Spreading Inspiration: Diedrichs to Keynote Convocation
Robin Diedrichs ’92, MEd ’00 took an uncommon, unlikely path to success at Stetson.
Diedrichs began to describe that journey this way: “I wasn’t your traditional Stetson student.”
At age 16, she graduated with good grades from Deltona Christian School, not far from the Stetson campus, in a 1984 class of four. Then she attended a small Christian college in Pensacola and “did very poorly” before returning home to obtain an associate’s degree, often through night classes, from then-Daytona Beach Community College.
Life even included working as a fast-food restaurant cashier and realizing that was “not what I wanted for my life.”
By the time Diedrichs enrolled at Stetson, she was married and had a son, along with lingering self-doubt and somewhat of an inferiority complex.
“I was really nervous. I thought, ‘How am I going to compete with these students?” she remembers.
Diedrichs’ answer was emphatic: During her two undergraduate years at Stetson, she earned less than an A only one time.
“I made one B the whole time. … How am I going to do this? It’s about willpower and growth mindset, and sticking with it, and putting the time and effort in,” she said.
On Wednesday, Aug. 21, at 5 p.m. in the Edmunds Center, Diedrichs takes the stage as keynote speaker of Stetson Convocation, which marks the formal opening of the 2019-2020 academic year. Classes commence Thursday.
The new academic year welcomes the Class of 2023, which is expected to be Stetson’s second largest incoming class. (The official count is held in September.)
Those in attendance at Convocation will hear about Diedrichs’ dogged uphill pursuit of career gratification, along with a passion for achievement for young students that extends far beyond professional commitment and the classroom.
Aside from her personal circumstances, Diedrichs’ academic track veered from nursing to accounting before settling on education. Her mother had been a teacher, and Diedrichs initially resisted following in those footsteps.
“When I realized that [teaching] was my calling in life, everything changed,” she said.
“I was picking a career that was going to be fulfilling and that I could make a positive impact on the world.”
At Stetson, taking full advantage of available resources — such as professors — made a huge difference. “Professors really made a big impact on my life at Stetson. And some of them are still lifelong friends for me and have cultivated my career even beyond being a student at Stetson,” she commented.
During her teaching career, Diedrichs’ road continued to wind. After six years of teaching, she moved to Springfield, Missouri, to attend a small Christian college and obtain a second bachelor’s degree. There, she also taught study skills to first-year students.
Additionally, during the summertime, she earned a master’s degree at Stetson in elementary education and learning disabilities.
Then in 2011, she moved back to Florida, living in DeLand, and returned to teach elementary school — with a focus on reading.
“I have literally thousands of books in classroom,” said Diedrichs, who has taught grades two, four and five during her 22-year teaching career, along with “reading recovery” and several college-level courses.
In 2017, she was named Volusia County Teacher of the Year. Also, she has been recognized as one of Florida’s High Impact teachers for the past three years and is the recipient of a Crystal Apple Educator Award for community involvement.
Further, she established the DaVinci Club, an afterschool literacy club that promotes reading, the arts and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). The club is supported by Stetson’s Hollis Institute for Educational Reform. “It was a small idea I had that I never knew would go to the extent that it has,” Diedrichs said, simply.
Uncommonly, unlikely, Diedrichs has triumphed.
And, by the way, the baby boy she had before arriving at Stetson, now is 30, with brothers ages 14 and 15.
Diedrichs has a message worthy for the start of this new academic year.
“I wasn’t chosen as the best intern. I didn’t have any great accolades. Yes, I had good grades. But that didn’t mean when I went out into my career that I couldn’t rise up to the top and be the best possible educator I could be,” she said..
“Even if you finish your degree at Stetson and you aren’t the best, that doesn’t mean that you can’t go out and do great things — because that’s just the beginning of your life.”