Shelton’s ‘compassionate’ math teacher is tops in the district

Photo of Brian Gioiele

Teaching the finer points of mathematics is important, but for Catherine Deitelbaum, helping her students build relationships is what drives her style.

And this has not gone unnoticed.

Deitelbaum, a math teacher at the high school for the past 15 years, topped the field this school year, earning the Shelton school system’s teacher of the year award.

“Catherine Deitelbaum embodies all the characteristics of an outstanding teacher,” said Shelton High Principal Kathy Riddle.

“She is kind, intelligent, and enthusiastic about learning,” Riddle said. “As a math teacher, she instills confidence in her students to prepare them for any level of math from basic geometry to AP calculus. We are fortunate to have a teacher of her caliber in our school.”

Deitelbaum taught geometry, AP calculus and AP statistics this year while also focusing on pushing collaboration between students.

“With the pandemic, students in the classroom had to maintain social distance, and it was very difficult for kids and teachers alike to build rapport,” Deitelbaum said. “This year, it was nice to refocus on building relationships within the classroom.”

Deitelbaum said she is a strong proponent of group work and has incorporated that mindset into her lesson plan.

“I find that students work best when they have the chance to ask questions of their peers,” Deitelbaum said. “It also gives me a chance to work with more students in a class period. Collaborative thinking is so important as students transition to post high school life.”

She said she also reinforces gratitude, not only among peers in class, but for others who may have helped students succeed along the way.

“This year, students in my classes have written 175 thank you notes - to peers, former K-8 teachers, retiring teachers, parents, coaches and previous math teachers,” Deitelbaum said.

Christine Butler, co-chair of the Teacher of the Year Committee, said her group was impressed by Deitelbaum’s overall performance in the classroom.

“Her lesson presentation wowed us in how skillfully she takes calculus, statistics and geometry and makes each comprehensible for her students,” Butler said, “But, what also captured us about her was how genuine she is in every way.”

Butler said her class assignments and projects are engaging and connected to the real world.

“(Deitelbaum) shows students how we are all connected and that their successes are the result of many people working hard for a common goal,” Butler added. “A talented educator wrapped in a good-hearted, compassionate human being. She’s the best of both worlds.”

Deitelbaum said her goal each year is twofold.

“One, I want students to learn content, but more importantly to appreciate math and understand the value of problem solving more generally,” she said. “My second goal is to have students work towards building a community. We work often in groups, where students practice skills like communication, listening and explaining to one another.”

Deitelbaum said her success comes from her love of teaching.

“I love the students that I meet each year,” Deitelbaum said. “I love to get to know them and their stories. It is so rewarding to watch students grow and change over time, especially in the math classroom.

“I love the sense of community in Shelton,” she added. “At this point in my career, I have had the opportunity to teach siblings, cousins, and even witness a marriage between former classmates.”