DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - While the reputation of the DeKalb County school system has taken a major hit in recent months, a teacher at Henderson Middle School is providing a beacon of hope.

On the very day that members of DeKalb's school board were in court to battle for their jobs, chorus teacher Dale Duncan was surprised to learn he'd been named a national Life Changer of the Year.

"I hate all that is going on around us but, I just keep doing my job," said Duncan. "This is an oasis."

Four of Duncan's students nominated him for the award. They pointed to Duncan's passion and high energy way of teaching, which sometimes includes summersaults and other acrobatics when he approves of a student's performance.

"He's my rock," said student Roni Wagner. "I look forward to it the entire day. If I have a bad day I say, hold on until 7th period, Mr. Duncan will make everything alright."

The award was kept secret until administrators could lure Duncan to the school's media center Friday morning to a rousing reception from his students and co-workers.

Duncan briefly left his teaching job at Henderson several years ago, but his passion for the classroom brought him back.

"This moment kind of makes it all come full circle," said Duncan.

Over 400 teachers from 33 states were nominated for the award.

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