Corbett’s 47 years in high school coming to an end


Writer’s note: In June, art teacher Willy Corbett will leave his canvases and paintbrushes behind when he retires after 43 years as an educator. Coach Corbett was one of the first teachers I met when I came to McNick as a freshman when he was my golf coach in the fall. He’s a funny and kind-hearted person, and I wish I was going to have him as a teacher next year, but I was glad to be able to do this story about him. I had fun with him as my coach, especially with all the times when he asked me if I did softball because of how I would swing my club. My favorite memory from him is when the girls’ and boys’ golf teams played each other, and I had to drive the ball on the fairway. I had barely hit it, and he said, “at least you hit it on the fairway.” I will also never forget every time I was in his classroom getting colored paper for projects and he would tell me it was $20 and for my attitude another $20. I will miss seeing him around the school and having our nice talks, but I’m very grateful he’ll still be coaching me golf.  

Thousands of students at McNicholas High School have been blessed to have Willy Corbett as a teacher and a coach, but after 47 years in education, Corbett will end his time at McNicholas at the same time as this year’s seniors when he retires in June. Corbett said he has been teaching for 43 years but has been in high school for 47 years because of his four years a high school student. For the past 24 years, he has taught art at McNick and has coached many sports like, girls’ and boys’ basketball, football, softball, baseball, and girls’ golf. He was the head coach of the 1998 Boys’ Baseball State Championship Team. Corbett had also worked at La Salle High School for 19 years before McNick and had coached football, boys’ basketball, baseball, and tennis. Corbett does plan of staying at McNick to coach baseball and girls’ golf because “there’s a good comradery around here. That’s one of the things that will bring me back into coaching because it would be hard to leave golf and that. It will take a while.” 

In high school, Corbett said he was an athletic kid, playing football, baseball, and basketball. He did coach tennis for one year at La Salle, but at McNick he’s taken to coaching girls’ golf.  “I golfed, but  I was never a golfer,” Corbett said.  He had to stop coaching football due to health reasons in his family, and he wanted to spend all his time with his father. At that time, McNick needed a golf coach, so Corbett said he would do it thinking it wouldn’t be for long, maybe one or two years. But because of the players and their families, and his assistant coaches, the Frey Family, he stayed and has been coaching ever since. 

Senior Dani Ayers said, “When I golfed my sophomore year Mr. Corbett would drive the golf cart around and check up on all of us and help us out. During long tournaments he would have sandwiches, drinks, and chocolates. At one hole he drove up to me and tossed me a chocolate and told me to eat it to keep up my energy so I wouldn’t pass out.”  

SAIL teacher Val Combs said she has “many wonderful memories of Willy…wowing us with his magic tricks, inspiring us in faith and prayer, impersonating Elvis on Faculty Retreat, rolling down the hill with students on Kairos, auctioneering with my husband at McNick at Night, coaching my nephew in baseball, and most of all, caring for students and sharing his heartfelt passion and gift of art with all of us.” 

When his niece, Catie Sulken, who now attends Turpin, and current senior Kylee Freemann were freshmen and started at McNick he knew when they graduated it would be a good time to retire. He told Freemann and Sulken that when they graduate he will too.  

Corbett said while his teaching has been similar through the years, he has changed the way he would show or teach a concept, even though it might be for a project that he’d assigned in previous years.  He added that he has learned many things from his students and has seen how “creative, hardworking, and entertaining” they can be.  

Sophomore Abby Doschug said, “My favorite memory with Mr. Corbett is just being in class with him and everyone as I got to learn many incredible things. Mr. Corbett is super awesome and what he’s taught has truly helped me grow as an artist, which I can never thank him enough for!” 

When theology teacher Mary Beth Sandmann was on maternity leave during Corbett’s first year at McNick, he had to cover her classes. He said he asked her about her philosophy [of teaching] and she said the three P’s: the person, the process, and the product. He says this has stuck with him forever. For the person, he explains how it all comes naturally and as a teacher he teaches about the person. The process is “working hard. Once you learn to do all those, then the product is going to be great. It’s not always an A product but it’s a great product.”  

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