When Allison Duncan sets her mind to something, she doesn’t waste any time. When she decided she wanted more for her newborn son, the question wasn’t if she would go back to school, but rather how quickly she would finish her degrees. To complete her associate, it took just two incredibly full semesters, 25 credit hours each, all while caring for a baby.
“I was there [at school] from 8 to 5 every single day, and he was with a babysitter, and that was how we got by,” Duncan says. “I got out of school, went home, made dinner, put him to bed, and did my homework all night long. Then went to school the next day because I had class five days a week.”
Duncan, now 28, had begun taking college classes at 18 but initially didn’t make much headway on a degree, having transferred schools twice and eventually leaving to work at a local tattoo parlor.
“I knew that I was done moving around; I knew I was done kind of being wish-washy, and an AA was a great step to get me to the next level,” Duncan says. “In the middle of all of this, my husband had transferred jobs, so he had to move away. Then it was just me and my son, and I was taking 25 credit hours.”
The secret to pushing on, Duncan confides, besides incredible time management, was the encouragement she found both at home and in the classroom. While her husband’s job kept them geographically apart, Duncan says he supported her every step of the way. In addition to her professors helping her stay caught up, Duncan formed study groups with other students and made regular use of the tutoring lab.
“I feel like they’re there to help you,” she says. “The more you take advantage of those resources, the more you get out of your tuition, honestly.”
Duncan started at SFCC with plans for pre-med, but she quickly found her niche in special education, which she later pursued as a bachelor’s in Florida to be with her husband. Seven months later, he was transferred again.
“So it was once again, just my son and me and an overload of classes,” Duncan says. “But I had the experience.”
Duncan graduated with her bachelor’s and a certification in special education. True to her character, she started graduate school just three weeks later. Now with her M.Ed. in Special Education with a concentration in autism, Duncan teaches at High Road School of Boone County in Columbia, Missouri.
“Having that biology emphasis from State Fair really helped me in education because I now have a background and understanding in how the brain works, and I work with children who have special needs. It really did all come together,” Duncan says.
Her skills contribute to a team of educators committed to making learning accessible to students with special needs.
“I really want my students to know that no matter what anybody else says, they are capable of so much more than anyone could ever imagine,” Duncan describes. “It’s really just a matter of figuring out exactly what suits them and teaching to that interest and then just watching them soar.”
Duncan is clearly the type of person who sets a goal and then commits to making it happen, but looking back, she is glad her life has not always gone according to plan. Even after her pre-med path took a detour, Duncan had held onto aspirations for a Ph.D., a title that she has since dropped in favor of a second master’s in sign language.
“I did my thesis on sign language, and there are many students in the building who use sign language. I have really been motivated to learn because of them,” she says. “I just want to be as fluent as I can to help them. Getting my Ph.D. would help me, but I feel that getting my second master’s degree will help them.”
Duncan emphasizes that, big or small, plans change. What is important is that you keep going.
“Babysitters will cancel. Your kids will get sick. You might have to bring your kid to class one day and then get kicked out … these things will happen!” she says. “You just have to get the notes. You have to take the quizzes. You have to finish your homework. It is a struggle, but you have to take time for you so you can continue to run that race as hard as you can. Whatever you need to do to get it done, you have to do that for yourself and your kids.”
Story by Jackson Ingram
Summer 2017 Communications Intern
Marketing and Communications