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The Student News Site of Wheeling Park High School

The Park Press

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Deborah Doleski Allen Champion of Children Award: Michelle Dietrich

Lily Osborne
Michelle Dietrich and Park Press Staff Writer Lily Osborne at the Champion of Children award ceremony.

Having a supportive and reliable adult is one of the most beneficial and important things children can have in their lives when growing up. Whether it is a parent, teacher, counselor, or other professional, Champions of Children are changing the lives of children and families everyday. 

This year, Michelle Dietrich, principal of Steenrod Elementary School, is the recipient of the Deborah Doleski Allen Champion of Children Award. Voted on by the Ohio County Partners in Prevention team, this award is meant to highlight individuals in our community who work tirelessly to better the lives of children and their futures through education, mentorship, or other forms of support. 

Michelle Dietrich is a perfect representation of someone who has done this. 

When you look at all that Ohio County Schools does for kids and their families, you see more than a system. You see a community.

— Michelle Dietrich

Despite the achievement of receiving this award, she remained incredibly humble when asked about it.

“I was touched to have been nominated and truly surprised when I was told that I was selected,” said Dietrich. “As an educator who works with so many other people who have a passion for taking care of children, it is an honor to be named as a Champion of Children. Those of us in this field don’t do it for accolades but it is nice to be noticed for caring.” 

While she remains humble, the various Partners in Prevention team members who nominated her, were not afraid to highlight the amazing work she has done at Steenrod. 

“As a parent with a child at Steenrod, I’ve seen her constantly make herself available for teachers, parents, and students,” stated Beth Collins, Executive Director of the Sisters of St. Joseph Health and Wellness Foundation, in her nomination. “Anytime someone comes to her with an idea she not only gets excited about it, she empowers that person (whether it be a parent or child) to be a part of the idea formulation.”

Dietrich acknowledges the fact that the education field is not an easy profession. The ups and downs and dedication required are what make awards like the Champion of Children award so important to acknowledge this incredibly hard work. 

“A friend got me a shirt that says, ‘If you think my hands are full, you should see my heart,’” said Dietrich. “It sounds cliche, but honestly, it sums up education perfectly. You are busy with so many daily tasks – always thinking, always planning and adjusting based on unforeseen circumstances. And, in addition to that, you become personally invested in your children’s lives. You celebrate their successes and you cry when things don’t work out how you hoped,”.

She also added some advice and words of encouragement for those in the education field.

“My advice for others is to accept what you can’t control, and do your best to have a positive impact where you can,” said Dietrich. 

Dietrich constantly goes above and beyond, putting the needs of her students and staff before herself. This is evident to the parents and community members too.

“Additionally, as a professional, I’ve seen her deeply care about educating her staff and parents about child welfare topics-from engaging in a strengthening families training and changing practices based on that training to offering countless family engagement nights to social media safety presentations, she gets that supporting a child means supporting the adults in their life,” said Collins. 

Her goal of becoming an educator has been lifelong, and she credits her passion for education to her mother. 

“My mom was a teacher and when I was in elementary school I always knew that’s what I wanted to be,” said Dietrich. “I went through a period of time in high school and college where I explored other areas, but I came back to elementary education.”

While she currently finds joy in her administrative position, she greatly enjoyed her years as an elementary school teacher. 

“I think it is the idea that I was able to connect with students and help them to discover their potential,” said Dietrich. “I taught Title I Math for several years and I loved helping students reach the “aha” moment when a concept finally clicked. As a 5th grade teacher, I got to know my students beyond just their academic abilities. And then, I was drawn to administration.”

Her journey from being a teacher to administrator was greatly affected by her love for the connections she has formed with children and their families.

“In my role right now, I love that I am connected to students and their families,” said Dietrich. “It is a system that sees the whole child from even before they start PreK until they graduate from high school, and beyond.”

Michelle Dietrich is not only a Champion of Children but also an image of the ideal goal of Ohio County Schools.

“When you look at all that Ohio County Schools does for kids and their families, you see more than a system,” said Dietrich. “You see a community.”

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About the Contributor
Lily Osborne
Lily Osborne, Staff Writer
  • Journalism I
  • Senior
  • Oglebay Institute dancer, American Cancer Society Youth Board member, Paws for a Cause member, and Freshman Mentor
  • "When you feel like quitting, think about why you started."
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    Cissy JohnsonMay 8, 2024 at 2:02 pm

    She is absolutely awesome.