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Mr P and Mat

Mr. Lee Paseltiner, in 2009, playfully enjoying my little man.

Like most teachers, I have to clear out my classroom at the end of the school year, so the custodial staff can come in and prepare the room for next year. 

Everything not nailed down or pinned to the wall is put away in locked drawers and closets, or it has to leave the room — which means all my living creatures come home with me for the summer months.

This year, as I was cleaning, I found an old, paperback textbook written by my AP Biology teacher, Lee Paseltiner. 

I opened it up and found this dedication, handwritten and signed by “Mr. P”.

Mr. P's Book

 

To Dubba,

A former student in my Advanced biology class, outstanding teacher and dear friend.

Lee Paseltiner

He always called me Dubba, my high school nickname — and until recently, I always called him “Mr. P.”

My relationship with Lee Paseltiner started to flourish after I called him and asked him for help with a graduate paper that I was writing on “Hand-on science education”. 

Mr. P was a pioneer in the field of hands-on science. 

He was a member of “a creative and ingenious teacher staff … [that] developed and implemented its own brand of individualized biology called LindLearn” which was the singled out by the NABT as one of 10 exemplary programs in Secondary Biology.

In 1980, he personally started a program, in my high school, for Seniors called L.E.F.T., Lindenhurst Environment Field Trip, which continues to this day.  I was one of those Seniors — a LEFTy, as we proudly called ourselves.   

L.E.F.T. took us to the Sunken Forest on Fire Island for a week-long hands-on adventure into one of New York’s most unique ecosystems.

Not only did we study the ecology of Fire Island; we were joined by a group of dedicated teachers from the Departments of Art, Math, Social Studies, English and Phys Ed. 

I won’t be so dramatic as to say that the L.E.F.T. experience was life-changing; it was, however, life-forming

For me, L.E.F.T. strongly confirmed my decision to attend the University of Montana and study Wildlife Biology as an undergraduate.

The paper that I was working on was titled WHY CAN’T JOHNNY? A look at how today’s science-curriculum excludes certain students.  Kind of an unconventional title for a graduate term paper, but I excelled at being unconventional.   

Without hesitation, Mr. P. sent me an abundance of information on LindLearn Biology and L.E.F.T

From there, I would periodically call him up to just to “talk shop”.

He always had lessons to share, as well as a list of articles and books to read, including “Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire” and “There’s No Short Cuts”, best-sellers by Rafe Esquith, the Walt Disney Company’s 1992 Teacher of the Year.

I would later share “Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire” with my school principal, Chris Krohn, at the Community Day School in Burbank, California, and together, she and I planned a professional development day where we actually visited Room 56 and spend the day observing Rafe Esquith, in person.

This wouldn’t have happened without Mr. P’s influence.

After Mr. P. retired, he paid a visit to my classroom in Burbank, California during one of his West Coast trips to visit family.  He viewed the grounds and meet my famous Sulcata tortoise, Kobe and observed my student’s award-winning project.

You can only imagine the look on his face when I handed him with his very own personalized, autograph copy of Rafe Esquith’s latest book.

A few weeks later, a package arrived for me from Long Island.  It was from Mr. P.

Inside, I found an album of photos that he had taken of me and my students, pasted with his signature feel-good stickers, along with a personal note of compliments.

It was like having my performance on the baseball diamond praised by the legendary Yankee great, Babe Ruth.

After my wife and I moved back to New York, we would often have dinner with the Paseltiners at their home on Long Island.   He just loved my boys, as you can see in the photo featured above.

During our long dinner conversations, we discovered that our lives oddly intertwined.  

When discussing how I met my wife — we met while working at the Guide Dog Foundation in Smithtown, NY,  Mr. P and his wife, Judi, shared that they were Puppy Raisers for GDF and once cared for one of the Foundation’s stud dogs.  

During another dinner, we discovered that the Paseltiners had Honeymooned in the Lake George Region, the Melody Manor to be precise, a resort minutes away from where we were married and very close to our present-day home.

What really blew us both away, however, was when we learned that Mr. P’s mother-in-law was my father-in-law’s English teacher at the Bronx School of Science.

No matter how intriguing those connections were, the conversation always got back to teaching.

“It’s like planting seeds,” he would always say about the goal of a teacher.  “But most of the time, you don’t get to see the end product of what you planted.”

