“They made me feel like I was the king,” said Joe Corsello, Morris resident and Immaculate Conception School art teacher.
Corsello traveled to Tennessee last week to meet Dolly Parton at her family amusement park, Dollywood. She invited Corsello down south in order to honor him for his time and commitment to teaching for 53 years by recognizing him as the 2012 Chasing Rainbow’s Award recipient at the Chasing Rainbows Museum at Dollywood.
Parton was the first recipient of the Chasing Rainbows Award in 2002. It was presented to her on behalf of the National State Teachers of the Year organization by Edna Rogers, now director of Dolly Parton’s Chasing Rainbows Award. Since then, Parton has been giving the award to the chosen teacher annually.
“Dolly has overcome many obstacles in her life and is making a difference in the lives of children,” Rogers said in May. “Now Dolly, in turn, gives this award personally every year to a teacher who has overcome obstacles in his/her life and is making a difference in the lives of children.”
Corsello’s wife Norma said Joe was the only child of 12 that attended and graduated high school and college. Only one other sibling completed grade school. His parents were immigrants from Italy and couldn’t speak English.
Morris’ 53-year veteran teacher was recognized for his dedication to teaching children Saturday, June 16.
Due to the passing of Larry McGill, the artist behind the Chasing Rainbows award, Corsello did not actually receive his trophy, however. McGill passed away suddenly about one week prior to Corsello’s arrival and had not finished the award yet.
“The Dollywood Foundation is going to try to get the rights for the award and have artists make it at Dollywood and send it to Joe,” Rogers said.
He was still able to pose with Parton for pictures in front of the life-size Chasing Rainbows sculpture. He also received an Imagination Library, Rogers said, that will be placed in his school in his honor.
Although the trip did not go as originally planned, Corsello enjoyed his time, nonetheless.
“It was a fantastic treat,” Corsello said. “It was unbelievable.”
He went on to explain that Parton was “like an angel.” He was very excited she held his hands for the photos and even took pictures with Norma, three of their grandchildren, Marc, Joe and Jacque, and their daughter, Trudy DesLaurier.
Corsello’s name was also placed on the Chasing Rainbows plaque in the museum.
“It was just a thrill to be there,” he said.