Katie Sullivan Borrelli Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin Published 8:00 a.m. ET April 14, 2019 | Updated 8:53 a.m. ET April 14, 2019
John Perricone promised his students he’d pay for the meal if they ever wanted to catch up after graduation and 1000 did. Katie Sullivan Borrelli, firstname.lastname@example.org | @ByKatieSullivan
Over there in a booth by the windows, retired Maine-Endwell high school teacher John Perricone sits across from two of his former students: Jamie Hess Sr., class of 1987, and his son, Jamie Hess Jr., class of 2014.
They order eggs and toast, a cup of coffee and a glass of tomato juice. Perricone asks for a bowl of sliced bananas.
If he ate a full breakfast every time he hosted one of these meetings at Endwell’s Broadway Diner, he says, he wouldn’t be able to fit into the booth.
Hess Sr. and Hess Jr. are the 999th and 1,000th former students who’ve joined Perricone’s Breakfast Club, taking him up on an offer the former health and psychology teacher made on the last day of classes for each of his 31 years of teaching.
If ever they wanted, he told his graduating students, he’d treat them to breakfast at the Broadway Diner — owned by the Anastos family, some members of which are also former students — to catch up “in real time.”
“If I can ever be of service to you beyond today, it would be my honor,” he’d tell them, writing his personal contact information on the board behind him. “The bell may end class, but it doesn’t necessarily have to end the relationship.”
Retired Maine-Endwell High School teacher John Perricone, right, chats with former students Jamie Hess (Class of 1987) and Jamie Hess Jr. (Class of 2014) at the Broadway Diner in Endwell. (Photo: Katie Sullivan Borrelli / Staff Photo)
Mr. Perricone’s Breakfast Club
Since Perricone’s retirement from teaching — Hess Jr.’s 2014 class was his last — he’s launched a speaking career to inspire students and teachers, which has taken him to all 50 states and expanded his Breakfast Club to include reunion dinners at hosts’ homes and lunches at local haunts in the cities he visits.
A simple, sincere offer to catch up on life has sparked hundreds of reunions through the years, packed Perricone’s Facebook timeline with posts of posed photos in front of the chrome bar at the Broadway Diner, and proved just how profoundly this high school teacher impacted his students’ lives.
It was three or four years ago — neither of them can remember the exact date — when Perricone, who’s kept count of how many meals he’s shared with former students, posted on Facebook that he had reached 600, and that’s when Hess Sr. picked up the phone.
Retired Maine-Endwell High School teacher John Perricone, center, chats with former students Jamie Hess (Class of 1987) and Jamie Hess Jr. (Class of 2014) at the Broadway Diner in Endwell. (Photo: Katie Sullivan Borrelli / Staff Photo)
“Mr. P,” he said, “we want to be your 999th and 1000th.”
For Hess Sr., it would be an opportunity to thank the man who he says genuinely wanted to see him succeed and for his son to thank the teacher who he said “really tried his best to make everyone comfortable and excited to go to class.”
“That’s not normally something you’re going to get from a high school health class,” Hess Jr. said.
On the last day of classes, retired Maine-Endwell High School teacher John Perricone promised his students breakfast on him at the Broadway Diner and elsewhere. So far, 1000 former students have taken him up on that offer. (Photo: Photo provided)
How a teacher learned from his students
At this breakfast, planned years in advance, for which Hess Sr. flew up from Florida and Hess Jr. drove home late the night before from the University at Buffalo, where he’s a junior, the trio quickly fall into easy conversation about how their lives are going.
Perricone asks Hess Jr. about the best and worst things in Buffalo — he likes all the events and activities, doesn’t like the winter weather — and asks Hess Sr. how long it took him to get acclimated to life in Florida — not long, since he’s not a fan of cold winter weather either.
Perricone recalls how proud he felt the day Hess Sr., who was the senior class president in 1987, delivered his speech at graduation 32 years prior.
“He so seized the moment,” Perricone said. “Jamie revealed a part of him that night we knew was there.”
Hess Jr.’s class, Perricone says, goes everywhere with him when he travels, thanks to the photo he shows teachers at his speaking engagements. It’s a group photo of Perricone’s last class he ever taught, one of many from each of his classes he keeps in an album. Every student in the photo is shown laughing, though Perricone won’t reveal what he said to get them to laugh.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever laughed harder than I did in my class,” Perricone said. “I looked forward to it every day.”
John Perricone looks at a photo of his last class on his phone. Jamie Hess Jr. was a member of the 2014 class at Maine-Endwell High School. (Photo: Katie Sullivan Borrelli / Staff Photo)
With Perricone, conversation never veers too far away from his love for teaching; he’s moved by gratitude for what the profession — and specifically his students — has given him.