My family was saddened when the Paseltiners decided to move to Florida to be closer to their grandchildren.  However, shortly after the decision was made to relocate, packages started to arrive at our doorstep. 

Almost daily, we received a large box filled with items from his legendary classroom.  

Turtle skulls. Shark jaws. An enormous dried-out sea star. Corral. Natural sponges.  Something that looks like a giant vertebrae. A self-penned script on Photosynthesis — props included.  His “Soft ice cream cone” lamp and his giant retractable DNA model — which has become my own personal fidget spinner.

I fidget allot — especially after my morning coffee!

“You can’t play the accordion with RNA,” I often shout in class as I open and close the large double-stranded squeezebox of nucleotides, in a playful effort to capture the attention of eighth and ninth graders, wondering if Mr. P would approve of my antics.

Mr. P also sent a box of wildlife Christmas tree ornaments which we use annually to decorate our Pasel-tree-ner

We grew close and talked often.  Mostly about education, but he always directed the conversation back to me and my classroom.

He taught for at Lindenhurst High School for 47 years and AP Biology for almost three decades. It was like having your own personal mentor on speed dial — and it was beyond amazing to have such a wealth of knowledge at my fingertips.

“It’s like planting seeds…,” he would always remind me every time we talked.

So, I found it odd when Mr. P recently stopped returning my calls.

One day, out-of-the-blue  I saw that I had missed a call from Mr. Paseltiner — and was happy to see that he had left a message.  

“Dubba, it’s Mr. P.  I have something to tell you.  Some of it bad. Some of it good.”

Hoping for the best, but expecting the worst, I called him that night.  

“Let me apologize,” he began, struggling to talk.  He told me that he went into “hiding” per se, after being diagnosed with Stage Four lung cancer. 

Then, he started to tell me a story about a turtle…

“Recently,” he said, “a turtle crossed my path.”  He continued to tell me that he and his wife stopped the car to rescue the turtle and place it to the side of the road.   

Though it was safe, out of fear, the turtle instinctively drew itself deep within the protection of its shell.

Like the turtle, Mr. P explained, he had also recently withdrew from life. 

So, he was calling me to apologize for not calling and to let me know that he had decided to finally come out of his shell. 

That was the Good News. 

The bad news was that he sadly had weeks, maybe, at best, only a few months to live.  His goal, he told me, was to make it to his anniversary in June.

We spoke for hours.  We laughed. We cried — but we mostly talked about teaching.

Always an optimist, he invited me down to Florida when life was less hectic.  

Finally, it was getting late and my boys were still up, so we said “Good night.”

I made it a point to stay in touch and reach out as often as I could. 

If I came across an interesting Science article, I sent it his way.  I would text photos of the boys — and I called to discuss my Regents results.

As a man, I hope to be half the father and husband he was.  As an educator, I strive to be as good as he was — knowing I may never attain such a lofty goal.  

If every teacher could be just a little bit like Lee Paseltiner, we would quickly become a nation of envy throughout the world!

Two weeks ago, while driving to picked my boys up at Day Camp, I passed an unusually shaped item in the road.  My experienced-eye told me that it was a turtle, frozen in fear, on the double yellow line of a busy roadway, deep inside its shell.

I turned my car around, parked on the side of the road, and got out to rescue this helpless creature.  Dodging traffic, I cringed a few times as passing cars nearly clipped its delicate, dark carapace.

Finally, I picked it up and planned on placing it on the side of the road in the direction it was going.

But then, I though of Mr. P.

In that brief moment, I decided to make this a teaching moment for my boys — as he most likely would have done.

I safely packed the turtle in my car and drove the short distance to camp.

I introduced the turtle to my boys and explained that we would keep it for only a short period of time — just long enough so they could learn a’bit about its species.  But then, I explained, we would return it to its proper home.

I thought my five-year-old would put up a fight, but he fully agreed — a miracle in itself.

They found a large tote and filled it with water.  Together, we found a large rock with a flat surface for the turtle to sun.

We determined the turtle was a male and then gave him the name Jethro.

For the next two weeks, the boys took care of Jethro daily.

I planned on sending a photo of Jethro and the boys to Mr. P, but life tossed a few curveballs our way this summer, so I never got around to it.

The truth was that I kind of withdrew into my own shell.

Mr. P had become more than just a mentor; he became a father-figure, a close friend — and I feared my next call would go unanswered, a sign of bad news.

