Indian Trails Middle School Teacher of the Year Lori Scarpa von Diezelski is inspired by building lasting connections with students — the kind that leads students, years later, to say, “Thank you for not giving up on me.”
"She has become the go-to person for any student who is academically behind. She finds ways to connect with these students in ways others simply cannot. ... Thus, her impact on struggling students is profound."
— DANA HAUSEN, teacher, Indan Trails Middle School
"I like to believe that this feeling of empowerment and success comes from weeks of encouragement, listening and being at their side through failures and what seems like fatal road blocks," von Diezelski wrote in her Teacher of the Year application statement. "In reality, inspiration leads to success by building the will to push forward, not just in academic classes, but in life. It is also the feeling I get when everyone else has exhausted their resources and I still see the glimmer of hope that can be accessed. Sometimes, I see what is not there at the moment, but could be."
Von Diezelski's commitment to struggling students has drawn the attention of her peers and supervisors.
"She goes above and beyond to assist each and every scholar that passes her classroom door," ITMS Principal Paul Peacock wrote in a letter of reference for von Diezelski's Teacher of the Year application. "Recently, she arranged for a scholar to receive a bicycle so that he was able to get to school on time. There are countless stories where she has seen a need and has stepped up to meet it."
Peacock gave another example: When the school decided it needed something more restorative than a "detention room," and the right person to help lead it, colleagues thought of von Diezelski — who, since joining what became known as the "academic lab," has achieved the school's goals of building trust with reluctant learners, increasing passing rates and reducing referrals.
"The scholars that come to her room learn to trust her, and many become leaders that deter negative behaviors in others and encourage academic success in their peers," he wrote.
Von Diezelski, a graduate of the French language bachelor's program at Hofstra University in New York, began her career as middle school French and English teacher in New York in 1990 before moving to Flagler Schools as a substitute in 1998, and then becoming a full-time elementary school teacher at Bunnell Elementary in 2000. She joined ITMS in 2005, teaching seventh and eighth grade English, U.S. history, and the academic lab.
When classes went online because of the pandemic, she helped make sure students didn't fall behind.
"Currently, Ms. Von is working tirelessly to help students who remain remote to stay vigilant, and on task within their core classes," ITMS social studies teacher Terri Smith wrote in a letter of reference for von Diezelski's Teacher of the Year application. "Whether it is math test corrections, civics study guides or science notes, Ms. Von is ready to establish expectations, encourage an honest effort and to provide support for all Mustang Scholars as they strive to reach their full potential."
Fellow ITMS teacher teacher Dana Hausen agreed.
"She has become the go-to person for any student who is academically behind," Hausen wrote in a letter of reference for von Diezelski. "... She finds ways to connect with these students in ways others simply cannot. Her empathetic approach along with relentless phone calls to parents helps build the bridge that ultimately leads her scholars into the doors of high school. Thus, her impact on struggling students is profound."