AIS Stories

Claire Duggan '06

"Never in my life have I felt more needed. Never in my life had I felt the potential to do so much good."

- Claire Duggan '06
Becoming a teacher was never a dream of mine, at least not at the elementary, middle, or high school levels. Never have I wanted to work with children that need to be brought to the bathroom or don’t understand that a tissue can often be a far better implement than a finger in certain situations. I had thought about teaching at the college level, Sociology specifically. I even started a PhD program in Sociology at Boston University, with the intent of working at a small liberal arts college where I could focus on teaching, rather than research, writing, and publishing. In my first few years as a graduate student, I did quite a bit of the latter. In fact, that was all I did, until my third year when I was offered a position as a Teaching Fellow. I LOVED it. SO MUCH. I’d find myself dedicating far more time to my prep-work for my one-hour sections that met weekly, than to my actual research, which was on the amazingly fun topic of craft breweries nonetheless! While the research was particularly enjoyable, I felt that nothing in the dissertation process filled me with as much joy as seeing a pre-med student understand the role that social variables such as race, class, and gender play in access to quality healthcare, or watching a freshman undergraduate engaging in a social breaching experiment.

My father passed away my first year at BU. He had always said I had a gift for working with people, and that my time would be “wasted” shut away in an office, in an Ivory Tower somewhere. His words echoed in my mind week after week while planning lessons, leading discussions, and giving feedback on essays written by my students. He was right. I needed out. I needed to be in the real world, working with my students on a daily basis, not just once a week for a brief hour. After countless phone calls with my mother, I made the decision to try my hand at teaching full-time. As you would probably guess, there aren’t many schools out there offering full-time jobs for high school sociology teachers. However, thanks to the wonderful French programs at AIS and Boston College, where I completed my Bachelors in French and Sociology, I was able to pass the required exams to become a public educator and French teacher in the state of Massachusetts.

Several interviews and demonstration lessons later, I was offered a position at Sharon High School, 22 miles south of Boston. I spent three years there, teaching many different levels of French to somewhere between 80 to 100 teenagers per year, leading a Sociology club, and working with an amazing team of colleagues, including my mentor, Kathy Turner and 2013 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year. I learned so much about language instruction and classroom management, but also the importance a teacher can have in a student’s life. I reflected upon many of the relationships I had formed with teachers at AIS. I quickly came to realize that teachers are so much more than just educators. We are mentors, advisors, cheerleaders, experience creators and curators, counselors, nurses (like the time I had to extract lead from a student’s hand because the nurse’s office was closed), event planners, trip planners, emergency escape route planners, entertainers, influencers, bug catchers, and so much more. Never in my life have I felt more needed. Never in my life had I felt the potential to do so much good.

After three amazing years at Sharon, I took a job at Beaver Country Day School, only 3 miles away from home. It’s a different school than SHS, with a huge variety of course offerings, smaller classes, a state of the art Research and Design Facility, and what I believe to be some of the best cafeteria food ever. While the surroundings have changed, my job has remained the same. It is my responsibility to put my students’ interests first and above my own. It is my job to think of them when others might not. And it is my job to create a safe and welcoming space in which they spend several hours of their week.

Starting this July, I will be assuming the role of Modern Language Department Chair, and I am looking forward to seeing how my role as an educator will evolve. How many new hats will I get to wear?

Atlanta International School

A private, non-profit, international, IB World School for grades 3K-12,
featuring full and dual-immersion language programs.

2890 North Fulton Drive

Atlanta, Georgia 30305, USA