Teaching is a Family Affair for Secondary Ed Student Connor Dukes
Connor Dukes prefers the hardwood. Dave Dukes, his dad, was a football player in his college days. While the pair split on their favorite athletic endeavors, Connor is definitely following in his father’s footsteps when it comes to a career choice.
The elder Dukes is a veteran special education and math teacher in the Plattsmouth, Nebraska school system, while Connor is pursuing his bachelor’s degree in Health and Human Performance with a Secondary Education endorsement. His goal is to become a physical education teacher and a coach.
“Teaching is in our blood. I've grown up wanting to be a coach and teacher,” said Dukes, whose sister Erica is also a teacher at Glenwood (Iowa) Middle School. “The most influential people in my life have always been teachers or coaches. I want to be that for the next line of students coming up.”
Dukes is about halfway through his program and has already been able to spend some practicum time in area classrooms including Bellevue West High School and the Alpha School in South Omaha.
“The best part about the program is how quickly you get into classrooms. We did about 14 observations the first semester,” Dukes said. “You can really determine whether teaching is going to be for you or not.”
Dukes’ status as a college basketball player helped him connect with students during those practicums.
“It does give you a bit of celebrity status in the classroom. It's kind of cool,” he said. “I was that same kid looking up to college players.”
Dukes started his college career at another school, but transferred to Bellevue University looking for the right fit academically and an opportunity to play basketball. Fellow Plattsmouth High School graduates Shayla Scanlan and Jacob Krug, both Bellevue University student-athletes at the time, convinced him to give their school a try. He redshirted in 2016-17 and appeared in all 30 games last season, averaging 3.7 points and 1.1 rebounds per game.
He expects a strong squad coming back next season under first-year Head Coach Lucas Gabriel.
“It looks like we’ll have eight guys coming back next year. A lot of them redshirted last season, but they are some of our better players,” Dukes said. “They’re going to kill it along with our other returners.”
Juggling school work during the basketball season can be difficult, Dukes said, but he has come with a system that works for him. He tries to wrap up as much homework as possible by Thursday, so he can focus on the game especially before a long road trip (It’s a 10-hour drive to North Star Athletic Conference rival Dickinson State in North Dakota). He’ll knock out whatever work he has left on the return trip.
“It can be difficult. You just have to make sure you have the right focus at the right time,” he said.
Following graduation, Dukes hopes to combine his love of basketball and teaching.
“I’ve always wanted to be a college coach. I’d love to get a graduate assistant job somewhere,” he said. “I also think I would really enjoy being a high school PE teacher.”