Duncan, a 21-year educator, is one of many educators across the country nominated for the Life Changer of the Year award sponsored by the National Life Group.
Jenna Gevertz and Maddy Laing, both 12, are students in Duncan’s second period chorus class and nominated their teacher because of his love of music and his passion for musical theater.
“I’m not the best singer in the class, but he makes me feel just as important as they [other students] are and he gave me the courage to go in front of everybody and sing in front of 50 people,” said Gevertz.
Laing added Duncan is a phenomenal teacher who is interactive with his students and makes everyone in the class involved in the music, which in turn, makes the students care more.
Having found out just before Thanksgiving of his nomination, Duncan only learned a little more than a week ago who actually nominated him for the award.
“It’s giant for me … it was very meaningful,” he said. “Sometimes as teachers we get to do the job and we don’t really take a moment to see we’ve had an impact and that’s been the most heartwarming thing.”
On the National Life Group website, visitors can search for Duncan’s page and write comments about him and his teaching style. What has made this nomination more special for the educator are the many responses he has received from students he taught early on in his career in North Carolina and New Jersey.
On his teaching style, Duncan said he learned early on that students need to feel respected in order to give respect.
“I try to celebrate what’s unique in every child,” he said. “I try to have fun with them and laugh every day and at the same time I set pretty clear boundaries and that helps even in middle school. Some of them have never really had passion about anything in their lives and I try to create desire in them about musical theater, which I’m passionate about and help develop and cultivate it as best I can.”
Past awards for Duncan include the 2006 Teacher of the Year for Henderson Middle School, the Class Act Award from 11 Alive in 2009 and a few exceptional children awards from his students.
Until Jan. 25, students, parents and community members can visit the National Life Group website to make comments about how Duncan has impacted their lives.
The winner will be selected in early February. Several awards are given. The grand prize winner receives a $5,000 donation to the school and a $5,000 personal award.