By Piper Moore (Co-Head of Layout & Design ‘23)
Please welcome Matt Duques, the new ninth and eleventh grade English teacher, as well as the new assistant coach of the girls varsity soccer team!
While originally from New York, Mr. Duques came to the Philly area to attend Haverford College. Following graduation, Mr. Duques taught at a parochial school on the Navajo Reservation and a boarding school in Connecticut before going back to graduate school to receive a PhD in English with a focus on Early American literature. He is currently in his twentieth year of teaching.
After attending a Quaker college, Mr. Duques is well acquainted with Quaker customs, and was initially drawn to Friend’s Central because of its status as a Quaker school. However, the school’s Quaker affiliation was not the only thing that made him choose to teach here. Following his first visit to FCS, our welcoming faculty made him feel right at home and our unique curriculum intrigued him.
Speaking of curriculum, Mr. Duques has enjoyed the flexibility the English courses offer here as it allows him to introduce his students to some of his favorite early American works, such as the poetry of Phillis Wheatly and Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. He likes that while each grade shares a series of collective novels, each teacher can present a slightly different experience through the other works they select between the main books. He does wish though that the English and history curriculum were more aligned, especially during eleventh grade. For example, while the eleventh graders read The Great Gatsby as their first English novel this year, their history classes began with describing the first English settlements and colonies in America. The Great Gatsby takes place in the 1920s, while Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement, was established in 1607. This huge difference in time between what students are reading and learning about is something that Mr. Duques would like to change by having the History and English departments work together on when they introduce material. However, he does recognize the challenge of doing so, especially for the English department, because it can be hard to find pieces from early American literature that students find interesting.
As the assistant coach to the girls varsity soccer team, Mr. Duques has had a chance to witness the student-athlete balance that most students at Friend’s Central try to maintain. He himself was a student-athlete when he played soccer for his former public school and in college. This season he was eager to get back onto the playing field since he has not been able to play, much less coach, since his son was born. His role as a coach allowed him to get to know the school a little better, especially concerning the level of stress with which student-athletes contend. So far he has noticed that students tend to get caught up with winning or losing more than their development as a team. He hopes this attitude can change as he wants students and teams to have a more healthy mentality about their own progress and abilities.
We wish Mr. Duques a wonderful career here at Friend’s Central and cannot wait to see his impact on our community!