By Hunter Nusz

The Seaford School District Teacher of the Year for 2023 is Karent Diaz-Rios. Diaz-Rios was born in Colombia and now resides in Seaford where she teaches at Seaford Central Elementary. Diaz-Rios has been teaching for 15 years and she teaches math and science in Spanish, and also teaches Spanish. 

“I have taught English as a second language or English as a foreign language,” said Diaz-Rios.  

Diaz-Rios has taught both here in the United States and in Colombia. “When I’m here I teach in Spanish, when I’m in Colombia I teach in English,” she said.

Shown is Seaford Teacher of the Year Karent Diaz-Rios, who teaches at Central Elementary School. Photo by Hunter Nusz

Early on in her life, Diaz-Rios had a feeling that teaching might be something that she would enjoy doing as a career. “I’m the oldest of five, and my mom was a teacher, so that’s what I saw, and grew up seeing. I would play with my sisters and cousins, and I would be their teacher or the leader so since then I’ve had that in my mind. But when I officially realized when I wanted to teach, I was 16. I went away to college and it was something that I was not expecting, to be able to go away to college, but when it happened, I realized education was saving me, so maybe I could go down the path of education,” said Diaz-Rios.

Diaz-Rios said that one of her best memories from when she was a student happened when she was in college. “This college professor we had; he was our teacher, but he would treat us as equals because we were being trained to become teachers. The last test for the class was a job interview, so if you passed the class, he would hire you. And at the end, he stood up and shook my hand and said, ‘I would absolutely hire you,’ so the way he used his classes to make real-life connections is something that I remember in a positive way,” she recalled.

“I try to do as many hands-on as I can, so my teaching style is student-centered. I try to have them discover what they can learn, and I’m there as their facilitator, as their helper, as their guide hoping that they walk on their own,” said Diaz-Rios, describing her teaching style. 

As mentioned before Diaz-Rios is the daughter of a teacher. Diaz-Rios said that her mom is one of many teachers in her lifetime whom she models after. “I keep things from many of my teachers, including my mom because she was my first teacher. I have a lot of inspirations from different teachers I’ve had in my life, not only one,” she said.

“I think the biggest challenge I faced was classroom management. It is scary at the beginning because it’s not easy to get kids to respect you because that’s not something you demand, it’s something you earn, so I’ve grown in that a lot. In my first year, I was younger than the students I was teaching, and I was scared of not knowing everything that they needed to know, now I know that I don’t need to know everything. If they ask me something that I don’t have the answer to, that’s cool, let’s go find out together. So my confidence has grown a lot since I first started teaching,” said Diaz-Rios.

“I get to do a little bit of changing the world,” said Diaz-Rios, on what she gets out of teaching. “When they say one student at a time, it might just be one student in your lifetime. I have in my hands the most alive part of a person, their brain, and my students in fourth grade, they’re still innocent, they still believe you, they are still sweet, and you can do a lot with that brain, you can inspire them. So that’s what I get out of teaching, hopefully improving the lives of so many kids.”

Diaz-Rios couldn’t decide if she would rather stay as a teacher or move elsewhere in the education field. “That’s difficult because I like what I do, I really do and I especially like to be an immersion teacher where I can help people from the Hispanic community but also I have people from non-Hispanic communities. I have Haitian, White, and African American students that are learning Spanish which is amazing, and I would love to continue doing that but I also realize that I can help more of my community if I go into other fields of education so that’s something that I am pondering, something that I’m not sure about. I’ll just go where it helps more people,” said Diaz-Rios. 

Editor’s note: This is the second in a three-part series on the local district  teachers of the year. 

Next week- Stephanie Sharp- Woodbridge