For Pew, the best time in life is now

Former banker turned veteran math teacher settles into his role at McCallum.


Janssen Transier

Mr. Pew finishes demonstrating something on the board. “In students, I greatly admire courage and willingness to try something.”

Janssen Transier, staff reporter

The Shield: What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Paul Pew: Being useful to people. When people need me and I can give them what they need, that’s what I love about teaching
TS: What is your greatest fear?
PP: I’m not really motivated by fear. I guess the biggest one is that I’ll disappoint people. Or maybe dying of something itchy.
TS: What is the trait you most deplore in others?
PP: In students, I greatly admire courage, willingness to try something and intellectual curiosity. Those are my two favorite traits in young people—if they are curious and want to know something and are brave enough to try it.
TS: What is your greatest extravagance?
PP: I am not a person to buy myself things. I don’t like stuff, but I do like M&M’s, and I make sure I always have them. I just don’t have a need for much. My car starts in the morning, I have clean clothes, my house doesn’t leak, so I’m good. If I cared about having a lot of stuff, I would’ve kept being a banker.
TS: What is your current state of mind?
PP: I’m happy and healthy. I feel settled. It’s nice being old because you know who you are, you aren’t wondering about who you’re going to be

when your growing up. I think my 50s have been my favorite decade so far because I was settled. My relationships with my wife, my kids and my family were all good, my professional situation was solid, and I was 20 years into a job that I loved.
TS: what do you consider the most overrated virtue?
PP: Good looks because they fade; you get old and ugly. Good looks don’t stick around. I would rather surround myself with people who are kind than people who are pretty.
TS: Which person, living or dead, do you most despise?
PP: Pol Pot is on my list. He’s a good one because no one’s ever heard of him. Maybe they’ll look him up.
TS: What or who is the greatest love of your life?
PP: My sweetheart. My wife’s name is Mrs. Pew, or Kathryn to me; she’s a librarian and a computer whiz.
TS: When and where were you happiest?
PP: Honestly, right now, right here. I’m enjoying my advancing age; it’s fun, I’m settled.
TS: What is one talent you wished you had?
PP: I wish I could speak fluent Spanish like so many people here at McCallum can. TS: What do you consider your greatest achievement?
PP: I think I’m a good teacher; I’m a good piano player. I like that I’m able to do those things.
TS: If you were to die and come back as any person or thing, what would it be?
PP: I’d come back as a big rock because they last a really long time. Then you wouldn’t care if its cold or hot out because you’re just a rock.
TS: Where would you most like to live?
PP: I would like to live in Seattle because my grandchildren are there.
TS: What is your most treasured possession?
PP: Probably my piano. I was 58 years old when I got a good piano, and I’ve been playing since I was 4. Now I have a very nice grand piano, and I love it.
TS: Who are your favorite writers?
PP: I think J.K. Rowling is a terrible writer, but I love her stories, and I love the Harry Potter, series.
TS: Who is your hero of fiction? PP: Prior Phillip. Prior Phillip is a character in the novel Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, which is my favorite book. It’s set in the 12th century, and it’s based around the building of a cathedral. It’s very interesting, because he has to try and do the right thing amongst a bunch of corrupt bishops, sheriffs, soldiers, and kings and queen; he just has to hold his own and get his church built.
TS: What historical figure do you most identify with?
PP: Alexander Hamilton because I want someone to write a musical about me.
TS: Who is your real-life hero?
PP: Some of the people I work with here are extraordinary. Especially Mrs. Seckar and Ms. Sherline. They’re just good, strong, honest people who are amazing to work with.
TS: What are your favorite names?
PP: I guess David, Emily and Ellen because that’s what I named my children.
TS: What is your greatest regret?
PP: That I spent 10 years in banking when I should’ve just gone straight to teaching. I just got into banking because it was numbers and people and I was good at it. I was young and it was a stupid career move.
TS: How would you like to die?
PP: I get miserably sick and die in my sleep. Nothing dramatic, as Woody Allen said “I’m not afraid of death, I just don’t really want to be there.”
—interview by Janssen Transier