As a certified teacher in the state of Massachusetts I have learned a tremendous amount in different graduate school classes and professional development sessions. However, the most important things I have learned have come from my fellow teachers and from experiences in the classroom. The Notes from the Chalkboard Blog is where I will share some of those hard won lessons. So without further ado, here are some of my notes from the chalkboard…..


Walter Duncan is a 15-year veteran K-12 teacher. His students were ranked in the top 15% of all Massachusetts Public School students on MCAS ELA in 2012. He has deep experience getting the best out of his kids in inner-city school districts such as Detroit, Washington DC, and Boston. Additionally he is the co-founder of Design By Educators the makers of the Quick Key Mobile app, a social impact company that seeks to empower teachers to more effectively close the achievement gap. The free Open Beta version of the Quick Key is available at 


The thing about teaching is you never quite know who your students will become. You see their potential, you nurture it the best you can, and they move on. You try to be exactly what they need you to be for them at any given moment, and then you exhale and let them go. They in turn continue to grow into their respective destinies.

The age of social media has changed the teacher-student relationship. After 15 years in the classroom, many of my former students are now thriving adults. And with the power of social media, it is much easier to stay connected with them after they become adults. I have seen some of my students become fantastic musicians, while others have shown sharp business acumen. I have even hired one of them as my head iOS developer for Quick Key.

This blog is about one of my former students in particular. He was, and still is, bright and thoughtful, and always ready to speak his mind. He was the type of student who would add something to the discussion that was insightful, but could potentially take the discussion off course. It is important with this type of student, to keep them engaged and never crush their enthusiasm. A teacher must walk that fine line of encouraging enthusiasm, while at the same time keeping the class on track toward the learning goals.

As an adult I reconnected with him through Facebook. It turns out that his enthusiasm has translated well in hollywood. He has appeared in many national commercials. I must say it is quite a feeling to see your former student on your TV telling you why Verizon has the best 4G coverage. Almost makes you want to switch to Verizon, almost.

After I had completed the first prototype of my Quick Key App, I made a grainy Youtube video. My wife filmed it, and I had my dog with me. I sent him a message asking him to help me make a better one. He asked for my Youtube password and said “let me change a thing or two about a thing or two”.

I went to bed, and at 1 a.m. my life began to drastically shift course. My phone would not stop buzzing, it was comments on my Youtube page!

He had taken the liberty of posting my video on Reddit, saying One of the best teachers I ever had just showed me this and said, “Don’t laugh at how amateurish the video is, or at my weird dog in the background, but I think I have a good invention here.” I’m inclined to agree, dear Walter. Let’s show him we appreciate his hard work!. And boy did Reddit show it! The video went viral receiving over 460,000 views. The next day after my first period class I was told to check out Techcrunch where I was on the front page next to Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg.  Talk about Teacher Karma!

Quick Key has gone on to hit many milestones, including raising over 320k and recently going over 155,000 quizzes scanned. But this past year has stamped the truth into my heart, that we give our best to our students each day, because that is our purpose. We teach to change lives. But sometimes, they come back and radically change ours.

Feel free to share the ways that your former students have changed your lives in the comment section below!