Duffy Besch: Principal, Pleasant Gap Elementary School
Since at least the 1970s, a member of the Besch family has been a teacher and/or administrator at Bellefonte Area School District. Duffy Besch is one of them -- and the Pleasant Gap Elementary School principal said getting into education was one of the best decisions he ever made.
“I got into education because it was kind of the family business – I married an educator and my parents were both educators,” he said. “I had a science degree I wasn’t using and I wanted job stability. I thought, ‘I knew I like to work with kids, so I’ll enjoy teaching’ and thought I knew what I was getting myself into.”
Calling the classroom setting “trial by fire” during his first year teaching at a school in Maryland, Besch said it only took three days to realize education was his calling.
“I can honestly say that from that day, I knew this was what I wanted to do,” he said. “I love science. I found that it was fun and fascinating, and really enjoyed teaching kids about something I liked so much, so I’d say that pretty much since my first week, this is what I was meant to be doing the rest of my life. I’ve had jobs where I didn’t want to go to work, and I swore I would never put myself in that position again.”
The 2018-19 school year marks Besch’s 19th year as an educator, including 15 years at Bellefonte Area School District – the same place he graduated from in 1990. The Shippensburg University graduate – and former college football player -- has since been a science teacher at Bellefonte Area High School, along with being the vice principal there and Bellefonte and Marion-Walker elementary schools. About three years ago, he became principal at Pleasant Gap Elementary School, after a position opening when former Principal Tammie Burnaford became the district’s assistant superintendent.
“I didn’t intend to get into administration this quickly, but I always liked the idea of it,” Besch said. “I view my job now as a way to educate kids differently than I did in the classroom – it’s often working with students on social and behavioral (skills), and I view my job as staying out the way of teachers, and making sure they have the resources they need to help a student succeed. If I can do that, then I’m happy, and can honestly say that every adult in this building is doing great things for the kids.”
Besch, was born and raised in Bellefonte, and is married to high school math teacher Sue Besch. They have three children – senior Cati, sophomore JD and sixth-grader Colby -- who attend school in the Bellefonte Area School District.