He’s touched to learn Hess Jr. forwent a lunch period his senior year so he could be in Perricone’s class, thanks him and his father for being part of those classes near the beginning and at the very end of his career, for making the trip to share this meal.
“You have no idea what it means to me,” he tells them.
On the last day of classes, retired Maine-Endwell High School teacher John Perricone promised his students breakfast on him at the Broadway Diner and elsewhere. So far, 1000 former students have taken him up on that offer. (Photo: Photo provided)
‘Not to waste a single heartbeat’
Earlier in the meal, a 4-year-old girl stopped by to say “hi” to Perricone. She’s a student of Hidy Ochiai’s Little Panda class in Vestal, which Perricone helps teach, having also been a student of Ochiai’s for 45 years.
In fact, Perricone credits Ochiai’s influence for his decision to become a teacher.
“He had such a profound impact on me growing up that when it came time to choose a profession, I literally couldn’t think of anything higher to aspire to. I thought if he had the kind of impact on my life, I wanted to try, with my one and only existence, to make a significant difference in the lives of others as he had mine,” he said. “If there is one lesson that he has imparted to me over the span of my training with him, and this is by his actions and not his words, it is to endeavor to live my life so as not to waste a single heartbeat.”
Retired Maine-Endwell High School teacher John Perricone reads a message he plans to post on Facebook, announcing the 999th and 1000th breakfast he’s shared with a former student. (Photo: Katie Sullivan Borrelli / Staff Photo)
That’s a message he uses to inspire the teachers he works with now on their staff development days, to prove high academic standards and impassioned teaching don’t have to be mutually exclusive, “they can beautifully coexist.”
He has 1,000 Breakfast Club students to prove it.
“It’s been a beautiful, beautiful journey that I get to continue in the speaking work that I do,” he said. “I could not have envisioned a better quote-unquote retirement.”
Before they pay the bill — Perricone always treats — and go their separate ways, Perricone reads from a post he’s drafted for the occasion of his 999th and 1000th Breakfast Club reunion, ready to publish on Facebook once he and his two former students take a photo together in front of the chrome bar.
“May these two men, who represent almost the entire span of my career,” he says of Hess Sr. and Hess Jr., “represent all of you who have graced my life with yours and who have made my life so worth living.”
So what’s next now that Perricone has reached 1,000 reunions?
“One thousand and one,” he says.
This article appeared in the Press and Sun Bulletin, and on their website: pressconnects.com on April 14, 2019.
This is copied directly from their site.
After 26 years in the classroom, I am convinced that one of the most misconstrued and abused movements in education spanning the last three decades has been the so-called “self-esteem” movement.
The assumption fueling this cause was the belief that high self-esteem would be the great innoculator protecting us from many of the social maladies plaguing our society. Sadly, research has demonstrated that untold numbers of inmates currently incarcerated in our nation’s prisons score very high on “self-esteem” tests. In a recent interview, Eric Menendez stated that he felt very good about himself. I’m sure his parents would be so proud of him had he not bludgeoned them to death.
Though I think it’s safe to assume that every impassioned educator would agree that self-esteem is indispensable to one’s psychological development, the question of what self-esteem actually is and how one develops it is still a mystery that has, in my humble opinion, sadly translated to an epidemic of under-achievement and in many cases the delusion of “false confidence.”
One only has to glimpse a few episodes of “American Idol” to see what happens when young people who are clearly lacking in singing ability are forced to confront the reality of what they do not possess. To maintain some modicum of self-respect in the face of their thwarted dreams, they usually choose one of two options – they dismiss the judges as incompetent imbeciles, or they leave the stage in tears, crushed by the knowledge that they are not the singer that they thought they were.
I remember sitting with my sister (who has a beautiful singing voice) several years ago in a high school auditorium and we were both gripping our armrests, white-knuckled, as a young woman gave her senior voice recital. There is no easy way to say this other than to state that it was excruciatingly painful to endure these dissonant notes juxtaposed to the knowledge that it was her lifelong dream to one day sing at the Metropolitan Opera.
The questions that were forced to my consciousness that night (which I believe have applications to all of us who love our students and who want more than anything to see them fulfill their destinies) were, how did she get there? Did teachers really help her in encouraging her along a path where clearly her talents did not lie?
(I learned a long time ago that, given my short stature, I was not going to play for the Knicks and this allowed me to get on with what my life was going to be about.)
Perhaps most important, where is the line for educators distinguishing healthy encouragement of a student’s dreams and falsely guiding them toward delusional beliefs that will ultimately be destructive – all in the interest of ensuring that we do not damage their delicate psyches and self-esteem?
