Grow Pittsburgh would like to welcome our newest team member, Paul Pagoda! Paul is our newest Garden Educator, serving at Pittsburgh Colfax. Hear from Paul in his own words.
GP: Tell us a bit about yourself.
Paul: I grew up in Allentown, PA, about an hour outside of Philadelphia. I first moved to Pittsburgh after high school in 1997 to attend Pitt as an undergrad. After graduating with a BA in Communication in 2001 I worked for Family Links as a Youth Counselor. I then went on the join an AmeriCorps VISTA program in Santa Rosa, CA where I coordinated an after school program at Kawana Elementary School. It was there that I got my first experiences working in a school garden as the school’s garden leader. After my two years of AmeriCorps service ended, I lived for a short time in San Diego, CA and soon moved back to Pittsburgh in 2005. I became the Education Coordinator for the Lawn Street Community Center and the Community Human Services Corporation. After about three years in that position, I attended Pitt’s masters program for Elementary Education, while doing my student internship at Falk Laboratory School. After graduating in 2009, I taught 6th grade earth science and mathematics for four years at an independent school in the US Virgin Islands on St. Thomas at a school called Antilles. After that, I taught 5th grade at El Dorado Community School in Santa Fe, NM. That brings me to the present day, working as the Garden Educator at Pittsburgh Colfax.
GP: What attracted you to this position?
Paul: I was attracted to this position because as a teacher, I find that students really thrive in a hands-on atmosphere such as a school garden. A garden has so many built in lessons that don’t easily transfer to a traditional classroom setting. When was a grade level teacher, I was always struggling to make sure my students were getting valuable experiences outside of our classroom due to being pulled in so many directions within the building. So when I found this position at Grow Pittsburgh, I became really excited to teach content that I really am passionate about in an amazing outdoor garden space that the teachers and school really value.
GP: What are you most looking forward to about being an ESY Garden Educator?
Paul: As an ESY Garden Coordinator, I am really looking forward to getting to know my students and learning the best ways to incorporate their natural enthusiasm into our garden spaces. A traditional classroom can sometimes be a challenging environment for some, so I am excited to find ways to make the garden a safe, welcoming, supportive, and educational space for all learners.
GP: Finally, give us some “fun facts” about yourself.
-I love skateboarding and have ever since I was ten years old. Even though I can’t really compete with my teenage self, I still ride almost every day, even if it’s just down the street to visit the mailbox.
-I have five pets (three cats and two dogs.) My oldest, Tony the cat, is 15 and he is from Monroeville. Stella the cat is the next oldest at 13 years old and she is from Santa Rosa, CA. Then there is Black Foot the cat, who is three and she is from St. Thomas in USVI. Then my two dogs, Nico who is 2 years old and Montana who is 1 year old, are both from Santa Fe, NM. I can’t imagine not having animals in my life.
-Music is one of my biggest passions. I play electric bass in two rock bands. Along with playing music I also love watching live music being performed, collecting records, and learning about new music from around the world.
-Despite the animosity this fact may elicit, I am a dedicated Cincinnati Bengals fan and have been since 1988, the last year they were featured in a Super Bowl. I am hopeful about our chances this year.
Welcome to the team, Paul!