Published 12:00 am Monday, November 28, 2005

wanted those kids to succeed’|[11/28/05]

The biggest reward Eugene Durman Jr. says he gets is when former students come back to show him what they’ve made of themselves.

&#8220They come back and say, ‘Mr. Durman, you taught me this, you taught me that… Now I own my own business,’” said Durman, 57. &#8220I remember one in particular I sent to the principal’s office religiously. Now he’s the executive vice president of a corporation in Indiana,” he said.

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In addition to those rewards, Durman gets a plaque as Retired Person of the Year from local public schools.

Durman wore many hats in many schools from 1971 until 1993.

From teaching industrial arts to serving as Child Find director to the assistant transportation supervisor, Durman said any job working with kids was the perfect job for him.

&#8220Back then we had no idea of retirement,” he said. &#8220We were proud to have a job and knew our responsibility was to teach those kids. The time I worked in transportation was one of the high points of my career – just seeing the kids come to school.”

Durman said he became interested in industrial arts – what many call &#8220shop” – while he was a student at Rosa A. Temple High School.

&#8220It was called buildings trades then, and my counselors helped me decide to pursue it as a career,” he said.

After graduating in 1966, Durman attended Alcorn State University. It was then he decided he wanted to work with youths.

&#8220I wanted to be able to give the skills to someone else. That was a big need back then. Now, technology has taken over a lot,” he said.

While student-teaching at Warren Central High School, Durman was instrumental in the development of the industrial arts curriculum.

&#8220I taught 8th and 9th grades skills like woodworking, cabinetmaking, carpentry and basic masonry,” he said.

&#8220It was important to me that they be able to go out into the work force, especially if they could develop a trade to make a living,” he said.

Durman said after a few years, he saw former students coming back making more money in the industrial field than he ever thought imaginable.

A lot has changed since he was in the classroom, he said.

&#8220I was a father figure to a lot of them. I spent a lot of time with their parents. Some were more fortunate than others, but we all did what we could, including bringing students home from school and picking them up for football activities,” he said.

&#8220I would tell parents now, ‘Don’t send your children to school. Go with them,’” he said.

Durman said he used to be able to go to the homes to visit with parents.

&#8220We’d just sit down at the dinner table and discuss what the child needed. There was also a good community connection. All the parents had gone to school together in the county, and they all knew each other,” he said.

Students now are not focusing, he said.

&#8220They have more access to technology in the homes now than in the classrooms. Back then, some had cars, but everyone had after-school chores to do. There was more responsibility,” he said.

But, he said, the goal of dedicated teachers has not changed.

&#8220I can’t tell you how many pairs of socks and blue jeans I bought from the dollar store or how many dollar bills I lent out without ever getting back, but that didn’t matter. I wanted those kids to succeed,” he said.

After leaving the school district in 1993, Durman worked as an industrial maintenance trades instructor at Hinds Community College before retiring in 1999.

&#8220I was ready,” he said.

Two weeks ago, fellow retirees who make up the Retired Personnel of Vicksburg Warren County, a group of former employees of the Vicksburg Warren School District, told Durman they thought he had achieved the success he taught his students. They presented him with the plaque during the annual meeting and awards presentation.

Today, Durman has advice ready for anyone considering a career in the field of education.

&#8220You’ve got to have an open mind to know that you want to help children succeed in life. You have to listen, have patience and keep an open line of communication,” he said.

&#8220Some might say the money’s not there, but it was never there for me, either. I would suggest young people look into education as a career. There’s a lot of opportunity to grow,” Durman said.