Duguay Adapts to Innovations

Photo Credit/ Danielle Martin
Challenges in Duguay's personal life help her confront technological changes in her professional career.

Danielle Martin 

Staff Writer

Dr. Kathleen Duguay is not afraid of the dramatic rise of technology in the classroom. This self-described, realistic professor confronts this adjustment with poise as online class participation rivals the physical. Knowing first-hand about life’s highs and lows in her golfing career and double bouts of cancer, educational innovations are not a travesty. 

She has committed to teaching two general education courses entirely online while working in physical classrooms as well. Though the differences are clear, the negatives and positives balance out. 

“Whenever you step into the moment of a new technology, you see all the negative things about it without realizing that we’ve gone through this paradigm shift before,” said Duguay. 

It is the same with online teaching.  

“I just find that today’s students tend to be less able to sit still for fifty minutes or an hour and fifteen minutes… and I’m not really sure if they’re capable of focusing for that long whereas if you do the online environment,” utilizing discussion boards, “I find it works great.” 

This does not mean that in-class sessions don’t also have their merits. 

For students in the classes of their major, Dr. Duguay said, “It’s a different environment to engage that discussion because they’re motivated,” said Duguay, about students in the classes of their major.  “Different. Not better, not worse, different.”

Growing up in North Adams, Massachusetts, Duguay developed a love for the English language. After earning her undergraduate degree in English at North Adams State College, now Mass College of Liberal arts, she attained her Masters at Binghamton University and then her PHD in English studies at Albany University. 

“I just liked the subject matter,” Dr. Duguay said. “I liked the material. It’s fun to be able to do that as your work rather than a hobby.” 

Finding East Stroudsburg University provided the right fit for the Albany grad.

“I was actually fairly fortunate because with a composition rhetoric background that was in demand at the time so I had a lot of interviews and several offers, but this was the best one. Back when I first came here in ’97, our Union… really had the best benefits and pay scale. And that’s what brought me here. That’s why I chose this, practically speaking of course. And I’m always in to practical,” she said with a laugh. 

But teaching English is not her only interest. 

In fact, Dr. Duguay has a passion for golf. There was a noticeable edge of excitement in her voice as she began to talk about her years on the field. 

But by the time she hit her early thirties, she was swinging on the rolling green hills of Massachusetts. Her skill followed her penchant like a shadow. She became highly competitive. 

One of her greatest personal victories involved one particular win.

“In 2014, I won the State Senior Championship of Massachusetts,” she said, with radiant grin on her face. 

But even great swings have downward arcs.

First there was endometrial cancer in 2006. Because doctors caught it early, its hold on her life was short lived. 

The second attack was not as forgiving.  

“In 2012 I had breast cancer. And that was an aggressive form, what they call the triple positive which is just the next worse thing to the triple negative which is the worst kind you can get,” Duguay said. 

Even with surgeries and chemotherapy, illness did no keep her locked down.

In fact, she only took five days off from teaching. 

“I wasn’t bedridden or anything. You know what am I going to do, sit home and think about it all day? At least when you’re working, you’re staying busy,” she said. 

She didn’t quit teaching. She didn’t quit golf. And eventually, the cancer got the hint. It packed its bags and moved out. Even though it could come back, Duguay sticks to her philosophy that, “You say, ‘right now, things are good,’ and that’s what I do.”

Unfortunately, the healing process left a toll on Duguay. It was the Aromatase Inhibitors, a medication designed to starve out any remaining bits of cancer that might try to reform. Side effects included stiffening of the muscles, which injured her swing. 

“I wanted to play the way I used to. And that’s been really hard for me to deal with. I have to say, honestly. That’s the hardest thing for me. I used to play really well, and now I just can’t anymore,” Duguay said. 

She’s a champion golfer, a cancer defeater and she doesn’t let the rise of classroom technology worry her in the least.

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