Castelli quietly slipped into
retirement from his position as assistant superintendent of the
Brandywine School District on Aug. 1. He had been on medical
leave -- with neuropathy, a complication of diabetes -- since
quintessential educator, he hasn't completely dropped the reins.
He'll continue teaching at Wilmington College as an adjunct
professor, having added a third graduate-level course,
contemporary issues in education, this term to the two he has
been teaching, curriculum and
instruction, and discipline in the classroom.
But he no longer will be involved in the day-to-day
delivery of learning, as he has since 1968 when, by
happenstance, he agreed to fill in as a biology teacher at
Brandywine High School.
"I was a full-time graduate student [at the University of
Delaware] working on my doctorate and doing some contract
curriculum work for the old Alfred I. [du Pont Special
School] District when they asked me if I'd take it," he
1975, he divided his time, working half an academic year
at Brandywine High and the other half for Delaware, with
the rank of assistant professor, supervising the student
teaching, statewide, of all the university's
undergraduates intending to become science teachers.
During that time he earned his Ph.D. in behavioral
After 17 years at Brandywine High, he
reached a critical point in his career. He was asked to go into
administration as supervisor of instruction in the then recently
created Brandywine district. What most guided his decision to
accept the post, he said, was realization that it would enable
him to have an impact on far more than the 120 or so students he
would meet in any given year in the classroom.
Still, he said, he took the move as a change of duties rather
than a change of vocation. Frank Castelli remained, and still
remains, foremost a teacher.
is a high-energy job. What you did last year doesn't count this
year. Every year you have to establish how good you are," he
"There's a big difference
between teaching for 20 years, and teaching for one year 20
times. It's a lot more than just staying three weeks ahead of
Science and mathematics
have been the areas in which Castelli built his reputation. He
was state science teacher of the year in 1972 and 10 years
later, with four other teachers, received the National Science
Teachers Association's 'Science Excellence' award, precursor of
today's prestigious Presidential Science Award.
While professional honors have their place, the real measure of
teaching success, he said, is found in acknowledgement by former
students years after they graduate. "The best teachers find ways
to touch kids as individuals," he said.
That happens through coaching and extracurricular activities and
also in such unexpected places as the supermarket. "It's
important that they see you not only in school but out in the
community," he explained. Moreover, he added, the roles in which
a teacher should be seen are those which demonstrate "you're an
educated citizen of the country and the community."
"Expose the kids to your best side. I believe I was a role
model," he said.
As it happened,
Brandywine High was a near-perfect environment for a successful
teacher, he said. "We had a faculty that was close. Most of them
came from somewhere else -- Pennsylvania or West Virginia or
some other place -- because the pay was good. We came together
as a real team," he recalled. "I could have stayed there for 30
years and felt fulfilled."
had moved to Wilmington from southwest Philadelphia in 1958,
after his father bought a liquor store at Vandever Avenue and
Locust Street. The family lived above the store for a few years
before moving to North Graylyn Crest, where Castelli still makes
his home. He is a graduate of Salesianum School and has his
bachelor's degree from Delaware.
have changed, of course. Brandywine High and all other schools
have necessarily changed with them. "When I started out, few
students had jobs. Now about 70% of them work at least 20 hours.
Are they part-time employees or part-time students?" he said.
He became an assistant superintendent of the district, along
with the late Ben Ellis, when Joseph DeJohn was hired as
superintendent in 1995. All three were both personal friends and
candidates for the job and had agreed that, whoever was selected
for the top spot, the trio would function "like a three-legged
stool," Castelli recalled.
.financial and management problems overtook that management and
plunged the district into turmoil. Through it all, Castelli
noted, there was no indication that the district's overall
quality of instruction suffered. "I'm glad to be able to say
that none of that ever got into the classroom. Those problems
and the earlier ones involved with the [former] New Castle
County district never got past the classroom door," he said.
In retirement, Castelli, 61, plans to devote himself to
Wilmington College teaching, and chairing a newly formed
Wilmington-area neuropathy support group.
Somewhat ironically, considering his involvement as a district
administrator with public-group oversight of school finances, he
also is president of the Taxpayers Association of Surf City in
the Long Beach Island, N.J., community where he and his parents
before him have had a vacation house for many years. The
organization's current priority is addressing alleged disparity
in the tuition tax paid to enable children to attend school on