"Why I Teach"
For 50 years, our gifted teachers have been applying our proven and pioneering teaching methods to change the trajectory of children's lives. Some of their stories are below.
- Why I Teach: Drew McCorkell
- Why I Teach: Sue Arabia
- Why I Teach: Adam Lemisch
- Why I Teach: Kristina Reisinger
- Why I Teach: Wayne Reichart
- Why I Teach: Joyce Ostertag
- Why I Teach: Rosanne Crowe
Whenever you walk by Drew McCorkell’s classroom, smiles and laughter are to be found. With his high-spirited persona shining through, it’s apparent that Drew not only cares for his students, but also loves teaching. “I have always wanted to be a teacher,” Drew said. “I enjoy the challenge and joy in helping children to learn and grow.”
Drew first came to Benchmark as a teaching assistant at Benchmark Camp when he was a college student. Following three summers teaching language arts at Benchmark Camp, he was offered a Head Teacher position for the regular school year. “I always felt like Benchmark was where I was meant to be, so when I was offered a full-time teaching position here, I couldn’t pass it up,” he said.
Fifteen years later, Drew’s passion for teaching has not wavered; in fact, he thrives on continuing to “develop as a teacher so that I can be more effective in helping the students I teach.” But his passion lies not just in teaching, but in teaching at Benchmark. The “small class sizes, supportive environment, research-based practices, and high-quality teaching practices” are some of the reasons why Drew loves teaching at Benchmark. The fact that his teaching style aligns with Benchmark’s philosophy is perhaps his top reason. “It’s so refreshing to know that Benchmark is concerned more about the learning process and the development of students as learners and problem solvers than they are about test scores,” Drew said.
As a teacher of 7th grade language arts and social studies (his favorite subjects when he was in school!), he most enjoys the lessons that help his students grow as learners. “I really enjoy teaching both the memoir unit in language arts and Writing Literary Analysis because they help the students find their voice as writers, develop effective writing techniques and critical thinking, and help them organize their thinking in their writing,” he said. Though his students can struggle through this writing process, Drew said it is that much sweeter when they are finished since they feel a real sense of accomplishment.
These “a-ha” teaching moments—as well as other relationship-building moments with students—remain some of Drew’s favorite Benchmark memories over the years. From interactions with students in the classroom, to those on stage with the set crew for the annual musical, to sharing his personal hobby of photography with students in Photography Club, Drew truly enjoys the opportunity to see his students grow and flourish.
Tell us about yourself, Drew!
Where did you go to school? I graduated from West Chester University with a degree in elementary education and a minor in reading. I am also certified in K-12 English and middle school social studies and did graduate work at Arcadia University.
What is your favorite memory from your school years? In middle school, we did a ’20s unit where we had a mock stock market project. I made a lot of fake money.
What was your favorite subject when you were in school and why? It’s a tie between Language Arts and Social Studies. Both are favorites because they use the art of story telling to teach about the human experience.
What teacher most influenced you? Mr. Novelli in 8th grade Language Arts made hard work and learning fun. He also taught us about personal responsibility for our learning.
What is your favorite book? To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
What is your favorite inspirational quote? ““It’s not the years in your life that counts. It’s the life in your years.” —Abraham Lincoln
What are your hobbies outside of Benchmark? Biking, camping, hiking, gardening/landscaping, and photography.
Interesting fact about you? I delivered my daughter Hope at home—it was unplanned!
Tell us about your family. My family includes my wife Kim (married 10 years), my son Athan (6), my daughters Hope (4) and Violet (1), and my pet turtle Sub, who is 30 years old.
After 35 years, not everyone can truly say they look forward to coming to work each morning, but Sue Arabia wholeheartedly agrees with this sentiment.
Sue first came to Benchmark as a 19-year-old college student completing a field experience. “I was fortunate to be in the classroom of a gifted, dynamic teacher who inspired the students (and me) to take risks and love learning, which has had an impact on me to this day,” Sue said. “So after being offered the opportunity to become a Benchmark teacher after graduating from college, I felt so blessed.”
Today, Sue serves as a Head Teacher in the lower school and teaches language arts and social studies to third and fourth grade students. In her years at Benchmark, she’s also had the opportunity to teach second through sixth grade, teach in the Benchmark Summer Camp and After-School Guided Study program, and be a staff liaison for after-school clubs.