Finally, the boys and I decided it was time for Jethro to go back home.

Soccer camp would be over at the end of the week and we determined that it would be a good time to release him safely back into the wild.

Since I knew Mr. P would love to hear another good turtle story, I made a conscious decision to reach out to him after Jethro was set free.

As I sat watching my boys practice soccer drills, I sent Lee a photo of them that I knew he would enjoy.

I usually would have posted a note along with the photo; something like: “Nothing says Soccer like plaid shorts and neon green socks 🙂 Let’s chat soon.”  But, the expressions on their faces were so priceless, I wanted the photograph to speak for itself.

Minutes later, my phone rang.  It was Judi Paseltiner, Mr. P’s wife.

“Hi Dubba, it’s Judi.”

“Is it bad news?” I asked as choked back the tears.

“Yes, Dubba,” she sadly replied.  “It’s bad news.”

That night, I laid in bed reviewing old emails between me and Mr. P.  I kept thinking how much I was going to miss our long phone conversations.

I felt so alone, as if I lost my co-pilot in the classroom.

What’s it going to be like entering my classroom without that tremendous safety-net I always had that was Lee Paseltiner? I wondered.

During one of our last conversations, Lee finally told me his age, something he never revealed in the classroom.   I chuckled to myself as I reflected on that conversation because that’s something I also do!

We shared so many I do that too moments on the phone these last few weeks.

“Dubba, I’ll finally tell you.  How old do you think I am?”

“Well, I never wanted to ask out of respect for Judi,” I said with a smile. “But, when I was teaching at Lindenhurst, I saw a County Champion trophy by the gym for the 1960 Basketball team — and you were the coach.”

“When I was young, a doctor told me to exercise and stay away from red meat and salt,” he told me.  “So, I did.  I would jog every day; and when I couldn’t jog anymore, I swam a mile a day … until recently.”

He paused and then proudly added, “Dubba, I’m 87.  Not a bad run.”

He was not at all bragging.  He was teaching.  He was always teaching.

“Remember, Dubba,” he said one last time. “It’s like planting seeds.  Keep planting seeds.”

Lee Paseltiner — my teacher, my mentor, my friend —  passed away peacefully on July 26 at his home in Parkland, Florida.

He L.E.F.T this planet a better place then he found it.  After a lifetime of teaching, that might be his greatest lesson of all!  

Color line divider

AUTHOR’S NOTE:  If you have any fond memories of Mr. P, please leave them in the comments section below.  I will print them and mail them to the Paseltiner family.

James Henry is also the author of Corporation YOU: A Business Plan for the Soul,and two children’s books: The Second Prince and Klaus: The Gift-giver to ALL
James Dobkowski
As a writer, James has been featured on Bob Salter (CBS Radio), Mike Siegel, Mancow, and more.
Beyond writing, James worked with At-Risk youth in Southern California for over six years.  His contributions to the classroom where featured on local television and in the LA Daily News and Burbank Leader, and earned him the honors of “Teacher of the Year”.  James was also twice honored by a CASDA Scholar as the teacher who had the greatest influenced that student.  He has also appeared twice, as an educator, on “America Live with Megyn Kelly”.
Today, James lives in Up-State New York where he continues to teach — and his friends call him Dubba.

To contact James or book an interview, please contact Mark of Goldman/McCormick PR at (516) 639-0988 or Mark@goldmanmccormick.com.

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Line Divider Image by Mahua Sarkar from Pixabay

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I have a close friend who tells anyone who will listen that he believes that  Jesus will come back only when we are all following His Way.”

Spreading the Word to the four corners of the Earth, that’s the purpose of the Great Commission, is it not? he would ask to naysayers.

With that, my good friend believes that the reason that the Second Coming has taken so long to happen is because the Great Commission has not yet been fulfilled.

Proof that it has NOT been fulfilled, he would say, comes from the fact that NOT everyone — or almost everyone — “is following His Way.

A nice theory.  I’m not sure whether I believe it or not, but I was always respectful when he publicly proclaimed it.  Well, almost always….

Recently, I was within ear-shot when my pal was sharing his belief.

“If that’s true … then Jesus is never coming back!” I snidely added.

“What’s the matter?” he later asked.

“Social media is the matter,” I replied.

Not that social media is the antithesis to the Great Commission. 

