Middle school teacher loves to make music

Photo by The Herald
| Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012, 9:37 p.m.

Beth Durbin lives life at full speed.

“That's who I am. I'm not doing anything half way,” she said.

That can be seen by reviewing her teaching career.

Posts at O'Hara Elementary, Fairview Elementary, North Allegheny, Pine-Richland and nine years at the Carnegie Mellon Music Preparatory School led to her teaching position at Dorseyville Middle School.

The road has been long, but Durbin, who has received the Betty Abbott Award for Teaching Excellence, said she has been happy at every stop.

As she looks forward, Durbin knows she wants to remain in the classroom — working to create something that will help all students.

“I want to make students' weaknesses invisible,” she said, “to eliminate fear to try new things.”

Durbin said she remembers wanting to be a teacher when she was a child.

However, her goals changed when she was an elementary student in Mt. Lebanon.

She started playing the double bass.

Playing the largest string instrument, also called a bass violin, became the focus of her world.

“When I play, I don't hear music, I feel music,” she said.

Following her muse, she earned a bachelor's in fine arts and then a master's of music degree in 1992, both from Carnegie Mellon University.

Durbin has played at Carnegie Hall in New York; Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.; Symphony Hall in Boston; and the International Music Festival in Scotland and London.

She keeps friendships made with members of the Pittsburgh Symphony with whom she played.

Durbin remembers the last note she played professionally was at the end of the 1812 Overture.

At that time, she decided that she wanted to teach instead of make music.

So Durbin went back to school and earned another bachelor's and then master's degree.

“I always knew it would come,” Durbin said of becoming a teacher.

“I have these moments when it's time to turn the page. I don't have one single regret.

“It worked out.”

Teaching has taught Durbin a number of lessons.

At the same time, she emphasizes developing character in her students along with teaching the curriculum.

Her dedication has been acknowledged with awards.

More importantly, said Durbin, is the acknowledgement of her students.

“They're the ones who truly know me,” she said.

The person who probably knows Durbin the best is her husband of 27 years, Mike, whom she met when they were teenagers.

Together they built their home in West Deer and then a home at Conneaut Lake.

The couple picked every faucet and fixture as they worked to create homes that reflect their style and personality.

The home in Conneaut provides the couple a place to wind down when the school year is done.

They enjoy boating, tubing and walking in the woods.

Their favorite time is the peace and quiet of sitting on their porch watching the water.

There are times when Durbin does like to pick up the pace.

She admits to loving high-performance vehicles and she got a red Corvette for her 40th birthday.

After a day of working, she loves to put the roof down and let the wind lift her “like angel wings.”

Sharon Drake is a freelance writer with Trib Total Media.

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