Mr. P. … One of a Kind

Every now and then, a person will come along who manages to touch your life in some indescribable way.  

Mr. Lee Paseltiner is one of those people. He retired in June of 2004 after teaching Advanced Placement Biology at Lindenhurst High School for 47 years.

No one was ever quite certain when he began his tenure there as, when questioned, he would always smooth his remaining gray hairs and chuckle, “I’ve been in the district so long that William Shakespeare was one of my students.” 

Though he so often refused to make this information available, he was always more than willing to make himself available, whether in the classroom or out. As anyone in the school could attest, Mr. Paseltiner’s tall, waif-like figure was one of the first to walk through the doors in the morning and often the last to leave in the afternoon; sometimes, in the evening.

Over the years, he served as a faculty adviser for countless clubs and organizations, deservedly earning the honor of Adviser of the School Year 2003-2004 for New York State, as bestowed upon him by the New York State Council on Leadership and Student Activities. He led the Environmental Club for four years, the National Honor Society for nearly 30 years, and the Student Council for an astounding 43 years. He also served as an adviser to two separate classes, each of which he remained with for their entire respective four-year tenures.

In 1980, Mr. “P.”, as he is affectionately known, launched an innovative program entitled Project LEFT (Lindenhurst Environmental Field Trip). Through this program, students enrolled in the Advanced Placement Biology classes were afforded the opportunity to spend a week on Fire Island, during which time they learned of the ecology of the Island and the history of its formation thousands of years ago. After a week of bonding in the wilderness and “training,” many students then went on to serve as tour guides on LEFT for Juniors. This outgrowth of the original program provided an opportunity for the 4th graders from the district’s elementary schools to have a similar experience, though only for one day.  

Such a commitment to students is remarkable. Though for Mr. P., the opportunity to be in touch with the student body and the joy of witnessing their excitement was always reward enough to bring that trademark twinkle into his warm hazel eyes. He always felt that, “As long as the students were interested, it remained an outlet for me to offer my guidance and expertise.”

Countless memories dot his recollections of the past, but they all possess one common thread. Whatever he did, he did FOR the students. “The great thing about teaching,” he mused, “is that students never grow old.” To him, they provided that necessary spark and energy which served as motivation to continue on for so many years.

As he reflected in an e-mail to me following his retirement, “I have retired from teaching at Lindy High after all these years. I guess you can say that I have finally graduated. For you it took only four years, but for me it took a great deal longer.”

He went on, “Will I miss Lindy High, Student Council, NHS, teaching and all the students that I have taught and known over the years? Without a doubt! I have closed one wonderful door and I’m now about to open a new door in my life and I don’t know what’s out there this time…Lindy High will survive without me, and several years down the line, the new students will not know who Mr. PPPPPPPPPPPPPP was. That’s the circle of life!”

“To teach is to plant the seeds, and somewhere down the line, you see the growth of your former students.” That, apparently, is the greatest form of praise a man such as Mr. Paseltiner is willing to accept. He sought only to make a difference. As he so eloquently put it, “You never know who you touch.”

Well, it would seem safe to say that Mr. Lee Paseltiner has touched the lives of everyone who has ever had the pleasure to be in his company. May his retirement be as fulfilling as the glorious career which preceded it.

 

{Published: August 3rd, 2005}

Jamie Lynn RyanComment