A LEEP in education: Longtime educator marks 50th year of teaching


Marcie Durbin says she loves her job, her colleagues and being able to interact with young children who enter her classroom each year.

Step inside Durbin’s classroom at Oak Trace Elementary School, where she works as a literacy specialist, and you’ll find frogs decorated on the walls, on the carpet and in other areas as part of her classroom theme. The frog-based theme is based off LEEP, an acronym for Literacy Enhancement Ensures Progress, that is designed to focus on providing support to students who struggle with reading in small groups, Durbin said.

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A look inside Marci Durbin’s classroom
at Oak Trace Elementary School in Westfield. (Photos by Adam Seif)

The longtime educator recently wrapped up her 50th year of teaching with Westfield Washington Schools, but said she isn’t ready to step away from her job just yet.

Durbin, 71, described Oak Trace as a family-like atmosphere and said she enjoys working collaboratively with colleagues each day. But teaching was always something that Durbin, who grew up in Sheridan and still resides there, wanted to pursue as a career.

“Back when we graduated high school, most wanted to either be a teacher or a nurse,” Durbin said. “I had done a lot of babysitting and I loved little kids, so I thought teaching would be a good fit.”

Durbin, who graduated from Indiana University-Kokomo with a degree in education, did her student teaching with Westfield Washington Schools and eventually landed a full-time job the following year. Durbin has seen plenty of changes as Westfield has grown, noting that when she started teaching, the district had one high school, one middle school and one elementary school.

She has been at Oak Trace for the last 23 years and previously taught at Shamrock Springs Elementary School. But Durbin said what she most enjoys about her role is working with her students.

“I love seeing the kids and seeing their excitement when they learn something new,” Durbin said.

But Durbin said she never envisioned teaching this long, noting that she had initially planned to teach for three years and then stay home to raise her children. Still, Durbin said what motivates her to continue making a difference is the fact that each day is different in the classroom, in addition to her interactions with other individuals at Oak Trace.

“I have a great team of colleagues and we have a lot of fun inside and outside of school,” she said.

Durbin said she has occasionally thought about retiring, especially when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, but noted that her son created partitions to keep her and her students safe. Durbin also pointed out that Oak Trace remains close-knit.

“This school is like a family and that’s why I keep coming back,” Durbin said with a smile. “I have great colleagues to collaborate with and I’ve been very fortunate.”

Durbin, however, doesn’t take all the credit for student success in the classroom as she works closely with instructional assistant Jami Harris, who happens to be one of Durbin’s former students. Durbin was Harris’ second grade teacher and has also taught two of Harris’ three children.

Harris, who has worked with Durbin for the last 14 years, described the longtime educator as an individual who is “so caring and passionate about what she does.”

“She’s an inspiration to other younger teachers,” Harris said. “She’s always learning new things, a lifelong learner and truly has a passion for what she does.”

Harris said she and Durbin enjoy helping students learn when they come into the classroom.

“We just have so much fun working together,” Harris said.

Harris also said she and Durbin often discuss retirement each spring and that she fully supports whatever decision Durbin decides to make. But Durbin isn’t ready to say farewell to teaching and plans to return to the classroom for the 2023-24 school year.

“I just love what I do and the kids keep me young and make me laugh,” Durbin said. “It’s just a fun job.”

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A look inside Marci Durbin’s classroom
at Oak Trace Elementary School in Westfield. (Photos by Adam Seif)

Meet Marcie Durbin

Age: 71

Hometown: Sheridan

Education: bachelor’s degree in education from IU-Kokomo, master’s degree in reading from IU-Kokomo

Fun facts: She enjoys making cards in her free time, spending time with her family and owns a pug