I couldn’t help but think: Where will this young woman’s “self-esteem” be when she encounters the Simon Colwells of the world and brutal reality hits the fan? Will she be grateful to her former teachers who nurtured her beliefs about her abilities? (I remember seeing a third-grader walking down the hallway of his school and a teacher saying to him as he passed by “Excellent walking, Billy!” My immediate thought was “What’s next, trophies for breathing?”)
Though I have read countless books and attended a seemingly endless number of workshops on this elusive topic (much of which I believe were exercises in psychobable), some of the most poignant work I have read that gives definitive focus and insight into what self-esteem is and how one might actually go about developing it is the work of psychologist Nathaniel Brandon.
He suggests that self-esteem has two essential components:
1. Self-efficacy – the confidence in the ability to cope with life’s challenges. Self-efficacy leads to a sense of control over one’s life.
2. Self-respect – experiencing oneself as deserving of happiness, achievement, and love. Self-respect makes possible a sense of community with others.
Brandon is the first to admit that the strengthening of self- esteem is not a quick or easy process, and that its attainment is the consequence of following fundamental internal practices that require ongoing commitment to self-examination. He calls these practices the Six Pillars of Self-Esteem:
Living consciously: Paying attention to information and feedback about needs
and goals. Facing facts that may be uncomfortable or threatening.
Refusing to wander through life in a self-induced fog.
Self-acceptance: Being willing to experience whatever we truly think, feel, or do, even if we don’t always like it. Facing our mistakes and learning from them.
Self-responsibility: Establishing a sense of control over our lives by realizing that we are responsible for our choices and actions at every level – the achievement of our goals, our happiness, our values.
Self-assertiveness: The willingness to express appropriately our thoughts, values, and feelings – to stand up for ourselves. To speak and act from our deepest convictions.
Living purposefully: Setting realistic goals (given an honest awareness of our strengths and weaknesses) and working to achieve them, rather than living at the mercy of chance and outside forces. Developing self-discipline.
Integrity: The integration of our behavior with our ideals, convictions, standards & beliefs – acting in congruence with what we truly believe is right.
I believe that these principles warrant thoughtful reflection by all of us in education who believe that it is our mission to help our students live their lives at the fullest and deepest expression of their humanity.
I have learned in my career that our students are often much more resilient than we give them credit for, and that more than anything, they appreciate our honesty. Young people are great “crap” detectors, and if we are truly interested in helping them grow, that is the last thing we should be shoveling.
Gold Stars, Grades, and Pizza Parties Sap the Love of Learning.
“Hey guys, would you give me a hand moving these desks?”
“Sure, Mr. Perricone. What’s in it for us?”
“What do you mean?” I ask, somewhat dejected.
“You know, maybe some extra credit?”
I stare at them in disbelief. They sense my discomfort, and the issue is dropped as they scurry to help me with the desks.
As an educator and as a parent, I have grave concerns about the mindset of many of our young people—What will you give me? It’s a mindset I believe my own profession and many parents are largely responsible for because we use external rewards (pizza parties, candy, etc.) to motivate (bribe) our students and children to read, perform, and behave.
At least two dozen studies clearly suggest that these practices are counterproductive. In one typical study, children were introduced to an unfamiliar beverage called Kefir. Some were just asked to drink; others were praised lavishly for doing so; a third group was promised treats if the students drank enough. Those who received verbal or tangible rewards consumed more than the other children, as one might predict. But a week later, the praised and rewarded children found Kefir significantly less appealing than they did before, whereas those who were offered no rewards liked it just as much as they had earlier. If we substitute reading, or doing math, or acting generously for drinking Kefir, we begin to glimpse the destructive nature of extrinsic reward systems.
Do rewards motivate students? Absolutely. They motivate students to get rewards. They do not motivate children to learn.
Educator Alfie Kohn argues that when someone says, “Do this and you will get that,” it automatically devalues “this.” The recipient of the reward figures that if they have to be bribed, “this” must be something they wouldn’t want to do for its own sake. How can we send such a sad message about learning to our kids? Our message to children should be that the reward for reading a great book is a story that inspires or moves them, not coupons to Pizza Hut or M&M’s. Our children are not trained seals.
Certainly not everything worth learning in life is fun and exciting. I don’t remember being thrilled learning my times tables, but man, am I glad I did. But I believe every teacher, within their subject matter, should be able to answer their students’ question, “Of what value is this to my life?” with an answer more meaningful and profound than “It’s on the exam!”
I tell my students from the first day that I wish I did not have to give grades, but the system requires that I do. I tell them I see their grades as simply indicators of progress, like road signs on a trip, not ends in themselves.
I ask them: Why are you getting an education? (Typical response: to get a good job.) And why do you want a good job? (So I can make money.) And why do you want money? (So I can live.) And what do you live for? (Silence.) And so begins our discussion about how education can be a tool for living a meaningful and fulfilled life.
