By Bob Fowler, Roane State staff writer
This school bus driver is hitting the books in between routes in her quest to become a teacher.
Gioconda “Gio” Duran, 44, is a Tennessee Reconnect student at Roane State Community College. Thanks to the Tennessee Reconnect grant, eligible adults can now attend Roane State tuition-free.
Duran said Tennessee Reconnect “is a big reason why I wanted to go back to school.”
Her 19-year-old son, John Duran Jr., is also enrolled with scholarships at the college’s Roane County campus.
“I’m enjoying it a lot,” Gio Duran said of her studies, which are leading toward a teaching degree through Roane State’s 2+2 program with Tennessee Tech.
Participants in the 2+2 program complete two years at Roane State for an associate degree, transition to Tennessee Tech, and then complete two years of Tennessee Tech classes at Roane State to earn their bachelor’s degree in education. The 2+2 option allows students to complete a Tennessee Tech bachelor’s degree, but take all of the classes at Roane State.
“It’s not easy, but it’s doable,” Duran said of the program. “I spend almost every evening studying.”
“So far, everything has been good, and I’ve had a pleasant experience,” said Duran, a native of the Central American country of Costa Rica. She wants to become a high school Spanish teacher.
She’s off to a great start, nailing down a perfect 4.0 grade-point average in her first semester in the fall of 2018. That’s pretty good, she modestly acknowledged, “Since I haven’t been in school in years.”
Now in her second semester, Duran’s courses include statistics and an introduction to teaching. Duran’s educational game plan includes courses for the next two summers at Roane State.
Duran drives a school bus for the Roane County School System for two hours each morning and afternoon and attends classes at Roane State’s Roane County campus in between.
Her husband, John Duran, who was raised in Puerto Rico, is also a bus driver for Roane County Schools. The Harriman couple also has an 8-year-old daughter, Jayleen Victoria Duran.
Gio Duran said the support she receives from her Roane State teachers and staff in the Learning Center “are a big part of my success right now.”
She gives glowing reviews to her Roane State teachers. “All of them have something special to give to the students. Even the online teachers are very supportive. I can count on them anytime I need to.”
Roane State is a two-year college providing transfer programs, career-preparation programs and continuing education. Founded in 1971, the college has campuses in Crossville, Harriman, Huntsville, Jamestown, Knoxville, LaFollette, Lenoir City, Oak Ridge, and Wartburg.
For more information, visit roanestate.edu or call (865) 882-4554.
Remember, eligible adults can now attend Roane State tuition-free with the new Reconnect grant. Learn more at roanestate.edu/reconnect or contact Jack Parker at
(865) 354-3000, ext. 4891, [email protected].
More information will be added as it becomes available.
This story and photo were submitted by Owen Driskill.
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