In fact, I believe the opposite to be true. Social media could be a great tool in spreading the Word to non-believers — emphasis on could be.

Today, social media sadly sheds great light on the gross divisions within the Body of Christ that exists today.

Daily, I see brother rail against brother, sister against sister, brother against sister! Evangelical against Lutheran.  Protestant versus Catholic.  “Roman” Catholic versus Orthodox.   SPX vs Novus Ordo.

This list of divisions, sadly, goes on and on….

And it’s not  just opposition in points-of-views that’s so troubling to me.  It’s the vial contempt for the other, as if their fellow brethen were the true enemy — and we all know who the True Enemy is!

I joined many of these Christian social networking groups with the naive belief that fellow Christians would wisely be using the power of the internet to unite us as One.

All I see, however, is division — division so great it makes the Devil rejoice with unholy laughter.

Saint Paul’s warning to the Galatians applies today more than ever.

For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  But if you go on biting and devouring one another, beware that you are not consumed by one another. [1]

It appears that we have become more like the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod, more like the leaven of the Sadducees instead of becoming like the leaven of Heaven

Jesus didn’t die on the cross to make us trolls on social media in His Name.  He died so we put on love, the perfect bond of unity.

I was once asked by my pastor, a pious fellow, if God could do anything?   When I answered yes, he responded “Can He make a rock he can’t pick up?”  

Now, the intent of the question was to embarrass me — publicly, much like today’s internet trolls.   

However, the preacher failed in his intended goal, because instead of being embarrassed, I learned a valuable lesson that day.

I learned that God can’t do everything.  

God can’t make a rock that he can’t pick up because God cannot contradict Himself.  That’s what makes the God of the Holy Gospels unique!

It’s also what uniquely separates Christians from all other religions while, at the same time, it uniquely binds us all together.

Here’s something else God cannot do: God can’t make us all love one another.  He can’t make us put on love.

And until we all start to live a life of love, we better hope that my good friend is right, that Jesus will come back ONLY when we are all following His Way — because, from what I see on social media, sadly, very few of us are.

The Good News is all is not lost!

Recently, I stumbled upon a perfect example on how Christians can put the power of the world wide web to better use to grow put on love.   

I think you’ll agree, Christ DID die for THIS!

Beautiful, yes?

Maybe that’s the reason its called the inter-net?  Think about it.

 

James Henry is also the author of Corporation YOU: A Business Plan for the Soul, James DobkowskiTwasHail Mary series, and two children’s books: The Second Prince and Klaus: The Gift-giver to ALL!  To contact James or book an interview, please contact Mark of Goldman/McCormick PR at (516) 639-0988 or Mark@goldmanmccormick.com.

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You may have seen this post on social media.

Japanese Gold

In Japan, broken objects are often repaired with gold.  The flaw is seen as a unique piece of the object’s history which adds to its beauty.  Consider this when you feel broken.”

We are all broken.   So, consider THIS…

Make Jesus your GOLD — and repair yourself with the Lord.

God will literally bind up our brokenness. He is the great Healer and can heal any brokenness we have in our life. He can sew us back together and provide eternal healing. Psalm 147:3

Here are more Bible verses on being broken. 

James Henry is also the author of Corporation YOU: A Business Plan for the Soul, James DobkowskiTwasHail Mary series, and two children’s books: The Second Prince and Klaus: The Gift-giver to ALL!  To contact James or book an interview, please contact Mark of Goldman/McCormick PR at (516) 639-0988 or Mark@goldmanmccormick.com.

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Recently, I had a K.I.D.S. relapse while packing for a trip to our lake camp and went into a Daddy rage!

“I guess no one wants to help me!” I shouted in frustration packing the car without an assistance.  “For the rest of the week, if anyone wants something from Dad, my answer will be ‘no!'”

Later that day, my five-year-old handed me a note.

stewarts 2

“Can we not go to Stewart’s [for ice cream]?” 

It reminded me of a classic line my step-dad used to say — and he had many.

“You know why donkeys don’t go to school?” he’d say. “Because nobody likes a smart ass.”

Grandpa would’ve loved my little man!

 

James Henry is also the author of Corporation YOU: A Business Plan for the Soul, James DobkowskiTwasHail Mary series, and two children’s books: The Second Prince and Klaus: The Gift-giver to ALL!  To contact James or book an interview, please contact Mark of Goldman/McCormick PR at (516) 639-0988 or Mark@goldmanmccormick.com.

