Honoring Our 2022 Retirees: Mr. John Duggan


Ryan Chen

When it comes to versatility, Mr. John Duggan is truly unrivaled. Previously a commercial fisherman and science teacher, Mr. Duggan immersed himself in other fields of work and study before he came to South High as an assistant principal. But after 20 years of serving in this role, Mr. Duggan is retiring. 

Before fulfilling the aforementioned positions, Mr. Duggan was an aspiring forest ranger. As a young adult, Mr. Duggan was an absolute nature enthusiast. Spending his time outdoors, he admired the beauty of the scenery and wildlife, so he decided to pursue a degree in biology. After graduating, Mr. Duggan decided that commercial fishing was more advantageous and took that route instead. However, after 12 years of consistently operating two boats—one longlining for tilefish in submarine canyons and another dragging for squid—he recognized where a career like his fell short: he felt distanced from his family. “My daughter was two years old, and I was never home. With the type of fishing I did, I would be gone for seven days at a time and home for one day, and that repeated. At that point in my life, I decided that I wanted to change careers and to go more with my family,” he said. By utilizing his biology degree, he became a science teacher and then a chairperson in the Sewanhaka school district, which allowed him to spend more time with his family. 

After 10 years of teaching biology and Earth science, he was offered a position as an assistant principal at South High. “I had a principal at the time that encouraged me to go into school leadership because they thought that that’s where I belonged,” he said. Thus, in 2001, he assumed that role. But being an assistant principal and being a teacher entail two vastly different sets of responsibilities. As a teacher, there is an established routine: you’re generally working with the same groups of students and teaching a set curriculum most of the time. As an assistant principal, there isn’t any routine. “Things just pop up during the day that you have to deal with,” he said. Some of his primary responsibilities include managing the school’s budget and overseeing the custodial and ground staff. He also works closely with students daily. “I deal with students who are in trouble. I deal with students who are suffering in one way or another,” he said. 

Speaking of students, one of Mr. Duggan’s greatest joys is simply seeing the students perform, whether it is on stage or on the field. “My favorite sports team would be the girls basketball team. They’re just really tenacious, and they play hard all the time!” he exclaimed. He also cherishes the diverse and receptive environment that students have created at South. 

In terms of Mr. Duggan’s post-retirement plans, starting in August, he hopes to journey across the country in a camper with his wife for approximately two years. “We both like to hike, fish, and kayak, so we’re just going to enjoy the outdoors,” he explained. 

Before his departure, he would like to offer a few final words to the school: “To the students, pursue your dreams, be the best person you can be. And when, as teachers, we reach that place where we no longer understand the struggling student, we need to take a step back and listen because that’s what we’re here for.”