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Retiring middle school teacher in Colwood gives Dunsmuir the ‘50s treatment

Event part of students’ book study and helps mark teacher Sue Duvall’s retirement
Dunsmuir middle school teacher Sue Duvall organized a 1950s themed car show for the school May 26 as part of her class project on novel The Outsiders, and as a last hurrah before her retirement at the end of the school year. (Justin Samanski-Langille/News Staff)

Students at Dunsmuir middle school were brought back in time to the 1950s with a car show organized by teacher Sue Duvall, as a last hurrah before her retirement at the end of the school year.

The school’s back field was packed with 34 vintage vehicles from local car clubs and students and teachers alike wandered about dressed in leather jackets and pants, poodle skirts and hair slicked back and large.

“We do the novel the Outsiders, and the entire time we study it I have my classroom decorated like a ’50s diner,” said Duvall. “We study all the history behind it, the TV shows, I collect bottles of Coca-Cola in the old glass bottles … I’ve been going around joining all the car pages and going out to the car meets for this and today I am blown away by the amount of cars we’ve gotten.”

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Duvall said she has organized car shows as an end-of-year event tied to her curriculum before, but none like on Thursday. She said a combination of two years of cancelled events due to the pandemic and her pending retirement meant she felt the need to make sure it was as large as possible.

It’s important to her that students are involved in their learning and enjoy it, she said, so throughout her 35 years as a teacher she has collected vintage clothes from the novel’s era for students to borrow each year.

“It’s fun, we try to make it as authentic as we can each year, so they live in the 1950s. Right now they are also doing history projects on the era … this is something they will remember their whole lives. Yes, it cost me a lot of time and money, but for me it is worth it. I’ve got less than 24 teaching days left after 35 years, and I am going out stronger than when I started and I still love what I do.”

While Duvall still loves the job and said she could continue on, she feels it is the right time to retire. Since her husband died six years ago, she has felt the need to find new experiences and travel more while she still can.

But she likely won’t step away from education and working with children entirely and plans to work as a substitute teacher occasionally and help organize events like the car show.

“I always thought at the end of my career I would look old and I would be cranky, but it’s not the case. I don’t have much grey hair, I’m not cranky, and I’ll take down these fresh 20-year-old teachers any time,” Duvall joked. “I think it is the relationships I have made than stand out in my career. I have taught some amazing young adults and they are still a part of my life … they all make me proud, and there are two teachers (at Dunsmuir) that I taught.”

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Justin Samanski-Langille

About the Author: Justin Samanski-Langille

I moved coast-to-coast to discover and share the stories of the West Shore, joining Black Press in 2021 after four years as a reporter in New Brunswick.
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