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Longtime St. Joseph High School teacher gets building named after him

By ERICA RODRIGUEZ
April 12, 2011 at 5:04 p.m.
Updated June 29, 2011 at 1:29 a.m.

St. Joseph High School calculus teacher David Pozzi conducts a review in  class on Monday. Pozzi, a former student who has taught at St. Joseph for 43 years, will soon have a building named after him. A ground blessing for the David Pozzi Center will be outside the school along DeLeon Street at 10:15 a.m. Friday.

HISTORY OF ST. JOSEPH HIGH SCHOOL

1868 - The school is founded by Lawrence Wyer, a Catholic priest.

1902 - The school is closed after Wyer's death.

1906 - The school reopens by a group of the Brothers of Mary, a male religious order.

1937 - The school moves to its current site and the Brothers of Mary continues to run it.

1961 - David Pozzi graduates from St. Joseph High School.

1966 - Pozzi returns to the school to teach math as a part of the Brothers of Mary but leaves in 1970.

1970 - The number of brothers teaching dwindle to three and the school almost shuts down. With the help of the Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament and a board of directors, the school continues.

1972 - Pozzi returns to teach after leaving the Brothers of Mary.

1975 - The school becomes a co-ed school.

2011 - The school announces it will build a fine arts center names it in Pozzi's honor.

SOURCE: St. Joseph High School, David Pozzi

IF YOU GO

WHAT: Site blessing of the future David Pozzi Center

WHO: Open to the public

WHEN: 10:15 a.m. Friday

WHERE: O'Connor Hall at DeLeon Street entrance near 110 E. Red River St.

In David Pozzi's first years at St. Joseph High School, a shortage of teachers threatened to permanently shut down the school.

Pozzi, now a mild-mannered 67-year-old math and science teacher with glasses, is much too humble to elaborate about the history he helped preserve. In his more than 40 years teaching everything from computer programming to Latin, he created a teaching legend.

Now, because of a $1 million matching grant from the O'Connor Hewitt Foundation, he's getting a multi-million dollar building named after him.

"What, are y'all kidding?" Pozzi said. A low-key, peaceful man, he gets the animated when he remembers getting the news.

"As a teacher, your former students are your legacy. Everybody has that, but to get a building named after you is an even greater honor."

The new building, ironically, will hold everything but math classes. It's needed to help fine arts programs like band, theater and the journalism classes, said school president William McArdle, and will sit at the corner of Red River and DeLeon streets.

"Although education is not about bricks and mortar - it's about the people and the institution - there does come a time when technology and bricks and mortar need to be addressed and become a part of that equation that leads to success," McArdle said.

Theater students now use a non-air-conditioned building built in the 1940s to practice and journalism students need room for computers.

"These are absolute needs for the school. Not wants," McArdle said.

The school's already raised about $2.6 million to go toward its $6.5 million fundraising campaign. About $1.8 million of the funds were already spent this school year to upgrade the O'Connor and Welder halls, technology and the cafeteria.

The grant will match the next $1 million of donations, but before the grant was given, Robert Hewitt Jr., vice-president of the foundation, requested one thing: the building should be named after his most memorable teacher.

"What I remember about David is, I guess, he was pretty no nonsense," he said. "Not a stern man, certainly, but he was there to enlighten his students, and I think he's very accomplished at that."

Hewitt had Pozzi for a ninth-grade algebra class and his legacy has stayed with him every since.

"I kind of considered myself a bit of a nerd, and it was heartening and refreshing to see a teacher who wasn't afraid to stand up for the power of learning," he said. "He's an excellent teacher and no other teacher at that school deserves to be honored in that way more than him."

For Pozzi, teaching is an act of faith. He started teaching as a 21-year-old member of the Brothers of Mary, a Catholic men's order.

"It's the basis for it," he said. "It's not about math or whatever. It's about helping them as persons."

Pozzi's taught every math class the school has offered and all but one of its science classes. When he was getting his master's degree, he added physics classes to his course load because the school needed a physics teacher. He was a common chaperone for school dances and even drove school buses to football games.

These days, he's semi-retired, but still takes on a calculus class to keep him around students.

"They're fun, and I guess that's why I resisted the pull to get involved with administration because I didn't want to give up the classroom," he said.

He has no magical method to longtime teaching success. It comes down to inspiring students to have a good work ethic.

"Basically, the trick is to get them to work at it," he said. "You're just there to help them learn and if you can get them to work at it, you'll be all right."

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