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I love my Dad...

Dad, I love you because… (c) Corporation YOU 2019

My kids are still young enough where they are assisted in honoring their mother and father by their primary school teacher.

Every year, I can expect something memorable.   

One year, I received a card with the above photo of my oldest. 

As you can see, he’s holding a chalkboard with a handwritten personal response to the statement “Dad I love you because…”  On the slate, his preschool teacher wrote his reply…

You bring me to work.”

Until then, I wasn’t aware how much my boys enjoyed coming to work with me. 

To this day, the card still hangs on the corner of the Smartboard in my classroom.  However, that wasn’t the most eye-opening gift I received from my boys.  

Recently, my son’s elementary school teacher handed out a list of biographical statements that her students had to complete about their dads. 

Age … Profession … Favorite food. Favorite ice cream. Favorite sports team….

Finally, my son was asked to write down, “Something your Dad often says:”   He wrote,

 Did I say ‘I love you’ today?

It’s true.  I say it often.  Actually, I say it more than often.  I say it every day!  What I didn’t realize was that my son was actually listening — and that it mattered, to him that I asked.

I grew up in an era where dads didn’t always say ‘I love you’.  I had a great respect for my Dad and I knew he loved me — even though I didn’t hear him say it very often.  

When he died, I wondered, in his last days, if he regretted holding back?  

One day, I’ll get that answer and many more, but until then, I’m going to make sure that a day doesn’t go by where I don’t remind my kids — whether they had a good day, or not — that I love them!

And that means every day I’ll make sure I’m going to ask them, “Did I say ‘I love you’ today?”

James Henry is also the author of Corporation YOU: A Business Plan for the Soul, James DobkowskiTwasHail Mary series, and two children’s books: The Second Prince and Klaus: The Gift-giver to ALL!  To contact James or book an interview, please contact Mark of Goldman/McCormick PR at (516) 639-0988 or Mark@goldmanmccormick.com.

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Every time that I kiss my kids goodbye or good night, I say this very simple prayer:

Mother Mary look after you;

Saint Joseph pray for you;

Jesus guide you;

And St. Michael the Archangel protect you.

May the Sign of the Cross be your salvation, your protection, and your guide.

Amen.

I love you!

 

That’s my simple daily prayer.

James Henry is also the author of Corporation YOU: A Business Plan for the Soul, James DobkowskiTwasHail Mary series, and two children’s books: The Second Prince and Klaus: The Gift-giver to ALL!  To contact James or book an interview, please contact Mark of Goldman/McCormick PR at (516) 639-0988 or Mark@goldmanmccormick.com.

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One of the passages in my book Corporation YOU: A Business Plan for the Soul deals exclusively with Father’s Day

The book came out before I was a Dad — and before the widespread use of smartphones pervaded our everyday life.  However, I feel, it illustrates the hidden meaning behind the nation’s celebration of Father’s Day.

If you don’t know what collect phone calls are, click here before reading, so you know what the exchange is all about.

From Corporation YOU:

“Do you know on what day the most collect phone calls are made?” Mr. Mel asked. 

I shook my head no.

“Father’s Day! … Why is that?”

I had no idea.

“Because Dad was always there, giving in that special way.  So special, that on the one day we set aside to honor him, most are not embarrassed to tell him we love him — at his own expense. In fact, he has almost come to expect it.”

I could see that then — and definitely can see that today. 

All the young men I grew up with are all great dads today.  Likewise, the men I work with are all great dads, as well.

I can only speculate that all these men have one common denominator. 

They and I all had incredible role models.  Real men who exemplified true masculinity!  A masculinity formed from watching the lives of men with Abraham Lincoln’s dictum  etched upon their hearts:

No man stands taller as when he stoops to help a child.”

Perhaps this is the hidden meaning of Father’s Day, long know among men of honor, who all proudly share one thing in common … the value of being called “Dad”.

Happy Father’s Day!

 

James Henry is also the author of Corporation YOU: A Business Plan for the Soul, James DobkowskiTwasHail Mary series, and two children’s books: The Second Prince and Klaus: The Gift-giver to ALL!  To contact James or book an interview, please contact Mark of Goldman/McCormick PR at (516) 639-0988 or Mark@goldmanmccormick.com.

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