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'I've taught 6,100 students in 37 years'

June 09, 2010 - Bill Duso spent most of his teaching career assigning fiction. Maybe that's why he was so good at convincing the students of Goodrich High School that he was walking around with a 6-foot tall, invisible pink rabbit.

"Harvey is my very good friend," the Goodrich High School English teacher said of his invisible friend. "He comes to graduation with me every year."

In reality, Duso remembers directing the play "Harvey" with GHS librarian Joan Turner years ago.

"From that time on, I decided I would remind everyone that Harvey was my friend," Duso said.

Duso, 60, is retiring after 37 years in the Goodrich School District. Seventeen of Duso's years were spent in the middle school, teaching social studies, geography, U.S. history and English. He worked the next 30 years teaching English in the high school, whether it be to freshmen or advanced placement students.

After 37 years of minimal classroom-moving, Duso has accumulated a roomful of trinkets that are slowly making their ways to boxes for storage. But he might have trouble fitting his sombrero-wearing, 3-foot tall, stuffed gorilla into a box.

"I used to have a drawing of Harvey on my wall, but I took that down this year," Duso said.

A GHS student would have a hard time walking into Duso's room without being able to figure out who it belonged to. His decorating techniques are unlike any other teacher's, with an equal number of Martian Pride and Central Michigan University banners hanging from walls and tack boards, mingling with an assortment of stuffed animals.

More than his unique decorations, though, students remember their English teacher's "Duso-isms": the quirks that made him unlike any other teacher in the school.

Amanda Bishop, 2005 GHS graduate, said she remembers Duso's rhythm.

"The memory that sticks out the most is his creative lesson about mythology, which involved him dancing to songs that could describe the Greek Gods. Songs like 'Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,' for example," Bishop said.

Duso doesn't deny it.

"Call me Fred Astaire," he said.

Other grads remember Duso as an unannounced visitor to his neighboring classes throughout the school.

"I remember when he would come into band and steal my clarinet and try to play it or try to conduct us," said Marissa Misura, 2004 GHS graduate. "Or when he came into Mr. Doerr's class to try and do math."

Duso and John Doerr, GHS math teacher, are known to be good friends by the students and staff of GHS, especially because the two have been the cosponsors of the National Honor Society for 19 years.

"We started with 35 kids, and we have 161 this year," Duso said.

Along with co-sponsoring NHS, Duso spent his after-school time coaching. He coached varsity baseball for six years, JV basketball for 16 years, JV football for 22 years, and JV baseball for four.

"Baseball is my love," Duso said. "Ironically, I coached it the least."

Beyond teaching, coaching, and cosponsoring, Duso said an important part of his contributions to Goodrich High School has been monitoring the GHS graduates in the military.

"We have 58 on active duty right now, and I try not to let people forget about them," he said.

Duso reminds the community of these graduates by putting their names on the school marquis on Sundays, or keeping up with the military alumni board by the school gym.

He said fellow teacher Roger Conn will be carrying that tradition on.

Students may remember Duso for his military awareness, but he hopes they remember him for a few other reasons, too.

"I've taught 6,100 students in 37 years," Duso said. "And I hope they learned more than the fact that I said, 'Smoke 'em if you got 'em,' whenever I left the room."

Duso said he hopes they remember that he was passionate about teaching, reading and writing.

They do.

"Mr. Duso not only taught us the lessons of the classics—Machiavelli's The Prince, Dante's Inferno—but he also taught us the best way to annoy a person through a wall. Tennis balls," said Amy Kovas, 2005 GHS grad.

"If there was ever a dull moment, Mr. Duso knew just the high-pitched noise and cartoon-like face to provide the perfect amount of entertainment for an AP English class."

Bishop said there will never be another teacher like Duso, and even he can't deny that.

"After all," Duso said, "who else could have a rabbit as his best friend?"

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