Educator of the Week - Derek Duggan

Derek Duggan, Science Teacher, Newberg High School, Newberg, Oregon

Nominated By: Mary Murphy  (student)

He is simply an amazing teacher! He can make everyone laugh and smile, and jokes around. He gives us plenty of time to finish our work, and is kind and caring. He is new to our school, but he's not new to teaching; he taught on the other side of the Cascades until this year. But that doesn't change anything; I think that he deserves the title of Educator of the Week as much as all the other teachers and professors that have been nominated.

Congrats, Derek, from all of us at K103! Get to know Derek Duggan:

What inspired you to become an educator?

I think what prompted me to become an educator was my own willingness to learn.  I started my career path as a firefighter in wild land fire where I found myself teaching classes to new recruits.  It was seasonal and I didn’t have much to do in the winter so I started working as school security guard at Sandy High School.  I liked the environment and loved working with kids so I started taking classes to become a teacher.  Twenty some years later here I am at Newberg High School.  My mother was a school teacher and enjoyed her time in the classroom while having summers and breaks off as a family.  I have to admit that is what first drew me to the profession as I realized I would have a family someday as well.  It wasn’t too long after I started teaching that I realized the time off was nice but the real draw was the kids.  They come to you as freshman, wide-eyed, a little naive, and somewhat crazy.  They don’t know what they want to be and for that matter, don’t really care.  They are just full of life.  Fast-forward four years as seniors and they are young adults ready to take on the world.  It really is inspiring to watch them “leave the nest” so to speak.  It’s fun to watch and it encourages me every day.

What do you like most about teaching?

I don’t know if there is one thing that I love MOST about teaching.  I think those who have chosen the teaching profession find many things that they love.  If I had to narrow it down to a couple things it would be the students and then selfishly, myself.  The kids are the best.  Every one of them is different.  I enjoy watching them learn new things and absolutely love it when they see something for the first time.  You can see the light come on …literally.  Sure there are slow times in the classroom as I’m sure we all remember but me kind of look at those days as a challenge to myself.  What can I do to make this lesson pop?  I love the challenge.  Secondly I enjoy teaching as it allows me chances to learn.  Each year the students teach me more than I teach them.  I learn more about the world around me because of them.  They all look at science differently and I appreciate that.  When they come up with questions that I can’t answer, we all find the answers together.  It’s pretty cool. 

What has changed the most since you began your career in education?

The one thing that has changed the most since I started teaching is the clientele.  Kids are an evolving animal.  They adapt to the world around them faster than imaginable.  With the entire Internet at their fingertips the need for questioning is almost obsolete.  Every year we have to change our curriculum to accommodate the world around us.  Technology allows students to answer every question they have instantly.  As awesome as this sounds, it can be counter intuitive. Many times we find ourselves having to not only teach the curriculum but also trying to teach kids how to think for themselves.  My wife taught me to believe nothing of what I hear and half of what I see.  I try to convey this to my students every day.  Be your own person and think for yourself.  What you hear and sometimes see needs to be questioned and science class is just the place to do it. 

What would you like parents to know about your job?

What would I like parents to know about teaching?  This is a rough question but being a parent myself I’ll take a stab.  I think that parents need to know it really does take a village.  We NEED your help.  Not necessarily in the classroom but at home.  Teach your kids the importance of winning but more importantly the value of losing. Teach them that this world owes them nothing and that anything worth having must be achieved with hard work and determination.  The easy way is rarely the best way.  I can tell you that teachers try hard every day to give your child the knowledge they need to succeed in the classroom.  We are mentors, listeners, and providers alike, but we still need help.  We all remember teachers that we admire to this day.  I’m sure you can agree that those teachers were the ones who listened to what we had to say and encouraged us along the way.  The ones who didn’t let us stray too far off the path.  Teachers are with your son or daughter all day and we try hard to make that day a learning opportunity.  I know you are tired when you get home.  I know you work hard to provide for your family.  I know that sometimes the day beats you, and all you want to do is kick your feet up and relax.  I get it, but please take a second to talk to your children.  Have dinner together, turn the TV off, and ask them how their day was.  The benefits of this far surpass what teachers do in the class.  Help them be better people.  Allow them to vent and even fail in some of their endeavors all the while supporting them.  They are kids.  They will make you proud and they will embarrass you.  That’s what they do.  That’s what you did.  Love them but be stern with them when the situation calls for it.  Your kids have plenty of friends.  They need parents.