“I remember always wanting to be a teacher, perhaps because I saw the dedication of my own teachers,” she said. “When I was in 8th grade, I helped out with a Sunday School class for children with special needs, and I think that experience was confirmation for me that teaching was my calling.”
Sue not only has followed her life’s calling by becoming a teacher, but feels as though being able to teach at Benchmark has been the cherry on the cake. “Benchmark is a place filled with passionate and compassionate people and when I wake up in the morning, I am excited to begin my day,” she said. “I love that we are challenged as teachers and that the Benchmark culture is about the idea that both students and staff alike should continually grow and learn.”
What are some other things Sue loves about the Benchmark community? Sue mentions the collaboration of staff “working together for the good of each child,” the “strong, positive energy and commitment to learning and excellence,” and the “dedication of Benchmark parents to their children and how well they partner with us.” But most of all, Sue truly enjoys the students she has the opportunity to work with. “Benchmark students are persistent and resilient, as well as optimistic and ready to learn in the face of challenges,” Sue said. “I love that Benchmark students open themselves up to the learning process and are willing to look closely at themselves as learners. Getting to see children grow in confidence, knowledge, and awareness of themselves is just beautiful.”
Tell us about yourself, Sue!
Where did you go to school? Bishop Shanahan High School, Cabrini College, where I majored in elementary and special education, and the University of Pennsylvania, where I earned a masters degree in education.
What is your favorite memory from your school years? Teaching Sunday School, coaching softball, being in extracurricular activities (like band, chorus, community service corps, and the school play), and walking home from school with friends and stopping at the library along the way.
What teacher most influenced you? I had many teachers who challenged and inspired me. My 8th grade teacher gave me the chance to teach a Sunday School class for children with special needs, which was a life-changing experience. I had professors in college who were passionate about teaching and education. The teacher who probably had the greatest impact on me, though, was Irene Gaskins. Her optimism, vision, and dedication to children and learning, and her belief in the importance and worth of everyone she met helped me grow considerably as an educator and person.
What is your favorite book? I have loved and lived in so many books, from Nancy Drew and Louisa May Alcott to Tolkien and Ursula LeGuin, and later Harry Potter with my son. I “met” Jane Austen in college and Faulkner at a Benchmark book club. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith is a beautiful book about resilience and one of my favorite books.
What is your favorite inspirational quote? “Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.” —Rumi
What are your hobbies outside of Benchmark? I like to read and take walks around the neighborhood with my dog, out in the woods, or on the beach. I also enjoy spending time with my cousins telling family stories.
Tell us about your family. My husband is Patrick, and we have a 22-year-old son, Thomas, and a dog named Abby.
It was only after graduating with a BA in psychology and working at the Institute of Pennsylvania Hospital (IPH) that Adam Lemisch first heard of and became interested in school psychology.
“From the first time I learned about what a school psychologist did, I knew that it seemed like a perfect match for me since I always liked education and learning, and I enjoyed working with children,” he said.
With this new career path in mind, Adam decided to pursue a Ph.D. in School Psychology at Temple University. After graduation, and by way of his friendship with Benchmark Child & Family Support Services staff member Tom Hurster, who Adam had met while working at IPH, he came to Benchmark in 1990 as an intern, and has been here ever since.
Today, Adam serves as the Head of Child & Family Support Services and has the chance to work with students in all grades. “I focus on helping to support and strengthen our children’s social and emotional well-being,” he said. Adam does this by regularly consulting and collaborating with teachers and parents, teaching weekly class meetings, running regular student lunch groups, and meeting with children individually as needed. He also works with the Admissions team and meets with prospective parents.
Adam said he very much enjoys having the opportunity to work with students one-on-one and comments that “getting to know the students and having the opportunity to support and help them to better understand who they are and to realize the potential that they have to offer” is one of the best parts of his job. But he notes that he also “loves working with such talented, passionate and dedicated colleagues.”
“When I first started at Benchmark, I was so impressed by the institutional commitment to do what was right and needed for each child to be successful,” he said. “...I found myself growing and learning from the teachers and from the ongoing professional development. I enjoyed, and continue to enjoy working, with such a talented and passionate staff.”
As for the future, Adam is “very excited” about the direction in which Benchmark is heading. “I feel like we have been doing great things for the last 46 years but that the best is still to come, and it is exciting to know that I will have the opportunity to be a part of what will be coming next.”
