Teacher Feature: Duncan Murrell
Writer. Journalist. Teacher. Runner. Coach. Father. Duncan Murrell checks all of these boxes and more. He was born in Rockville, Maryland, and stayed there until he left for college. At Cornell University he was a history major, but toward the end of his college career, he realized that he preferred English literature over history.
Upon graduating, Mr. Murrell served in the Marine Corps as an artillery officer. “I did not, thankfully, fight in a war or shoot anything at anyone in anger, and I’m very grateful for that,” he said.
After four years of service, Mr. Murrell attended the journalism school at Northwestern University, where he graduated with a master’s degree. From there, he pursued a series of writing and editorial jobs: first in newspaper and wire services, then Algonquin Books in Chapel Hill, and then as a freelance writer.
But Mr. Murrell eventually decided that he wanted more. “I got to a point where I wanted to be more creative and do more of my own work, and somebody else’s work was sort of stealing time from that,” he said. While writing on his own, he taught at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University until 2015, when he began another graduate program at Bennington College.
Last year, Mr. Murrell spent some time on Durham Academy’s campus as a track coach and substitute teacher. “What’s cool about Durham Academy,” he said, “is the same principles and ideas about teaching that I’ve learned now was also what I picked up from Coach Irons, Coach Teagarden and Coach Cullen.”
Besides teaching at Durham Academy, Mr. Murrell is currently a contributing editor at Harper’s Magazine. He is best known for his long-form narrative journalism works. One of his favorite aspects of journalism is that “you maintain relationships with the people you wrote about.”
In his free time, Mr. Murrell likes to run, coach, read and write. “That’s all I have time for, honestly,” he said, and he spends the rest of his time taking care of his two daughters.
Mr. Murrell is filling in only for Mr. Biersach’s English classes until December, but he has already become fully integrated into the DA community. “Even if I’m only here for a term, it feels like that doesn’t matter, which is great,” he said. “I will be very sad to leave.”