PITTSBURG — Dan Duling always knew he wanted to serve the community through education.
After many years in the field as a teacher, principal and now the director of SEK Interlocal #637, he is set to retire at the end of the school year.
“I’ve always had a sense of a mission of service to people whether that be at church or work,” Duling said. “Being a teacher is an awesome profession to provide that service to people — to kids and families.”
One his earliest memories sparking the passion for education was during high school when he taught fellow students how to play guitar.
“During those guitar lessons I could see that opportunity where kids would have moments of success and there was such joy in that success,” he said. “I thought this could be much bigger than what we were doing here. That motivated me to go into education.”
He was also inspired by leaders around him, such as his father-in-law Jack Shireman, who was a long time educator and superintendent of schools in Girard.
Speaking of schools in Girard, Duling was raised on a farm near Walnut and spent kindergarten through 12th grade in the Girard School district.
Duling said his family also fueled his passion to be of service to others, his father used to say, “leave things a little better than you found it.”
“My parents were very persevering, hardworking, committed people and combine that with the mission of service to others and supporting and helping families, those things together started to form who I was,” he said.
This outlook shaped the way he felt about students’ day, wanting them to have a good day and share their joy with their families.
“I always think about families, not so much when the kids are at school … I always wanted kids to go home and have good conversations with their parents of what their day was like,” he said.
Duling’s parents were musicians, which in turn became of interest to him and own children too.
His music blended in with education, last year he went to Cato for Cato Days where he sang songs with the elementary school students.
After high school he graduated from Pittsburg State University and then started his career in Fort Scott as a fourth grade teacher at Eugene Ware Elementary School.
He then moved to Olathe with his high school sweetheart, his wife Ruth.
“She is my rock,” he said.
Once their third child came along they decided to move closer to home.
He became principal at Eugene Field Elementary School in hopes to help a wider range of people, with intentions of making the day better for each person as a goal, he said.
In 1997, Eugene Elementary blended with Lakeside Elementary, where he then served as principal.
Years later he decided to work even closer to home, in Girard, and he served as principal at RV Haderlein Elementary School.
In July of 2009 Duling became the director of Interlocal 637, he said he wanted to serve even more students, especially those who needed resources to make their day go by better.
After over 30 years in education, he is set to retire from Interlocal at the end of this school year. He said his plans after are not yet set in stone, but he plans to still serve the community in one shape or form.
— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.