Corey Dietrich went to Penn State University to study criminal justice.
During the summer of his freshman year, though, his career path took a bit of a turn.
Like many college students, Dietrich took a job at a summer camp, where he worked for his former high school wrestling coach. There, he discovered that he really enjoyed working with children — and his wrestling coach recognized that Dietrich was good at it.
“He was looking at me like, ‘Why are you studying that?’” Dietrich said of his coach’s thoughts on his original major. Dietrich, too, saw that he needed to change his major.
Now 15 years into his teaching career, Dietrich was named Teacher of the Year at Phillip Showell Elementary School in Selbyville last month.
“I was excited,” he said of the moment he found out he had been chosen for the honor. He added, however, that he considers himself most lucky to be working at Showell, where, he said, “This school, as far as leadership and the teachers — I don’t know that I’ve ever worked somewhere where the team was so strong.”
A second-grade teacher at Showell, Dietrich’s focus is math and science. He leads the science team at the school, a responsibility he relishes. He said he sees the responsibility of teachers — and science teachers, in particular — as “teaching them to be better thinkers.” He is a member of Next Generation Science Standards, through which he attends monthly training sessions in the latest trends in teaching science and then shares them with his fellow teachers.
Dietrich said there is “no such thing” as a typical day in his classroom of 19 students. That’s OK with him. His biggest challenge?
“It’s just…time,” he said. “You want to give everyone that individual attention; you want to make all your lessons engaging,” and he finds that, some days, there are just not enough hours.
Overall, Dietrich said, his favorite thing about teaching is making a difference — even for just one child. “There’s always that one kid, that kid that you somehow feel like you made a difference” for them, even just for one day.
While the day-to-day learning process is exciting, Dietrich said the larger picture is just as important to him as a teacher.
“The biggest impact I can have is to have a kid leave school with a good feeling about it,” he said. “It’s very empowering. More important than what we do is what they believe they can do.”
A father of two girls — an eighth-grader and a sixth-grader — Dietrich said being a parent makes him a better teacher, because now he understands the struggles that families go through every day.
“Having kids really does impact the way you teach,” he said.
A native of Allentown, Pa., Dietrich graduated from Penn State and is now working toward his master’s degree in leadership at Wilmington University.
“I’m doing it gradually,” he said. He has always taught either second or fourth grade, beginning his career in Annapolis, Md., and then moving to Milford, where he taught for six years before coming to Phillip Showell.
During the Indian River School District’s Teacher of the Year dinner last month, tributes were presented for each of the district’s teachers nominated from its elementary, middle and high schools. Four of Dietrich’s students contributed their collective opinion that “Mr. Dietrich is the best teacher we’ve ever had!” His colleagues, meanwhile, had more to say about Dietrich.
Co-workers praised his “dedication to students, a passion for teaching and learning that goes beyond the classroom and a commitment to excellence are all characteristics that Mr. Dietrich embodies. He truly cares for his students and strives to instill his excitement and passion for learning into every child.”
His fellow teachers also said in their video presentation that Dietrich is “kind and generous” and praised his attitude toward his students. “He speaks to them with compassion and respect. He encourages his students to strive and take pride in all that they do. … He is not only an educator, but a true improver of the community.”