by Emi F '09

Teacher of the Month: Mr. Jim Napolitano

So Jim, did you always want to be a high school math teacher?

J:I always wanted to be a teacher, from a very young age, and originally I thought I’d wind up being a physics teacher, physics was my favorite subject in high school. It turns out that when I went to become a teacher I discovered that because my undergraduate degree is electrical engi­neering that NYS did not recognize electrical engi­neering as either science or math  but it was more easily, (by getting copies of the catalogue and course description to get them to acknowledge the electri­cal engineering courses as) acknowledged as math courses rather than phys­ics courses even though it is really related to both. It is very heavy math, so electrical engineering is es­sentially math. I previously ended up going into indus­try because I got married young and I couldn’t earn enough money so I wanted to earn money and raise a family and do all that first and by then it was too late to go get a doctorate and do all that. So I love high school and I wouldn’t teach lower grades, I wouldn’t be good at it, it’s not my thing. I envisioned myself origi­nally as a college teacher, but I love working with older kids.


How many years have you been a math teacher?

J: 7. I was in high-tech in­dustry for 25 years. After my second son was almost done with college, I got the younger one graduated from Columbia and the sec­ond one was almost done with NYU, it was time. I was sick of traveling, sick of being on the road.


Where was your favorite place to travel?

J: No place. My favorite place to travel was home. When you’ve been on the road as much as I have, it sounds exotic, like great fun, ‘oh I ate in that restau­rant over there and that’s really fantastic…’ but I wanted tuna fish sandwich­es, I wanted cold pizza. I wanted a regular life.


You would love to time travel back to…

First of all, you do know it’s logically impossible to travel back in time to be­fore a time machine was created. So if we created a time machine right this in­stant the only time I would be able to travel to would be that passed instant. But ignoring that philosophical discussion… well remem­ber there’s no such thing as going back in time because it is space-time. So what you’re really asking me is: is there a time in history when I would have liked to have lived? Now that’s a better question. Because if I say “I wanna go back 10,000 years to this point” then boom I’d be in empty space because the universe expands. So its a much more complex question.


So, then when would you want to live in history?

That’s a very interesting question. The time period that fascinates me the most, that I’ve studied the most historically is the Cold War time period because I’m a child of the Cold War. That was a time of great stability and normalcy in America and yet a time of great suf­fering if you were a minor­ity. I would very much like to go back to that. I would like to be more politically involved then because I was perhaps at 4 years old and 8 years old then.


So if you were ever to go to jail for something what do you think it would be? Like what are you very passionate about?

Oh, I’m passionate about a lot of things. I mean I don’t want to go to jail for any­thing, of course we try not to break the law. But not all laws are moral. Just because there’s a law, doesn’t mean that it’s moral. An example would be the slavery law…so its possible that I could go to jail if there were laws that were enacted that seri­ously affect our freedom. That I could be part of a movement that would fight against that. If you talk about today, I mean one of the things I really hate are bullies. As a matter of fact just yesterday, I was walk­ing to school, and on my way to school there were four guys on a corner, one of the guys was a little bit bigger, and these are men in their twenties, and the one who was a little bit bigger had the other one who was smaller against the wall. This is the kind of thing that could send me to jail. Because when I see that, I get involved. So, I got involved. I yelled, using my deep voice (laughter), ‘What’s going on here?’  and I got in the middle of it and the guys said ‘No, No problem.’ I mean you have to do what’s right.


If your house were on fire what would the first 4 things you take with you be?

J: You know, I thought about that and assuming I’m in my house and have clothes on, but empty pock­ets, the first thing I’d grab is my wallet. It’s the prac­tical side, you know, iden­tification, money, credit card, all that kind of stuff. Second thing I’d grab is my backup disk drive. Because it’s a couple of 100 giga­bytes, and that disk drive has my entire life on it. It’s got all of the power points and everything I’ve done in school, it’s got financial records, it’s got all kinds of stuff. The third thing I’d grab is a gift that my sons brought back for me from Europe. It is something from the two of them and that’s because by the way, my disk drive has all my pictures of my aunt and my brothers and sisters, fam­ily. The fourth thing would probably be a stack of cards and notes and letters from Mary, from my girlfriend, woman friend…


If you had to lick a home­less man’s foot or eat gum of the stairwell which would you do and why?

Lick a homeless man’s foot because taking gum off the stairwell won’t impact a human being positively but licking a homeless man’s foot [would], just like in some famous literature when people washed each other’s feet. I would rather lick a homeless man’s foot to give him dignity. If that’s indeed what it did. It cer­tainly would have no other meaning.


If you were on a deserted island which BSGE teach­er would you bring with you and why?

Huh. Oh man I can get in a lot of trouble for that an­swer. That’s really tough. Well, different people for different reasons. If I was interested in survival I’d probably want Greg Hofer because he’s one of those  super Eagle Scout, 4,000 badge kind of guys that takes boy scouts all over the place. If I wanted entertain­ment I would take Aly be­cause  he’s muy entertain­ing. If I wanted someone to complain to I’d take Adam Noor to ask him “why can’t the union fix this prob­lem?” That’s what I want. You know, truly I’d want someone like Chris Potter or Adam [Noor] or Connie You to teach me TOK or to teach me literature.


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