Round Lake High School teacher Bob Diedrich's passion for his job filled his classroom just before winter break.
Students in Diedrich's Advanced Placement literature class were asked to read for everyone the Shakespearean sonnets they were directed to compose early in the school year. The teenagers wrote the sonnets about themselves.
Diedrich, 46, of McHenry became emotional when he told the students why he had them write such personal sonnets.
"The purpose behind why I asked you to do this is to give these (sonnets) to your parents as gifts," he said. "Give them to your parents as gifts. The most beautiful thing you can give to another person is love shown through words. You know what love looks like in this class. Sometimes, it is the truth. And the truth is, sometimes it's hard to share with people."
Round Lake High School Principal Donn Mendoza said it's not just strong test scores that make Diedrich effective as an instructor of English honors and Advanced Placement literature and composition classes.
Mendoza said Diedrich has a "passion and commitment he displays daily relative to improving the achievement of the students for whom he is responsible."
Advanced Placement senior Angelica Torres said there is much to like about Diedrich. His love for his students is one reason she holds him in high regard.
Torres' classmate, Noemi Powell, has a similar view of her instructor.
"Mr. Diedrich is very passionate about what he does," Powell said. "He genuinely cares about us as individual writers, and I think that's something that's really rare to find -- a teacher that really cares about each student individually. And I think that he displays that very well."
Diedrich did not take the conventional path to become a full-time teacher in 2006.
After graduating with a bachelor's degree in journalism from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, he worked for 13 years at the Northwest Herald newspaper in Crystal Lake. His career at the paper included writing about sports and politics, as well as community editor.
Diedrich left the newspaper to attend Aurora University, where he received a master's degree in education. He began substitute teaching at Round Lake High while at Aurora University.
He said the first few months of his classes are difficult for pupils. The students don't always understand why Diedrich demands so much of them, but it's because he's trying to unlock their critical analysis skills.
"If they have the skills on how to think and read and how to write, it doesn't matter what gets thrown at students," Diedrich said. "They can accomplish great feats. And that's kind of what the teaching strategy is."
Demetria Mackey is one of the students who wasn't thrilled with Diedrich when she first wound up with him as an English teacher.
Mackey, an early Class of 2016 graduate, said she initially stormed out of Dietrich's classroom because she didn't understand the work.
After Mackey had a respite from Diedrich, he asked school officials to assign her to his classroom again. She then worked to become a student whose essay writing helped her land a scholarship to Tuskegee University in Alabama, which she chose over the University of Miami.
"I have a full ride to college because of Mr. Diedrich," she said.