Share a story about your favorite teacher/educator.

I’m sure we can all recall a teacher that we would consider our favorite.  I think I am pretty fortunate that I have two that I admire to this day.  Ray Johnson and Clair Thomas are those teachers. Ray Johnson was my 8th grade teacher.  He cared.  He pushed his students hard but gave them constant encouragement along the way. He was a rugged kind of guy that looked just as at home in the woods as he did in the class.  He taught me about the world outside of the classroom and how the natural world worked.  He was quick to offer help to all his students and just as quick to correct their poor behavior.  He taught us to take advantage of every opportunity and that time was never our friend.  He used to say “When you rest, your grade rests.”  A sentiment that resonates in my own classroom today.  A true salt of the earth kind of guy who all admired.  Sadly, Ray passed away some time ago but I will never forget the values he taught.  Clair Thomas is a teacher that I will always admire as well.  Mr. Thomas is a teacher of guided discovery.  He would prompt you with questions that really made you think and then point you in the direction to discover the answers on your own wonderings.  He brings the entire world to his classroom allowing students to touch what they are learning about.  I have never met a more enthusiastic teacher.  Every moment of his class was a celebration of knowledge.  He continues to teach in Tillamook today.  Whether they know it or not, Tillamook has a national treasure in their classrooms.

Share a favorite story about your years in education.

A favorite story hmmm…..There are a few.  I would have to say that one of my most memorable times happened about year 2 of teaching.  I was tired of watching students walk down the halls with the new to the market ear buds in their ears.  It wasn’t so much the ear buds as it was the volume of the music they were listening to.  When you can hear a student’s music coming from an ear bud that is plugged directly into their ear, you know it can’t be good for their hearing.  Being young and full of vigor, I decided that during the waves unit in Science class we would discuss how important hearing was and the effect of loud music on the ears.  I purchased and distributed ear plugs to the entire class and told them that they needed to listen carefully to the lecture that I was to give that day with the ear plugs in place.  At the end of the lecture there would be a short quiz.  As I lectured, the entire room was deathly quiet.  Almost eerie in fact.  With the quiz questions on the board every student was stone silent answering the questions.  If any noises were made, students were quick to hush the others in fear of missing any important information I may distribute during the quiz.  I turned my back to the class and silently gloated to myself.  This was going incredibly well.  As I was standing there congratulating myself on a job well done, I heard it.  The unmistakable sound of someone expelling a tremendous, post cafeteria lunch, gas bubble.  It resonated somewhere between the sound of small tuba and the muffler of a 92 Honda street racer.  Horrified, I hesitated to turn around.  I knew that my class was soon to erupt in laughter. Expecting chaos to soon ensue, I held back my own laughter and cringed.  To my surprise, there was nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  The only sound to be heard was the scratching of pencils on paper.  I couldn’t believe it.  They had heard nothing.  I slowly turned around and surveyed the class only to find them diligently working at answering the questions from the board.  As my focus shifted from right to left over the sea of students, a young man three rows from the front slowly lifted his head.  When my eyes locked on his, the edges of his mouth slowly turned up in the slightest grin.  Knowing that I was the only one with the ability to hear the magic he had just created, he gave me a slight nod, followed by a wink.  Then, he lowered his head and went back to work.  At that moment I realized I had not the will power, nor the ability to hold back my own laughter.  I died right there on the spot.  The class looked up and I’m sure thought that I had finally lost my mind.  They quickly got back to work quietly and I continued to giggle like a child.  When the bell finally rang the students shuffled out of the room.  As the young man was leaving, we once again made eye contact.  I gave him a wink on his way out as if to say “well played


Each week during the school year, K103 and Concordia University will honor a local educator.  Each week, our honored educator receives:

  • $103 Gift Card for Classroom School Supplies
  • The Crystal Apple Award
  • A Concordia University Continuing Education Scholarship

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