Debate teacher retires

Debate and English teacher Julie Durgin retires after 12 years of teaching

Julie Durgin carries a plant that was a gift from one of her students. This plant was given to her the Friday she left, during a Debate party that was organized. (photo by Alexis Izaguirre)

Walking into room 3-220 for the last time on Sept. 24, Debate and English teacher Julie Durgin had to say goodbye to her classes. Durgin retired from Hagerty that Friday, due to the pressures of being a teacher and the flexibility offered by Florida Virtual School. 

“The state of things in the classroom for a teacher is hard,” Durgin said. “There’s a lot of pressure, there’s a lot of expectations. There’s a lot of things that we’re required to do without a lot of congratulations and a lot of support.”

Despite this, Durgin said that she loved Hagerty and her students. Her students say that she has made a lasting impact on the debate team and class, with many holding over three years of good memories with her. 

Senior Olivia Tulloch describes Durgin as “the epitome of the woman” she wants to be. As a freshman, Tulloch was encouraged by Durgin to participate in a varsity Public Forum tournament. This tournament is a duo competition in which you participate against another duo. Tulloch was really scared about it, but Durgin talked her through it and put faith in her. 

“Her trusting me as quickly as she did really meant a lot to me,” Tulloch said. “Coming from a middle school environment to high school where everything was changing, she believed in me more than I believed in myself, and I think that’s just something all kids need so I’m glad she’s been able to be that person for me.”

Other students claimed her guidance gave them many positive attributes. Senior Emily Cobb felt she would not be who she is today if it was not for Durgin. 

“She is the reason I am so proud,” Cobb said. “I’ve said this so many times, but she has been the most influential part of my life ever, especially in the last four years because she’s made me confident and proud. Being able to see that [is amazing] because it’s something I didn’t have.”

Cobb and Tulloch have known Durgin for four years, but many of her students have not known her as long. Sophomores Kylie Gaetan and Grace Dean, have known Durgin for over a year but believe she has made an impact in their lives. 

“I’ve asked her a lot of questions, and you know every single time she’s always giving you really good answers,” Gaetan said. “I know we’re not close but she knows who I am and she knows how to deal with me which is really nice.”

Apart from Debate, Durgin has been teaching English for years, with three classes of English III on her schedule this year. 

“I really do love my English classes,” Durgin said. I love Socratic seminars and discussions and hearing what kids have to say because I think they really do have great things to say.”

From teaching English concepts to monitoring debate competitions, students wonder what will happen to the classroom now that Durgin has left. 

After the first week of having a substitute teacher, Senior Zakaria Zeini states that a new hire has been made but it is still unsure when this teacher will be taking over the classroom. 

For coaching Debate, on the other hand, a previous student who has experience in Debate will be the new coach for the debate team, and captains such as Zeini have also been designated for Durgin’s Debate classes; These captains take control when Durgin is not present. 

Durgin’s hopes are that her students have learned that it is important to have a voice, stand up for themselves, be kind, and be hard-working. Leaving her mark on campus, she goes on to embark on a new-found chapter with her family and prosper through her decision to join Florida Virtual School. 

At the end of the day, Hagerty will always hold a special place in Durgin’s heart. 

“I loved it. I loved Hagerty. And the kids, I loved the kids,” Durgin said. “I’m the person I am today because of Hagerty so I’m grateful and blessed to have been here.”