Profile: Hank Duvier

Hank Duvier gives his best “mean teacher face” upon request. 

(Photo by Jamaal Thompson)

Meet Hank Duvier

Duvier has been a math professor at Tennessee Tech for 29 years.


How long have you been a teacher?

            Almost 30 years.


And is that what you always wanted to do?

            No. I wanted to be—all my life I wanted to be a Marine Corps fighter pilot. That’s what I really wanted to do. 


You did go into the Marines, didn’t you?

            Went in the Marines, got hurt at Officer Candidate School, got kicked out … but I will say we didn’t get invaded in the three weeks that I was in the Marines, so the country was safe, haha. 


So, as a teacher, what are some of the biggest lessons that you have learned?

            You need to have thick skin, which I don’t have real thick skin. You need to—every day you need to be—you need to have enthusiasm, no matter how bad you feel, you have to be enthusiastic, because the kids can see right through you if you’re not enthusiastic about it. Um, you need to, you know, you need to know your subject, obviously. You need to know what you’re teaching … Anybody can take a hard course and make it hard, the trick is taking a hard course and making it easy, you know, then you’re getting somewhere.


You might have answered this, which I think you kind of did, but what would you say your biggest challenges as a teacher are?

            Biggest challenge? That’s a good question … the challenge is to take the ones with one foot working at McDonald’s, one foot in college, you know, and try to give them some confidence, and some success that says, ‘I can graduate from this university, I can hang in there.’ You know, that’s my biggest challenge … taking the underprepared students, the at-risk students, and try to get them some confidence and success.


So, you’ve told me this a bunch of times, but you worked all through college, right?

            Yeah, I pretty much worked.


So how was that for you? What was your experience like?

            Well, I worked as a janitor … cleaning up the bathrooms … but the thing about that is when I was working, it was back when minimum wage was $3 an hour. I’m not going to put a $3 an hour job in front of me getting a college degree. I had to say what was more important, my $3 job, or my college degree…but you know, money is money. You know how it is, man, when you don’t have any money, and you know, you’re scrapping and trying. I ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for four years. It was rough … I just don’t want to see you guys burdened with debt. 


Where do you see yourself in five years, Mr. Hank? Are you still teaching?

            I hope to be retired … or maybe just teaching a light load. 


So, this last question is a fun question. If you’re stranded on a deserted island, and you can only take three things with you, what are you taking?

            A Bible. Food and water … a case of Spam, haha. And I’m taking hope. The greatest thing that you can take with you in life is hope.