Faces of Long Island celebrates the uniqueness of everyday Long Islanders. In their own words, they tell us about their life experiences, challenges and triumphs. Newsday launched this social media journey into the human experience to shine a light on the diverse people of this wonderful place we call home.

‘I thought about teaching, and my wife was completely supportive and told me to go for it.’

Christopher Diehl, Massapequa

“I’m a CPA by trade. I was in accounting for five years, and then I transitioned into finance. I was working at my job for very long hours. Sometimes not getting home until 10 or 11 o’clock at night, and my wife was doing the same thing. One day we were talking, and we thought, this is not great, and it’s not the best for our kids. We both decided it was time for a change. I thought about teaching, and my wife was completely supportive and told me to go for it.

“My first day of student teaching, I was 36 years old, and I go into a seventh-grade classroom, and I was petrified. A grown man facing 12-year-olds. But every year since then, it’s been better and easier and more interesting. It took me a few years to feel like I was a good, competent teacher. Now I feel I fully understand exactly what I need to do. I totally get the kids and where they’re coming from and what they individually need to succeed.

“On the first day of school, I tell the kids, this is where math gets difficult, but they’re here because it’s achievable. There’s nothing that they can’t do. It’s just a matter of creating the path and understanding the obstacles and how to overcome them. And that’s really what my job is, to help them navigate understanding what the goals are and what the obstacles are. I truly value the rapport and atmosphere that we have in our classroom. I want it to be friendly and open. I love talking about music and baseball with my students.

“In life, you’re never going to be asked to solve a quadratic formula. But your ability to look at given information, synthesize it and come up with a solution and then understand what the conclusion is and how it applies to the problem, is something you’re going to do every day.

“This little piece of the lunar module was given to me my last year as a gift by a student who is now an aerospace engineer. She told me that I inspired her to do math. And I have many letters from kids who say I have something to do with their success, and they’ve all done such amazing things. It’s so humbling for them to say that I had something to do with that. It’s such an incredible feeling.

“You hear a lot of bad things about this younger generation, but that’s because they haven’t met these kids yet. They are going to be what propels us forward. They are thoughtful and intelligent, and they have more perspective than I did at 16 and 17. They give me hope for the future.”

Interviewed by Maggie Melito