Mr. Durkin, a world famous, or at least Briarcliff famous, English teacher is unfortunately leaving us at the end of this school year. I have had the pleasure of being his student this year and learned so much about English, and birds, from Mr. Durkin. When I sat down and talked to him for this article, I realized how passionate and engaged he was about so many topics. It was very interesting, and I hope that before he leaves some of you could talk to him too. This is how my conversation went with him:
Annie: How long have you been working at Briarcliff?
T Durkin: I’ve been here at Briarcliff for 18 years but in total I have been teaching for 35 years. Before this I worked in Long Island, in the both high school and middle school of Sachem.
Annie: What do you have planned for retirement?
T Durkin: I’m buying a house on a lake, so I can canoe to my job. I’ve been working at Camp Pinecliff every summer for 25 years. I also have a bucket list for all the things I want to do. I want to go to every National Park in the United States. I would also like to see lots of Canada and experience other outdoor interests.
Annie: Interesting. Did you enjoy English as a kid?
T Durkin: I loved English; I did a lot of reading on my own too. My favorite book was The Last of the Mohicans because of the wilderness aspect and because it was based out of New York. The film was great too. Daniel Day Lewis is definitely one of the best actors of all time.
Annie: What about what you teach? What is your favorite book that you assign to either 9th or 10th grade?
T Durkin: Hands down To Kill a Mocking Bird. There are different issues in our world and with white supremacy rising I think To Kill a MockingBird sends an equally powerful message that it did back then and today.
Annie: This next question is pretty out of the blue and doesn’t have to do with English but what is your favorite bird? And can you identify any bird calls?
T Durkin: *laughs* Well that’s a pretty tricky question. I don’t have one favorite, but I have different categories. For example, my favorite raptor is a red tail hawk, my favorite song bird is a scarlet tanager, and my favorite woodpecker is a pileated woodpecker. And yes, I can identify every local bird but I don’t 100% know birds that migrate to here.
Annie: And finally, if you weren’t teaching (or working at Camp Pinecliff), what would you be doing?
T Durkin: Well, I guess I would want to be a guide, who takes people through the forest and organizing little exposition. Basically, I would have a Camp Pinecliff for adults.
Even though I only knew Mr. Durkin for less than one year, I could tell that the entire faculty will miss him. Next time you see him in the hallway, congratulate him and maybe strike up a conversation about woodpeckers.