Dana Durden has been a staple in the hearts of David Emanuel Academy for 31 years. She graduated from DEA herself and is mother to two alumni. She has been there through the good times and the bad times.
She wanted to become a teacher because she loves fulfillment that comes along with making a difference in children’s lives. “I want to help each child reach their fullest potential while helping them enjoy learning new things,” said Durden. “I want to be that teacher that they will always remember!”
Durden might teach first grade, but she has an “extra” calling—pulling teeth! She also loves teaching her favorite subject, science. However, you never know what might be going on in Mrs. Dana’s classroom! “The kids never know what I may bring in for a teachable moment. This year, the kids have helped bottle feed and raise a squirrel they named Acorn. He comes to school every day with me on the bus. In the spring, we will hatch chicks too! Another favorite, the kids became authors and illustrators of a published book.”
Durden has happily driven the bus at DEA for 26 years during her 31 years of teaching first grade. Through the years, she has had the privilege to teach her own children at DEA. “Seth and Suzanne both attended for 14 years. Of course, I taught them in first grade. They loved it at DEA. They played all the sports and it prepared them for college while making them well- rounded young adults. Both graduated from UGA. Seth works at Mercer Timber and lives on the farm. Suzanne is a first grade teacher at Swainsboro Primary. I’m a proud mama!”
Apart from teaching her own children, Durden has had the opportunity to teach some of her previous first graders’ first graders! This year is a special year for Durden because she gets to teach a daughter of one of her previous students who was in her very first class.
Brooke Boatright Johnson, a Swainsboro native, gets to walk her daughter Blakely James to Mrs. Dana’s class everyday just like her own mother did for her every morning her first grade year.
Durden also is teaching Lindsey Tomlinsons Claxton’s son Ellis, and Heather Strickland Womack’s son, Jax. “This year is a very special year for me,” said Durden.
When asked what class she would teach again, she answered the boys of the sixth grade class now at DEA. “The boys in sixth grade, those boys still remind me of all the fun things we did and want to know if they can come back to first grade. I love my visits, my hugs, and the stories from my past kiddos.”
Outside of school, Durden enjoys multiple hobbies. However, her love for the outdoors is incomparably her favorite hobby. “The love of the outdoors from raising critters of all kinds, working on the farm, and deer/turkey hunting. That is what I love to do most in my free time. The kids love to hear stories about my adventures in the woods and on the farm.”
She loves all her children she has taught in the past but has made many friendships and connections with the staff and faculty of DEA. She loves the staff and faculty at DEA because they teach on the principles of Christianity. “Our favorite part of the day is the time we spend with God thru Bible stories and praise songs. If we can give God a few minutes each day, he blesses my little classroom.”
Teaching at DEA has brought Durden happy times and sad times. Through the heartache of the fire that burned the school down years ago, to the recent passing of her dearest friends Karol Johnson and Kim Coleman, she has been strong for her students and DEA family.
“My ‘roots’ are at DEA. It’s home and family, and family is forever!”