Tell us about yourself, Adam!
Where did you go to school? Lower Merion High School, the University of Delaware (BA in psychology), and Temple University (Ph.D. in School Psychology).
What is your favorite memory from your school years? When I helped write and star in our 6th grade history class project/play about the Pilgrims. It was a lot of fun, and probably my first and last venture into the performing arts.
What was your favorite subject when you were in school and why? Social psychology and philosophy because I liked learning about how people interacted with each other.
What teacher most influenced you? My 10th grade English teacher, Mrs. Petrotoni, gave me an appreciation for looking for the deeper meaning in literature and a love of poetry. In graduate school, Dr. Rosner instilled the importance of always trying to advocate for the child.
What is your favorite book? When I was young, I liked Ben and Me by Robert Lawson. In Junior High, I loved books by S. E. Hinton. As I got older, I was a huge science fiction fan and loved The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien.
What is your favorite inspirational quote? “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning how to dance in the rain.” —Vivian Greene
What are your hobbies outside of Benchmark? Reading, seeing a good movie, watching my children in their various performances, and following my Philadelphia sports teams.
What is an interesting fact about you? I still have my comic book collection of over 1,000 comic books. Also, the first time I was in an airplane was when I went skydiving and parachuted out of the plane.
Tell us about your family. My family includes my wife Lynda (married 19 years in April), and my children Nathaniel, 15, and Brianna, 12.
After feeling discouraged by her teaching experiences at two large public schools early in her career, Kristina Reisinger almost left the teaching profession entirely. But upon arriving to teach at Benchmark Summer Camp in 1995, she “fell in love with teaching all over again!”
Twenty-one years later, she still happily remains at Benchmark as a 7th grade language arts and science teacher, as well as a Benchmark Summer Camp supervisor. “This place has it all,” she said. “There are so many qualified and dedicated teachers in every school, but Benchmark is the place where the structured setting and the teacher-student ratio help each teacher spend some part of each day focused on meeting an individual’s needs as a learner.”
It is the individualized approach and making a difference in each student’s life that has kept Kristina so passionate about teaching at Benchmark. “Instead of having five classes of 30 students each and not really reaching each student, Benchmark allows me to teach a lesson to the whole class, and then be able to take that general lesson and challenge my students to use or apply it in their own unique way that helps them grow as a learner, thinker, and problem solver,” she said.
While teaching language arts remains a favorite for Kristina, she also has been enjoying her supervisory position for the Summer Camp program. “Not only do I get to observe top-notch teachers implement thoughtful, research-based lessons in meaningful ways to our summer students, but it’s great to know that after 20 years of teaching, I have something to give back to the Benchmark community in the form of mentoring advice and support,” she said.
Though she admits that middle school students keep her “on her toes,” Kristina is “glad to be a small part of the shaping process during such an incredible time of change and growth as these middle school students try on new identities, values, and ideas.” An added bonus for Kristina? Getting to see these same students thrive after leaving Benchmark. “I cannot express enough how much I treasure those students who choose to stay in touch and who remind me that there is not only a life after Benchmark, but there is an AMAZING life waiting out there for each student who passes through my class,” she said. “I’m honored when I can get a glimpse of just how amazing their lives have become.”
Tell us about yourself, Kristina!
Where did you go to school? I attended West Chester East High School, Penn State University for Secondary English Education, and did post-grad work at Penn State for Special Education.
What is your favorite memory from your school years? Finally deciding to take advantage of the peer tutoring program at my school to get help with geometry. In only a few sessions, I had completely turned around my understanding and my grade!
What was your favorite subject when you were in school and why? I took Latin for three years and loved it! I took comfort from it partly because as a “pure” root language, it seemed so logical and reliable. I also loved how it helped me understand so much more of the world around me.
What teacher most influenced you? Mr. Rudloff, in 10th grade English, who made my life miserable. He was the first teacher to demand that my writing make sense. I may have resented him then, but I’m thankful for him now!
What is your favorite book? Life of Pi by Yann Martel
What is your favorite inspirational quote? “We are put on this earth only once, so to limit ourselves to the familiar is a crime against our minds.” —Roger Ebert
What are your hobbies outside of Benchmark? Completing triathlons and relaxing through some kind of art discipline, like drawing or collage.
