After 34 years of working with students who need an extra boost, Mahomet-Seymour High School Support Services Teacher Susan Duling will retire at the end of the 2017 school year.
Duling, who didn’t know she wanted to become a teacher when she began her career, majored in something other than education when she began college. But, after watching her friends work with students in their classrooms, Duling decided to go back to school to finish up the coursework she needed to gain her certification.
“It wasn’t something I wanted to do early on, but I just always enjoyed kids, so I don’t know why it did not cross my mind earlier, but it didn’t,” Duling said.
When Duling decided on a teaching career, she thought she might be interested in social work. While studying social work, she then chose to work in special education.
“I wanted to be able to work with students who had the special needs,” Duling said. “I think working with smaller groups, being able to help students 1-on-1, and establishing that rapport, that relationship that’s what I was really interested in.”
Duling often gets to work with students on her caseload over the course of four years, both inside and outside of the classroom.
“I get them as freshmen, then over the course of the next four years, it’s like ‘Wow!’ I get to see some of the trials that they’ve gone through and I get to see them come through with successes, as well,” she said. “It’s so unique in the fact that we don’t just have them for a year or a semester, and then maybe see them later on like classroom teachers do. We get to see their progress over four years. That’s very rewarding.”
Duling has taught in the Mahomet-Seymour School District for 10 years. She spent 24 years in another district.
Over the course of her career, she has helped students learn the material that they need to learn, but many times, she has also helped them build confidence first.
“A big part of what I need to help them become is more confident,” she said. “To show them you can do this; together we can do this.”
While Duling has also taught her students about kindness and tolerance, she helped to bring “Breakfast of Champions,” a program that celebrates the small things students do, to Mahomet-Seymour High School.
“I think almost every time I go to (the Breakfast of Champions) I have some tears. It’s important to recognize the students who are the top performers; they need that recognition, too. But so often it’s the kids who go about their daily business, they do good things, but they don’t get a lot of recognition for just doing what they should be doing: doing the right things, being kind to people.”
“I think we all need to say, you’ve done a really good job,” she continued. “And that’s why those stories are so meaningful. And the parents, brothers, sisters and grandparents need to hear that. They deserve a pat on the back.”
Duling said she has enjoyed working at Mahomet-Seymour High School over the last 10 years. She said the administration has been very supportive of the teachers needs, and the staff she works with has helped her to grow.
After retirement, Duling plans to help her son, who lives in Minnesota, get ready to be married this summer. And she is excited to have more time to cheer on Northern Illinois University, where her son works in the athletic department.
Duling has also made a list of things she’d like to try in retirement: hobbies she’s interested in and places she’d like to travel. Most of all, she’s just excited to have more flexibility with her time.