My sixth-grade teacher, Mr. Paul Peca, died earlier this month at the age of only 73. You can read the obit here for as long as those Legacy pieces remain online. “Paul was a dedicated Teacher for 35 years. 32 years in the Johnson City School District. He made a difference in many children’s lives.” I definitely believe that.
My friend Carol, not to be confused with my wife Carol, wrote in the guest book: “I also had Mr. Peca in 6th grade at Daniel S. Dickinson in Binghamton. He encouraged us to create our own inhouse newsletter – he was interested in what we were thinking, and what we had to say. Very inspiring. He told us we were the smartest class he ever had. We, of course, believed him (dare I say we still do, in itself another of his legacies – although you’ll notice by the venue we were one of his first classes…). What a wonderful, meaningful life. Much too short, but all of us, his students, were blessed to have been taught by him. With sympathy to the family.” We must have been one of his first classes, but hardly the last one to care deeply for the man.
All that Carol wrote is true. I also have more specific memories of that class than just about any other. How we had debates about the efficacy of dropping A-bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (he was in favor, or at least took that position, most of us weren’t), how we had a mock Presidential election (LBJ won 13-3, he favored AuH2O). He was always provocative, innovative, and intelligent.
The year after we were in his class, at least a half dozen of us walked to his house, just to visit him. He lived up near the airport, so we ended up walking at least 16 miles; I literally wore out a pair of shoes on that trip.
Paul Peca was the best teacher I ever had, at any level.