What is an interesting fact about you? For the past eight years, I have been going to Chester County Correctional Center once a week to teach and mentor women inmates.
Tell us about your family. I have been married for 14 years to my husband, Steve, who blessed me with my 21-year-old stepdaughter Shadi, and a 10-year-old daughter of our own, Greta.
Confucius once said that if you choose a job you love, you will never have to work a day in your life. After teaching at Benchmark School for 40 years, this adage could not ring more true for Wayne Reichart. As Physical Education Teacher, Benchmark Summer Camp Recreation Director, Coach, and Buildings & Grounds Manager, it is clear that he has made a lifelong commitment to Benchmark School and its mission.
Wayne commented that he has stayed at Benchmark for a number of reasons. “My job gives me the opportunity to watch a child develop through the years and see the impact Benchmark has on him or her,” he said. “I also love the staff and their commitment to each child.” In addition, Wayne said the diversity of his job keeps it interesting. “I go from teaching 6-year-olds one minute to coaching middle school sports the next. I also really enjoy the creativity I can bring to my work, such as creating the confidence course to give students a change of pace from our regular Phys. Ed. program. I’m fortunate that I am able to teach, coach, and mentor, and in addition, as Buildings and Grounds Manager, encounter other challenging but fulfilling opportunities.”
As a teacher, he said he most enjoys the interactions with the students and staff. As a coach, he most enjoys “watching what the team has learned and what we’ve practiced become reality in a game situation.” And as recreation director of Benchmark’s Summer Camp, Wayne said he most enjoys getting to “work with a staff of dedicated, talented young people,” as well as seeing the children who attend “enjoy the magic that is Benchmark Summer Camp.”
Tell us about yourself, Wayne!
Where did you go to school? I went to three different high schools: Olney High, Lower Moreland and George School, graduating from George School. I decided that after three high schools, one college would be enough, and I graduated from West Chester State College with a Health and Physical Education degree.
What is your favorite memory from your school years? I was lucky enough to be part of league championship teams three years in a row at three different schools (two in high school and one in college).
What is your favorite book? I have two: The Water is Wide by Pat Conroy, and The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks. The Water is Wide inspires me as a teacher, and The Notebook reminds me so much of my parents and their romance and life together.
What is your favorite inspirational quote? “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.” –Steve Prefontaine
What is your favorite sport to play? To teach/coach? To play: basketball and golf; to coach: soccer and basketball.
What are your hobbies outside of Benchmark? Running, playing golf and basketball, and gardening. What is an interesting fact about you? Everyone knows me as a Phys. Ed. teacher who loves to play sports, but I am truly at my happiest when I’m in my garden.
Tell us about your family. I am married to Linda for 21 years and have two young adult children, Lauren and Brendan. Linda is a Database Administrator working at Wawa, Lauren attends my alma mater, West Chester University, and is studying Speech Pathology, and Brendan attends Temple University and is studying Marketing and Management Information Systems (MIS).
Call it fate or call it destiny, but thanks to a connection she made in college, Joyce Ostertag made her way to Benchmark School nearly 30 years ago and has remained a dedicated part of the school ever since.
Following her time as a classroom teacher for one year in the middle school and then two years in the lower school, Joyce took on her current role as one of the school’s lower school supervisors. While that remains her main responsibility, over the years she also has had the chance to get back in the classroom to develop curriculum in science, social studies, and technology. “I love the opportunity to be in the classroom because it gives me a different relationship with the students and teachers,” Joyce said. She also leads the Science Discovery Club during Benchmark Summer Camp and enjoys using her personal interest in photography to take photos and create video slide shows for the lower school.
The flexibility to grow in her role is part of the reason that she has stayed at Benchmark for so many years. “[As Benchmark teachers], we’re able to develop and pursue our interests and strengths and use them to help the school,” Joyce said. The other reason she has stayed dedicated to Benchmark is the culture of the school. “Benchmark’s emphasis on research and having theoretical perspectives that you apply to practice as a teacher is unique,” she said.
Joyce’s favorite part of teaching is “working with the students and seeing them get excited about their learning, as well as working with the teachers and sharing in their excitement.” Although some of her favorite memories stem from her “crazy science projects” and the ability to be creative as a teacher, she ultimately loves the impact she can make on the lives of students. “I really feel like these kids need me and I can make a difference here,” Joyce said. “It’s wonderful as a supervisor to see the students grow and change from year to year.”
