Corrie Woolley came home to Washington on Sunday. She planned to play catch with her dad, but ran out of time. Thank goodness Corrie got some pitching tips from her co-worker’s 6-year-old son. The University City teacher needs help because she’s throwing out the first ball at the Cardinal game on Saturday.

It’s an honor Corrie received for being named University City School District’s Teacher of the Year last May, a grand slam for the young woman. University City is a huge district, and the accolades have drawn attention to the early childhood center, a marvelous place that owns Corrie’s heart.

For the past six years, Corrie has taught prekindergarten at Julia Goldstein Early Childhood Education Center. It’s a dream come true job for Corrie. “I love it,” she said.

Every day is different, the kids challenge her educationally and are fun to be with. Like so many teachers, Corrie admits she learns more from the students than they do from her.

Corrie always knew she wanted to be a teacher, but her career path was far from smooth; it had twists and turns strewn with misgivings about whether or not she’d chosen the right profession.

Imagine earning degrees in early childhood and elementary education and then disliking your student teaching experiences — Corrie didn’t like either one of hers. “I was horrified and wondering what I was going to do,” she said.

After graduation, Corrie moved to St. Louis and began job hunting, but it wasn’t pretty. There were no openings anywhere for teachers, so Corrie continued to work at the Gap, where she’d previously worked in Columbia.

When a job opened up as a teaching assistant for sixth-graders, she eagerly accepted it, but Corrie didn’t like that classroom experience either. “I really related to the kids,” she said, explaining it wasn’t the students, but the lack of classroom responsibility that got to her. Basically she graded papers and supervised playground duty.

“I can’t be a T.A.,” she said to herself, as she continued to send out applications, getting few responses.

Corrie struck gold when Julia Goldstein offered her a position from 12:30-3:30 as an early childhood teacher. She put on her teacher’s hat in the afternoons and upped her hours at the Gap so she’d be full time with benefits, daily looking forward to her time in the classroom.

Finally she’d found a fit. Corrie adored the children and realized her degree was in the right field, but the school of hard knocks wasn’t finished with her yet.

She was hired in January and in May Corrie learned her position would be cut. There were no funds for her job, despite the fact that the administration wanted to keep her. Her disappointment turned to delight when she got a call in July — the school was adding a tuition program and invited her back to set up her own classroom. “It was awesome,” Corrie said.

Now if she can just throw a honey of a pitch as one of the Cardinals’ Stars in the Classroom — a program that honors award-winning educators. Corrie has her outfit planned, Redbird red, of course, topped by a personalized jersey she’s being given by the team. Her parents, Gavin and Annette Woolley, and a good friend will be in the stands cheering her on, using the free ball tickets Corrie received. But a dear lady who influenced Corrie’s life will be missing — her grandmother Catherine Woolley.

Last May when Corrie was presented with a Golden Apple Award by the University City School District, she was disappointed Catherine couldn’t be there. She passed away in 2011. In her honor, Corrie Catherine Woolley wore a pair of earrings she inherited from her grandmother, an avid reader, Washington Public Library board member and strong supporter of education.

Sometimes the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.