senior English, Public Speaking, Advanced Composition, and American Literature. Throughout the years, many projects that upper levels students have completed stand out for Mr. Duncan. “A number of students, especially in Art 3 and 4, have done some really good things,” Mr. Duncan said. For Mrs. Duncan, Senior English may be her most favorite class to teach, but teaching English as a second language has also been memorable. During her years of teaching, one class trip has left a mark with her. She took her Humanities class to see the Buddhist temple in Red Feather Lakes, and it had an effect on her as well as her class. “You came back different from when you left,” Mrs. Duncan said of the trip, and she recommends it for others to see.
Mr. and Mrs. Duncan have thoroughly enjoyed the time they have spent teaching. “It was the thing for me,” Mrs. Duncan said. “I always came back to teaching.” To her, the most rewarding part is when she finally connects with a student. “You see a light go on in a teenager’s eyes,” said Mrs. Duncan, “and they get it.”
Although next year's schedule has not been finalized, Mr. Duncan may find himself teaching mostly English classes. "I'd rather teach art classes, but it's not going to work that way," he said. Even though he has only been known as an art teacher to the current students of MCHS, Mr. Duncan believes that the students who have had him before will be understanding.
Mrs. Duncan is looking forward to the time when her and her husband are not teaching. She hopes they can travel and see lots of things, from Alaska, Italy, to Machu Picchu. She also wants to see Sequoia trees and would like to touch a whale with her hands. However, teaching is not completely out of the picture for her either. She plans on tutoring, and keeping up with teaching to a certain extent. “I’d miss it,” Mrs. Duncan said.
Teaching has played a big part in both Mr. and Mrs. Duncan’s lives, and neither of them is likely to soon forget the memories teaching has left them with. “I’ve enjoyed teaching every different class, every different year, and every different kid,” Mrs. Duncan said.