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New Teacher Feature: Maestra and Mama Dietz

Updated: Aug 11, 2023

Nicole Haegele, Spanish teacher at Judah Christian School
Nicole Haegele, Spanish teacher

This year, Judah Christian School has welcomed two new teachers in the secondary wing: Mrs. Haegele as the high school Spanish teacher and Ms. Dietz as the seventh through ninth grade English teacher. These additions to Judah’s staff are already bringing the school toward new academic and spiritual heights.

Mrs. Haegele, affectionately known as Maestra by her students, is coming back to the teaching scene after homeschooling her kids the past five years. Before her kids, she taught in several places in the Midwest, originally starting her teaching career at a dual language school in Iowa. When she moved to Illinois, she served as the bilingual director at an elementary school in Rantoul, before moving on to a dual language school in Urbana.

After many years of working in public schools, coming to Judah was definitely different for Maestra. Originally, she was a bit skeptical about the Christian aspect of the school, given that some Christian schools can be Christian in name only without practicing what they preach. But she was astounded to see how much Jesus-centered content and practice actually went into every school day. At her teacher orientation, she was surprised to see frequent praying from teachers and the worship that went on. The more time she spent at Judah, the more she felt as though Judah was special. There seemed to be a shared hope that students and teachers had.

But what drew Maestra to Judah in the first place? After all the work in public schools and homeschooling her children through their early development, Maestra felt like she was called to do something more. When she sought advice from her pastor, a Judah parent, he mentioned an open position at the school.

She blew it off, thinking she no longer had the energy or the passion for teaching. But, when she visited the school on a tour for her kids, she picked up on something different. Of course, Judah had all the traditional school things: pencils, textbooks, noisy students in the hall. But as she started to ask questions about the school’s policies on discipline and spirituality, and about the mission of the school overall, something began to change. On her way out, she asked where the Spanish classroom was. After meeting the teachers, observing Señora’s class, and lots of prayer, she knew God wanted her to teach at Judah.

When asked about the future, Maestra is very hopeful. She wants to fulfill what God has planned for her at Judah and to make an impact on many students. Even though she resisted taking this opportunity for a long time, she says she finds joy in even the really hard aspects of her job. To her, “Judah is a special place, and I’m just happy to be here.”

Elizabeth Dietz, English teacher at Judah Christian School
Elizabeth Dietz, English teacher

The other addition to Judah’s secondary staff this year also raves about her new position. Naturally, new positions cause some apprehension and anxiety, but Ms. Dietz, affectionately known as Mama Dietz by her third-hour seventh graders, didn’t come without experience. She previously worked at Edison Middle School for two years and at Champaign Central High School for eight years.

Judah, however, is her first experience outside of the public school system. During her interview, Ms. Dietz spoke on what brought her here. Many students faced difficulties throughout the COVID lockdown, but as a parent, Ms. Dietz wanted to find a place that would allow her child to learn in person rather than online. The answer was Judah. While Judah was the perfect place for her second grade daughter, Ms. Dietz was still unsure about how her own path would interconnect with the school.

Finally, she came to a conclusion. “My daughter had such a great experience here that I was like, ‘Okay, this is wonderful.’ And that just opened up the idea. I’m not going to lie, growing up in the public schools, my thought was, ‘I will never go teach at a private school, and I definitely would not go to a Christian private school.’ I think having my daughter come here challenged my perceptions versus reality and helped me to decide that, ‘Yeah, I think I would like to try it here.’” Her daughter’s passion and joy in the school quenched Ms. Dietz’s previous opposition toward teaching at Judah. The ball was set in motion, and everything fell into place.

A major thing that Ms. Dietz appreciates about Judah is the freedom she has to build connections between herself and each student. “I can be more responsive to student needs,” she said, “and that’s what I love. At public schools, I can be responsive, but not in the same way that I am here. For example, I couldn’t pivot my lesson plan for the next day to better support students. In the public schools, you’re strongly encouraged to stay focused on learning standards more than on what kids need. It’s nice that here, I’m able to take advantage of those learning opportunities.”

Ms. Dietz also praised Judah students for their work ethic that allows her to not only complete the material for the day, but also to go in depth and explore it. “It’s really cool how here, because students want to learn, I’ve really beefed up my curriculum. I can isolate and go in depth about the learning process more than I could at the public schools.”

But what goals does Ms. Dietz have? She answered this question with great enthusiasm: “With all my students, my main goal is for them to enjoy learning. I want them to know that learning is important. I want them to love learning. I want them to be curious about the world. I want them to be good critical thinkers.” Ms. Dietz clearly has great love for her students. Many Judah students adore their new teacher, meaning that the English department is in good hands.

With Judah’s two new powerhouse teachers, the school is flourishing.

— Bethany Jackson, class of '23, and Hannah Jackson, class of '24


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