Tell us about yourself, Joyce!
Where did you go to school? I went to Clarkstown High School South in New York. After that I went to Gettysburg College for my undergraduate degree where I majored in psychology with an elementary education certification, and to graduate school at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign where I earned my master’s degree in educational psychology.
What is your favorite memory from your school years? Probably when I was an exchange student in Germany for a year during my junior year in high school. I went through the Rotary Youth Exchange.
What was your favorite subject when you were in school and why? Science, because I loved the information and the order of science (I always liked answers!).
What is your favorite book? Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle because it was my first exposure to the amazing genre of science fiction.
What teacher most influenced you during your school years? I can’t pick just one; I had so many teachers who I respected and who encouraged and challenged me.
What are your hobbies outside of Benchmark? When my Benchmark schedule allows me (Benchmark is a hobby in itself!), I am very active in my church as a deaconess, singer in the choir, and caterer. I also have always been an avid reader and enjoy gardening.
What is an interesting fact about you? I grew up working on a campground in the Adirondacks of New York. Another one is that I have a huge collection of tablecloths and dishes (that can probably serve 200 people).
Tell us about your family. I am very blessed with a close family and have two sisters, a niece and a nephew. I also can’t forget my cat, Max.
During her 17 years at Benchmark School, Rosanne Crowe has seen the power of collaboration first-hand and is excited to continue proving Aristotle’s claim that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”—especially in Benchmark’s Math Department.
Though Rosanne first started at Benchmark School as a substitute teacher in 1992, it was her time as a support teacher in the math department that made her realize her passion for mathematics and desire to teach it exclusively. “Benchmark was teaching mathematics using a conceptual approach and engaging students in rich problem-solving activities,” Rosanne said. “This was so different from the approach I had encountered at other schools, and I was eager to learn more about this innovative approach.”
Rosanne has taught as a full-time head mathematics teacher since 1994 (excluding her leave of absence to raise her family from 2001 to 2007), until her 2015 promotion to the Head of the Math Department. Rosanne also serves as a mentor for middle school students, a supervisor in Benchmark Summer Camp’s language arts program, and an advisor for the after-school Robotics Club.
Because she was fortunate to have caring and dedicated teachers, Rosanne said that she always knew that she wanted to be a teacher so she could have the same positive influence on the lives of children. Her passion for teaching mathematics, coupled with the numerous opportunities for professional development, are what has kept Rosanne at Benchmark for so many years. “As a teacher at Benchmark, I get to continuously learn, grow, and explore innovative methods to enhance instruction,” she said.
In addition to fulfilling her passion for teaching mathematics, Rosanne said she has also really enjoyed mentoring middle school students. “I have been part of the mentoring program since its implementation,” she said. “Even after many years, I am still amazed at the transformation of our students toward the end of their middle school years and how well they understand their strengths and challenges as learners.”
Tell us about yourself, Rosanne!
Where did you go to school? I went to Cardinal O’Hara High School, Villanova University (Bachelor of Arts), and West Chester University (Elementary Education Certification and a Master’s in Elementary Education with a Concentration in Mathematics).
What is your favorite memory from your school years? The first day of high school, [because] there were so many activities and clubs to join.
What was your favorite subject when you were in school and why? Foreign languages. Growing up in a bilingual household (English and Italian), I developed an ear for languages. I studied Spanish and Italian in high school and college.
What teacher most influenced you? I had a strong connection with my second grade teacher Mrs. Boyle, who was a supportive and engaging teacher.
What is your favorite book? Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
What is your favorite inspirational quote? “Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson
What are your hobbies outside of Benchmark? Cooking, reading, and Sudoku puzzles
What is an interesting fact about you? I am happiest when I am in my kitchen baking. It brings back many fond memories of past family celebrations.
Tell us about your family. I live in a household of men whom I adore: my husband of 17 years and my two teenage boys, Ryan, 15 and Nicholas, 13. The men in my life have definitely increased my sports IQ!
By using the best research on teaching, Benchmark takes kids who were struggling in school and creates successful learners. Benchmark has perfected its instructional model over a 50-year period, and yet, continues to refine it and extend it. All struggling learners should be taught so well and so intensively.
Dick Allington, Ph.D., Professor of Literacy Studies, University of Tennessee; Member International Reading Association's Hall of Fame