Mr. Benedict as a Teacher and Student


Mr. Benedict takes a selfie with his 12th grade students!

If one were to aimlessly walk into Mr. Benedict’s twelfth grade English class, he or she would often see students speaking their minds. Mr. Benedict would be asking open-ended questions pertaining to life, morals, and cultural conditioning.

All of these questions would be asked as quickly as possible, as Mr. Benedict stresses the importance of the student dynamic over lecture. “I’m a big discussion based teacher,” said Mr. Benedict. “I want to run my classes like a book club. Challenge ideas that the book represents… The less talking I’m doing, the more effective the class is.”

If you don’t already know Mr. Benedict from Lauren Fleming’s article, he is the newest addition to CB South’s English department.

He’s an alumnus of Penn State, a husband, an avid sports fan, and a “country boy at heart.” Mr. Benedict advertises his love for playing Devil’s Advocate. “I feel it encourages the students to think, but forces them to defend why they feel a certain way,” said Mr. Benedict.

Coming from a long-term substitute teaching job at Radnor High, Mr. Benedict’s entry into CB South has been a jarring one.

Much bigger, supportive and diverse than Radnor High, South is a much larger challenge for Mr. Benedict.

Going into college, Benedict did not consider teaching an occupational option. “If you would have told me [during] my senior year of high school that I would be teaching twelfth grade English, I probably would have laughed hysterically in your face. That was never really on my radar… I went to school to be a journalism major. I wanted to major in broadcast journalism/sports journalism. [However,] I saw the late hours that it took, and the crazy hours of what that’d take.”

Faced with the pressure of changing majors, Benedict looked at his academic strong points and additional options. “I was always a decent writer,” said Benedict. “I was always bad at math. I don’t remember a thing from chemistry in high school. However, high school was always awesome… I really like the high school age group, I really like the time of life they’re in.”

With that recognition, Derek Benedict switched majors at Penn State, combining his passion for English and writing with the ability to interact and positively influence adolescents.

Today, Benedict values the impact his role has on youth over the curriculum. “It really does go back to the fact that I’m not English minded; I’m teacher minded,” said Mr. Benedict.

Outside of teaching, Mr. Benedict is an avid sports fan. “I come from a big football family. Football was my first passion and my first love. I played football and basketball in high school. I watch sports a lot,” he said.

To the students of CB South, Mr. Benedict offers personal insight from his college experience to hopefully guide students in a positive direction.

“Surround yourself with people who are going to make you not only a good student but a better individual. College is a very transformative time period… it’s an opportunity to be shaped in a positive way or a negative way. I’ve had friends [who] get to college and do not know how to handle themselves.  That could be in the form of going crazy on the weekends [or] that could be in form of not going to the library enough. That could be in the form of putting too much emphasis on [his or her] social life,” said Mr. Benedict. “Surround yourself with people who are going to challenge you, encourage you… I had a rough first semester at college… Some struggles are finding your niche, being involved, and generating the friend base that you will have for the next four years. It really is an adjustment.”

Personally, Mr. Benedict’s struggle was adjusting to a vastly new environment. “I graduated from high school with 150 kids in my class. I come from a small, rural town called Hughesville. That town only has one police officer. It has two traffic lights in the entire town… Going from a 150 graduating class to 44,000 kids on campus is huge. The opening day at Penn State is Times Square,” he said. “It was an adjustment getting used to so many people, but it was an adjustment that I loved.”

Responding to the many students who wonder about the social changes once they leave high school, Mr. Benedict said that “it’s just like anything else. You have a melting pot [in college,] but everyone still hangs out with the same people. There’s the same groups and same cliques in college as there are in high school. It never really changes. We have this ideal perspective that of breaking down those barriers, but that’s way harder to do than just saying that it needs to be done.”

He also said that even though some high school aspects still carry over to college, unification still exists. “I love the comradery of Penn State. Although we stuck to our groups, we were all there because we love Penn State. Leaving Penn State and going into the real world and being part of one of the biggest alumni bases in the world is amazing. Everywhere you go there’s a Penn Stater.”

Mr. Benedict recommends that while in college, students should push themselves not just academically, but socially and culturally.

Benedict spent his four college summers visiting and assisting other parts of our country.

While doing so, he was exposed to many different cultures that were foreign to the small town of Hughesville that he grew up in. “When you see other lifestyles and cultures and how much negativity there is in the world, to be able to help out others in those situations gives you a new appreciation of where you come and who you are as a person,” said Mr. Benedict.

Benedict’s time at Penn State stays with him to this very day; his marriage traces back to the time he spent there. “We met on our spring break trip to New Orleans. We actually met on the same caravan going down. We started dating a year and a half after we met, we were just friends for a while… the timing was perfect.”

Although Mr. Benedict is new to full-time teaching, his future plans reveal that he aspires to be something more than just a teacher. After 10-15 years of teaching, Mr. Benedict would like to pursue a career of educational administration, in the vein of principality.

However, this year alone is making Mr. Benedict realize that teaching may be his true passion.