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Tokyo-bound athlete is balancing his teaching career with Olympic medal ambitions

July 23, 2021

By Perry King
 

Archer Crispin Duenas, who holds a teaching degree from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, is heading to his fourth Olympics this summer (photo courtesy of the Canadian Olympic Committee). 


Crispin Duenas got his acceptance letter to OISE just as he was walking into the opening ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Olympics.

“It was a really fun day that became better, because now I had a little bit of a path for my future to take,” says Duenas, an OISE alumni who will compete in his fourth Games.

A Toronto-based archer, Duenas was a part of the last teacher candidate cohorts who completed the one-year version of the program, graduating in 2013. Since graduating, Duenas has been working as a supply teacher and long-term occasional teacher in math and physics, with the Toronto District School Board. It has stayed that way as he continued to compete nationally and internationally in his sport.  

For Duenas, OISE was a life-changing, perspective-shifting experience. Mainly, his professors challenged and expanded his horizons.

“When you're thinking of becoming a teacher, you have this vision of what you want to do. And then your profs at OISE suddenly throw this curveball at you and ask, ‘Well, have you ever thought about this happening in your class?’ And you're like, holy crap, No, I haven't,” said Duenas, who sat down with OISE News from pre-Olympic training in Antalya, Turkey. “That's one of the cool things that had happened to me at OISE, there's these scenarios that you just never think of.”

That kind of rigour helped prepare Duenas for his teacher placements and practicums, where “real stuff starts to happen,” he says. “And you get a feel for what it's like to be an in-the-class real teacher, instead of this theoretical, I-want-to-be-a-teacher type person.”

 

Crispin Duenas received his acceptance letter to OISE just as he was walking into the opening ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Olympics. Since graduating, he has been working as a supply and long-term occasional teacher for the Toronto District School Board—all while competing nationally and internationally (photo courtesy of the Canadian Olympic Committee).


Under the tutelage of instructors including Professor Emeritus Ron Lancaster, Duenas would come back from practicums and present his experiences to his professors. “And they say, ‘Yeah, well, what did you do? And let's analyze how you how you were successful, how you weren't successful, what would you do differently?’” said Duenas, who speaks highly of Lancaster’s lessons in math education.

“I think there was a thoroughness to OISE that I don't know that exists in other teacher colleges. That was one of my really positive experiences coming out of OISE, even though it was just a one-year program.”

Duenas truly did believe it was going to be an easier experience. “I thought it was just like, here's the curriculum, go teach it. That's the overarching thing. And then there are these subtle nuances to getting through to all the kids,” he said. He learned a lot about lesson planning and working with kids who have special needs – including those on the autism spectrum. A lot of these teachings were from his main cohort instructor Ann Chlorakos.

He had a lot of fun in his short time at OISE. One of his favourite memories took place in a course – but not just for the course material itself. He was sitting in on a discussion and the instructor was very artsy — not as in tune with sports.

“And he said, one day in class, ‘You know, I think that all Olympic athletes should just take all the performance-enhancing drugs, take everything, because we want to see them do superhuman things,’” recalled Duenas.

Duenas had to stand up for himself. “‘Hi, Professor so and so, my name is Crispin and I just completed my second Olympics. I am an Olympic athlete and to be honest with you, I think without the drugs, we're already doing things that a regular human being can't do. So what's the difference?’”

There was a chuckle and a minor crowd reaction – and the professor kept going with the lesson.

But his time at OISE is treasured – and as he entered the world of work, his Olympic ambitions were as strong as his passion for education. It was a tricky balance that he has made work for years.

“Luckily, teaching doesn't have to be done during the summer, and I've got a summer sport,” he said. Professor Lancaster emphasized the importance of time management in whatever Duenas chose to do. “So, whether you do the work at school, or whether you bring the work home – I'm talking about lesson planning or whatnot – you're going to have to do it. So, manage your time well if you have other things on the go.”

Education is certainly in Duenas’s future, as he considers life after his fourth Olympics. Earlier this summer, Duenas finally got on the eligible-to-hire list.

“I have gotten really lucky with a lot of it. And I'm just going to try to keep making the best of what I can,” he said.


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