Teacher Spotlight: Dick Paaby

Teacher Spotlight: Dick Paaby

English teacher Dick Paaby is pictured in the 1983 yearbook as The Patriot moderator. Paaby currently teaches sophomore and senior English classes.

Brianna Glase, Online Chief

Back in the day, English teacher Dick Paaby could give Bear Grylls a run for his money. Biking to school every day, growing his own fruits and vegetables, and managing mountain hiking trips, he was, and in some ways still is, JC’s nature lover.

“It was an invigorating lifestyle, but that’s how I liked it,” Paaby said.

Paaby would spend a half-hour biking six and a half miles to JC each morning and evening.

“In the winter I’d come home around six or seven and it’d be pitch black. I’d have to try not to get run over.”

However, Paaby eventually had to switch modes of transportation. “I [rode my bike] for 20 years until my daughter was going to be a freshman. I asked her if she was going to ride with me every day and she said, ‘Dad, you’re nuts.” It was then that he had to start driving the family pickup truck. “[My daughter] was offended that she had to ride in a pickup truck. What do you want, a limo?”

Despite this, Paaby still continued to demonstrate his unity with nature by growing all of the plants consumed by his family.

“I raised virtually all of the fruits and vegetables we ate all year. My wife canned them,” Paaby said.

The house and the garage took up most of his three-quarter-acre property, leaving about a quarter of an acre for plants, according to Paaby. The remainder of the yard was reserved for gardening, with not much yard left.

“I’m not going to mow [grass] if I can eat what I grow,” Paaby said.

Despite the lack of space, Paaby was able to cultivate a fruitful garden. His harvest over the years came to include grapes, peaches, plums, raspberries, strawberries, apples, four kinds of lettuce, three kinds of tomatoes, two kinds of potatoes, string beans, lima beans, red beets, golden beets, peanuts, celery, and blueberries.

“My kids would get up in the morning and I’d say, ‘Do you want breakfast?’ They’d say, ‘yeah,’ and I’d say, ‘go out and get blueberries,’” Paaby said.

Paaby fondly remembers coming home to his wife baking something from their crops, particularly honey whole wheat bread.

“I could smell [her cooking] halfway up the block. By the time I unloaded my bike I was salivating like mad,” Paaby said.

According to Paaby, growing his own fruits and vegetables allowed his family to enjoy fruit while saving money.

“You’re working your rear end off so you can provide food for your family,” he said. “It did save money, but it was more of a lifestyle choice than anything.”

Paaby was able to share his love of nature even in teaching. For 15 years, he ran three annual camping trips. They were a six-day trip to West Virginia, an eight-day trip to the Adirondacks, and a 10-day trip to Mount Washington, the highest and most dangerous mountain in New England, according to Paaby.

“My concept of the program was to challenge students like they’ve never been challenged before,” Paaby said. He eventually stopped offering the trips due to lack of interest, though Paaby still enjoys hiking with his family and friends.

Brianna Glase is the Online Chief for The Patriot and jcpatriot.com.