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The Journals are the premier publications for high-quality, hyperlocal news and advertising in Monmouth County, New Jersey

Dec 02, 2020

Thompson Middle School Teacher Opens Up About Childhood, Career Path

By Shanna O'Mara

Working hard each day to strengthen the character of his students, one local teacher never stops improving himself, thus setting the best example. Meet Middletown’s Bill Durr.

Durr is a seventh grade science in-class support teacher at Thompson Middle School. He was born and raised in New Jersey, having attended Nut Swamp Elementary School, Thompson Middle School and Middletown High School South. After earning his degree from Curry College in Massachusetts, Durr returned home and began substituting in Middletown, eventually accepting a full-time position in 1998.

“I was fortunate early in my life that I always knew I wanted to be a teacher,” he said. “It really hit me sophomore year of college when I said, ‘I want to help people. I want to work with kids.’ People have said I have the patience of a saint. I knew I could make a difference.”

Referring to special education as “his calling,” Durr admits he had to overcome some obstacles growing up that he now sees challenging his students.

“I grew up with a learning disability,” he said. “I was also born with cerebral palsy, so I walk with arm crutches. I don’t let it hinder me getting things done and living life. My parents never treated me differently than anyone else.”

Having grown up with parents and an older sister who challenged and supported him every step of the way, Durr said the standard was set high to be a good person, make a difference in society and respect others. These are values he now works to instill in his two nephews and countless students.

“Because of my family, I am who I am today,” he said. “They gave me that drive to succeed and desire to always better myself. That has always resonated with me, and I carry it into teaching. Everyone has challenges, and that’s what makes society great. We don’t all learn the same. It may take you longer to do something or you may have to do it a different way, but you can achieve that goal.”

In the classroom, he often supplements the curriculum with lessons of respect. He teaches his students to be mature, kind and empathetic – qualities he said many of the teachers in Middletown possess and pass down as well.

“Among all the educators in Middletown, the climate is very positive,” he said. “At Thompson especially, we just want what is best for our kids. Our dream is to have kids come back and tell us we impacted them. It’s simply amazing when they reach out and say, ‘You helped me become who I am.’”

Durr still resides in Middletown with his yellow Labrador, Guinness. This means he grew up in the town where he now works and lives. He joked that he “can’t go anywhere in Middletown without running into parents or students, past or present.”

“Honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way,” he said. “Living in Middletown, it’s important to be positive for my students and the community. I always take advantage of spirit days to get involved. I like to connect with my students at athletic events, school dances, the fall festival. I want to show them outside the classroom that I’m human. I want to support them, see them in another light, build respect and rapport with them, really personalize those relationships. I wouldn’t trade anything to not be a teacher. Going home every day and knowing I made a difference in these kids’ lives, that’s priceless.”

 

 

Three things to know about Bill Durr:

  1. One of his favorite quotes is Theodore Roosevelt’s, “Believe you can, and you’re halfway there.”
  2. When he’s not in the classroom, Durr enjoys restoring Corvettes.
  3. He earned his master’s from Marygrove College after teaching for 10 years. He said that although he was already comfortable in the classroom, he wanted another feather in his cap and to show his students that it’s never too late to better yourself.