Dr. John Duerk
Political Science and History Instructor 


Dr. John Duerk is a political science instructor who started at Western Nevada College in 2022. As a student, he began higher education at a community college in Illinois and taught high school students before returning to graduate school.  After teaching at a larger institution, he appreciates teaching at a smaller school where you get to know people better.

Q: What is your teaching background and how did you end up at WNC? 

DR. DUERK: I have been in education for more than 20 years. I started at the secondary level in Illinois, teaching social studies, then eventually I decided to go back to graduate school for a doctorate in political science.

The first job I accepted was in Arizona. Then, I moved to Eastern Texas, to the Houston area, and taught in California before coming here. This is my fourth institution as an instructor and I've been career building over the last decade-plus.

Q: Why do you like teaching at WNC?

DR. DUERK: I like a smaller institution in contrast to the large college where I worked.  One of them was so large that I didn't even know some of my colleagues because there were hundreds of full-time faculty. Our students at a two-year college, I think we have a lot to offer them. When I was in high school, I was a decent student. But I did not excel. But when I went to McHenry County College in Illinois, I took off. I excelled. I'm a product of a two-year institution and it definitely prepared me to transfer to Illinois State University. What I'm going to provide people will help them transfer to UNR, UNLV, or UC-Davis, or wherever it is they'd like to go. This is an opportunity for people to cut their teeth, so to speak, and really develop a foundation for what comes next. I think that's our responsibility.

Living in the high desert and near the Sierra Nevada is a great place to work and the small-town experience like this, to me, you can't beat it. I love living in Nevada and this part of the state with what we're living in proximity to is amazing!

Q: Was there a teacher or a class that inspired you to become an educator? Or something else?

DR. DUERK: When I was attending McHenry County College in Crystal Lake, Illinois, which is in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, I took a history class with Professor David Hill in the fall of 1992. He is the person that I credit with inspiring me to pick history as a major. He also has a lot to do with the fact that I chose to teach at the community college level because, you know, you could go the four-year route. But for me, I am a direct beneficiary of the excellent instruction that I received. If I could be that for someone else, that has a lot to do with why I chose this career path.

Q: Why would students want to enroll in your classes?

DR. DUERK: We're going to explore a wide variety of different issues. For example, in American Politics, we'll talk a lot about a variety of issues, from economic inequality to privacy and so forth. And we're going to look at a wide variety of viewpoints so that we have a more thorough understanding of the issue. And I think that better prepares people to participate in the world. I can guarantee that we're going to build your knowledge and your skills. Reading a wide variety of materials, you're going to learn about various issues. You’re also going to learn a bit about how institutions function and ways that you can find to get involved in the process. I also think you're going to develop your skills because we want people to be prepared to transfer to a four-year institution. Reading and writing are really, really important in my classes.

You're reading comprehension, being able to deconstruct a piece and determining what's the argument? What's the evidence? Do I find that compelling or not? If so, why, and if not, why not?

Regardless of the major that you're in, you're going to have to write papers at some point. You definitely should be able to do that in my class.

You’ll be able to use your public voice to share your views. I want to create an environment where everyone feels comfortable in sharing what they think about the issues that we study and being respectful of everyone else in the classroom.

Q: There are a number of compelling reasons to pursue teaching as a career. Can you talk about what might inspire college students to become teachers?

DR. DUERK: I think teaching is a socially redeemable way to make a living. I think there are so many options out there, and if you want to play a meaningful role in helping shape someone else's life, this is a great opportunity to do that. I don't have kids of my own, but I get to play a role in a way that I feel comfortable and useful and create this meaningful experience for others. We all kind of figure out what's our path and this is mine. This is a good one!

Q: What is something unusual or unique that students don’t know about you?

DR. DUERK: I played guitar in a punk rock band in the nineties, and I still play guitar. Since the late eighties I have loved punk rockand hardcore; I'll never stop listening to it. Bands froman earlier era that I really like are Minor Threat, 7 Seconds, Black Flag, Adolescents, and many more. More currently, I like Koyo and Inclination.