Gibault treasure retiring

Diane ‘Bev’ Corzine

For many students at Gibault Catholic High School, the art room has served as a place of creativity and comfort, a place to talk and laugh as well as sketch and paint.

While the structure will remain come next semester, part of the heart of both the room and the school will be gone as beloved art teacher Diane “Bev” Corzine steps away after 45 years of service.

“This place is going to be hard to leave. My last trip down that hallway’s not gonna be easy,” Corzine said. “It’s very bittersweet for me. I grew up here, really.”

Corzine, a native of Prairie du Rocher, developed a passion for both art and Gibault at a very young age.

She originally wanted to attend the school as a teenager, but was told by her parents that, just like her older siblings, she would attend Red Bud High School.

After rushing through three years of high school, she attended Southwestern Illinois College – then named Belleville Area College – and eventually went to Eastern Illinois University, where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree with a special certificate in art K-12.

Corzine said she had little interest in education going into college, but following the recommendation of a respected teacher her sophomore year, she changed her major to art education.

She then moved back home, and her father insisted she start substitute teaching while looking for a permanent job.

Corzine joked about how much of a struggle that period was for her, with her first substitute job hitting a major hiccup as soon as she started calling roll for a class in Valmeyer only to find she had been provided with the roll sheet for the previous semester.

With her father urging her to apply for teaching jobs every day, she eventually found an opportunity at her former dream school thanks to Fr. Ed Hustedde.

“I ended up applying to 100 different schools in the state of Illinois, and Gibault was my number one choice,” Corzine said. “Shockingly, Fr. Ed called me on Father’s Day. I’ll never forget it … and Fr. Ed said, ‘Hey, if you want the job, it’s yours if you agree to be the yearbook moderator.’”

Corzine, who started her teaching career at Gibault in 1979, recalled her early days at Gibault fondly – albeit with some caveats. She found herself in Hustedde’s office many times, venting about her frustrations as a teacher.

Hustedde encouraged, comforted and pushed her, urging her to participate in an art contest upon seeing her students’ abilities despite her own hesitancy given it was just the start of her time at Gibault.

Corzine spoke of Hustedde with overwhelming fondness, recalling his contributions to the school, from the modular class schedule to his advice and overall compassion when it came to caring for students.

His advice contributed greatly to Corzine’s current approach to teaching and passion for her students.

“I always say I teach the best kids in the world. I’m sure every teacher thinks that about their kids, but I truly do believe I teach the best kids in the world,” Corzine said.

That love of her students was well-rewarded recently as Corzine said she received an outpouring of gratitude and prayers during her struggle with cancer. It was this struggle, Corzine said, that prompted her to retire due to current health concerns.

Many students current and past reached out to express their sympathies and gratitude toward Corzine, with one student gifting her a bracelet with seven strands to help her remember the beauty in every day and another exchange student who is now Catholic gifting her a glass cross she now sees every day.

Corzine also described a more humorous interaction as she fought through chemotherapy.

“I was blown away by the support I got from my students that I had so many years ago, whether it be messages on Facebook – one student I had for a year, he had this long, I’d say, dissertation comment on Facebook about how much I changed his life, and I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, I just remember yelling at him to get his sketchbooks turned in because I didn’t want to give him a zero,’” Corzine said.

Much loved by students, she described the art room as something of a refuge for those struggling with other responsibilities as a student.

While she will no doubt be remembered by many for her great quotes – “Zero from zero is zero” and “The lights are on, but nobody’s home” among them – the care for her students will also certainly be a fond memory for many more.

“We spend a lot of time with our kids, maybe more than the parents, really,” Corzine said. “With their extra-curricular activities they don’t get home until later, so every teacher has a big influence on their students, and I guess I didn’t realize how much of an influence I had because I just love art and I teach art. We just had fun and hopefully they learned a few things in the process.”

Corzine’s exceptional art program has long been a point of pride at Gibault, and she attributes much of that to the effort her students have put in over the years.

While many students might cringe at the memories of weekly sketchbooks, Corzine maintains that practice played a key role in developing artistic abilities.

Similarly, she recounted how one art teacher from a nearby school asked to sit in on one of her painting classes only for Corzine to respond that wouldn’t demonstrate a lot as so much of her juniors’ and seniors’ painting abilities can be attributed to their sketch work in her earlier classes.

All that hard work and pushing by Corzine has led to many of her students not only pursuing the arts themselves but also winning competitions.

Gibault math instructor and legendary basketball coach Dennis Rueter, who started teaching at the school a year after Corzine, commended her ability to run a tremendously and consistently successful program during her time at Gibault.

“The art program’s good every year. They win awards every year,” Rueter said. “I think you have to say that she’s got the best program in the school consistently for the last 40 years.”

Other Gibault instructors, both current and former, spoke with a similar fondness and respect for Corzine and her abilities as a teacher.

English teacher Julie Lansing, previously a student of Corzine’s, spoke to her ability to make Gibault feel like a second home – even as she struggled with Corzine’s ceramics class.

“To me, Bev is Gibault,” Lansing said. “She just embodies everything that Fr. Ed created Gibault to be embodied into one single person who has been a great mentor for me, my favorite teacher and huge reason why I am teaching back at Gibault.”

Former English teacher Joan Tepen started at Gibault the same year as Corzine.

Tepen described Corzine’s ability to bring out the best in her students by both pushing and caring for them, leading not only to the school’s success in local art contests but to “her art room becoming the most popular student hang out in school.”

“Diane and I began our teaching careers at Gibault,” Tepen said. “It has been an honor and privilege to spend those years working alongside such an exemplary educator and friend at the only school we ever wanted to be.”

Filling Corzine’s shoes next semester will be Liz LeSaulnier, who is currently one of the school’s religion instructors and also a former student of Corzine.

LeSaulnier spoke to the legacy and role she finds herself stepping into.

“I want to make sure that I do her legacy right and make her proud because I adore her,” LeSaulnier said. “I’m so glad she not only was my teacher and my colleague but now I consider her a friend, and that’s very precious to me.”

While she is naturally upset to step away from Gibault, Corzine expressed confidence in LeSaulnier’s ability as a teacher and said the art room is in good hands.

While Corzine will be retiring, she is still looking to keep herself occupied and satisfied artistically.

She plans to continue painting – including some stuff for her daughter’s new house – while also making a scrapbook of her life and occasionally poking her head in at Gibault during upcoming art events.

Her biggest plan is to stay in Prairie du Rocher, living with her husband Jeff as a full-time grandmother. She described her grandchildren with no shortage of love.

“I’m hoping to spend some time with my grand babies,” Corzine said. “One is 6 and one is 2, and they are the light of my life. Oh my gosh, nothing’s better. Even when I have a really bad day, if I see their faces, it becomes a beautiful day.”

Corzine’s last official day will be Dec. 21. She leaves behind a legacy at Gibault akin to Hustedde before her, and she will be dearly missed.

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Andrew Unverferth

HTC web