CB Chief Academic Officer ditch suit and tie and focus on farming full time | training – Natural Self Esteem

The old saying goes, “You can take the boy off the farm, but you can’t take the boy off the farm.”

Corey Vorthmann, Chief Academic Officer of Council Bluffs Community Schools, is retiring this year to work full-time on the farm.

“I think we achieved a lot of things that I wanted to achieve,” he said. “I think we’re getting to the point where we need to look at our academic achievements with new eyes.”

As Chief Academic Officer, he leads the Teaching and Learning Department responsible for curriculum development, instructional design, summer learning, school improvement, professional learning, assessment, professional and technical education, early childhood learning, and special education. Most recently, Vorthmann was recognized by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds for developing the TradeWorks Academy as a model for schools in the state of Iowa.

But Vorthmann’s roots are on the farm.

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“My parents grew row crops and ran a 5,000-head beef farm throughout my childhood,” he said. “Back then, it wasn’t part of my career plans to devote myself full-time to agriculture. I would work with my brain and not my back. At the time, I didn’t appreciate the opportunities that arose when I was young.”

Vorthmann graduated from Riverside High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in social studies and secondary education from Central College, Pella. He began his teaching career as a middle and high school social studies teacher in a school district of 120 students in the tiny town of Gilman City, Missouri.

“Then I wanted to drop out,” he said.

Working part-time as an assistant manager at a grocery store, Vorthmann figured he could complete the company’s management training program and work for the company full-time.

However, life had a different path for him. He got a call from Benton High School in St. Joseph, Missouri, which led to him teaching high school history for a year, Vorthmann said.

“I really enjoyed it,” he said.

As a sophomore at Benton High School, Vorthmann became one of the district’s first instructional coaches and directed professional development. While at Benton, he also completed a master’s degree in educational leadership from Northwest Missouri State University.

The following year he became assistant principal at Spring Garden Middle School in St. Joseph.

“I was way too young to be an administrator, but it was a great opportunity,” he said.

Vorthmann stayed with Spring Garden for five years, during which time he helped create professional learning communities and standards-based assessment, and was recognized as Northwest Missouri Assistant Principal of the Year.

“That was five years of loving getting up and going to work every day,” he said. “We had a great principal”

It was also around this time that he married his wife, Annie, who was teaching at Benton.

Vorthmann joined Council Bluffs Community School District in 2011 as Director of Secondary Education and earned his PhD in Educational Leadership from Baker University. He received the Living the Mission Award in 2012 for his leadership in launching Project Connect when the district began providing laptops to every student. He was appointed Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning in 2014 and Chief Academic Officer in 2017.

In the meantime he helped his father more and more on the farm.

“I watched my parents try to keep good employees,” he said. “I had taken on certain tasks. In 2015 my father had the idea that we could grow some cows.

“That’s when it really started,” he said. “I had forgotten how passionate I was about it. For me it is a special challenge and satisfaction to follow the entire life cycle of an animal. It’s also a challenge to make it profitable – and I enjoy that challenge too.”

Vorthmann bought some land, including the parcel where his parents’ pasture had been, and his family moved to their own farm, bringing some of the cattle there.

“I wanted my kids to experience some of the rewards and challenges of being on a family farm — and learn the work ethic,” he said.

Vorthmann’s father still hasn’t been able to build a strong pool of farm workers, he said. When the pandemic hit, he lost his help with spring planting.

“There’s no way my father would plant the crops if he had the livestock to tend to,” he said.

“I knew in 2020 what direction I was going in and I spoke to (Superintendent) Dr. Murillo. The pandemic has impacted our work here in education so badly that I just didn’t feel like leaving right away.”

He and Annie, now an elementary school teacher at Riverside Community Schools, have two sons: Sutton, 12; and Mathes, 10. Both have interests in 4-H, and Sutton has his own livestock.

“They can go on the barricades in the summer — which isn’t their favorite pastime,” Vorthmann said. “As I got older, I realized that these were the things that made me who I have become.”

Vorthmann is Chair of the Advisory Board of the Iowa Reading Research Center, President of the St. Paul Lutheran Church Council, and Past President of the Board of Directors of the Mission in Community Assistance and Housing (MICAH House) Emergency Family Shelter in Council Bluffs. He was also a member of the City of Council Bluffs Civil Rights Commission.

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