He’s often the first to arrive and the last to leave every day at Webster City Middle School, but at the end of this school year, Associate Principal Duane Harding will be enjoying the more flexible schedule of a retiree.
“I found out I can take early retirement, so I’m doing that. I’m exploring other avenues; some may be in education,” he explains.
Harding has been with the Webster City schools for 21 years; he spent 15 years as an elementary classroom teacher at Pleasant View School, and has been at the middle school for six years.
Education was actually a second career for Harding. He started out in the military, and later worked at a lumber yard. After his sister died from cancer in 1989, he took some time to reflect on what he really wanted to do career wise.
“I told my wife I always wanted to be a teacher,” he says. So he finished his degree at Iowa State University and student taught in Webster City, starting his first teaching job here in 1992. He later received his master’s degree from Drake, and his administrative endorsement through the Iowa Principal Leadership Academy.
The busy administrator has coached high school and middle school football and high school track in Webster City, high school and middle school wrestling in Alden and middle school track in Alden.
Harding also serves as middle school activities director. He says he puts his heart and soul into everything and doesn’t do anything halfway, which is why he is so committed and spends many hours at his job.
“If you’re asking kids to commit, participate, and give their best effort, and if you’re the one asking it, you need to be there while they experience those successes,” he says.
As a youth, Harding moved several times with his family, which meant some hardships and shaped him.
“Life wasn’t easy for me, so I know what it’s like and I can relate,” he says. He strives to be a good role model for students. His most-offered piece of advice is, “Be yourself.”
“I tell kids not to listen when others might put them down in middle school, because four or five years down the road, things may change. I tell them that the one thing that helps you be the most successful here is to just be yourself,” he says “Kids are the reason I got into this; I felt I could make a difference.”