I recognize that we live in a capitalistic world, and money keeps it spinning. But making money doesn’t have to be a person’s only focus in life—otherwise, there would be no teachers! It’s no secret that many people who have high-paying jobs are miserable.
I ask myself as I’m planning each lesson, “If I were a student listening to this, would I find it interesting and meaningful to my life?” If the answer is “no,” I start over until the answer is “yes.”
And if any student ever feels compelled to ask, “Mr. Perricone, what do we get if we win this competition on nutrients today?” I simply answer, “What do you get? You get smarter.”
John Perricone has been a high school health educator in Endwell, New York, for 21 years and has received seven consecutive Distinguished Teacher Awards presented by the senior class.
The amount of positive feedback we received from your keynote presentation was tremendous! You were kind, emphatic, and so humorous — but you never strayed from recognizing the impact that we, as educators have, in the life of a child. I would be delighted to serve as a reference for you in the future. I believe the email I received from a faculty member (noted below) best summarizes the feelings expressed by our faculty. Again, many thanks for all that you have done in support of our Superintendent’s Conference Day agenda. It was a meaningful and most inspirational day for everyone involved!
I wanted to say thank you to you and the Superintendent’s Conference Day Committee for bringing John Perricone to Great Neck for our Superintendent’s Conference Day. His keynote was exceptional! John inspired me to spend the later part of the afternoon researching the concept of Sho-shin. I look forward to hanging the symbol on my classroom wall as a reminder to begin each day with an attitude of openness, eagerness and a lack of preconceptions. I also appreciated having the opportunity to spend time with John in the breakout session-discussing how all of us can continue to learn and grow as educators and as human beings. Thank you again!
“As a former student of John Perricone’s, and now as a High School Principal myself, I was thrilled to bring Mr. Perricone’s enthusiasm, wit, humor and his indispensable message to both our students and faculty alike – and to do so all the way across the globe in Asia! He brings the same passion and energy to his keynote speeches that he brought to his students and classroom every day, as he lives the ethos that he espouses, and his message has never been more paramount than in today’s rapidly changing world.
Any secondary school – whether public, private or international – would be wise to bring John Perricone to campus to address their student body about the importance of “Developing Inner Strength,” and to also address one’s faculty about why we teach, who we are, and why our work is among the most meaningful and impactful of all endeavors. Regardless of one’s location – whether in the United States or across the globe – Mr. Perricone’s message will resonate with your constituents, and he’ll have absolutely no problem holding their collective attention in the same entertaining way that he taught his own students for over thirty years. Take it from me, I’ve been so very fortunate to experience both!”
Daniel Kriebel, Principal – Secondary School St. Johnsbury Academy Jeju
Global Education City, Jeju Island, South Korea email@example.com
All I’ve heard this afternoon was how wonderful your message was for our staff! We loved the beautiful concepts of Sho-shin and Kai-zen as they apply to our lives and our profession, and so many teachers told me that it was just what they needed at this time in our district’s evolution. Be assured that the sharing of your personal stories touched our hearts. As a leader and an educator, I only hope that I can have as profound an impact on one person as you have had on so many. It was kismet that brought you to us at the right time. We are a grateful school district. Thank you!
Dr. Marilyn Tencza, Ed. D. Superintendent, Leicester Public Schools firstname.lastname@example.org 508-892-7040
John Perricone was a GIFT to the Atwater Elementary School District. His presentation provided the opportunity to deeply reflect upon our individual journeys in education. John’s humble and humorous message hit home to the 300+ educators in our gym. I have received numerous emails from staff saying, “Thank you for bringing John to our district!” His message is a reminder of why we are educators, why we became educators, and the positive impact we will continue to have if we remember that RELATIONSHIP is the key. We laughed, we cried, we were inspired, and we were motivated to continue the good work of educating our future generations!
Dr. Sandra Schiber, Superintendent
Atwater Elementary School District Atwater, California email@example.com 209-357-6100 x305
Hello Mr. Perricone!
I’m a support staff worker for special needs children from the Lincoln Intermediate Unit 12, and we watched your session remotely today and I just wanted to say thank you! Your speaking engagement was honestly the best I have ever seen and I can’t express how meaningful and inspiring your words were. I will definitely spread the word because every school, educator, support staff, social worker (the list could go on and on) should hear your message!
Thank you so much!
“John Perricone opened our back to school rally with a roaring success. The teachers and staff in the Higley Unified School District left with their hearts full of joy, love, and they were reenergized to start the new school year. We laughed, we cried and we became emotionally involved in the eloquent and impassioned stories of trials and success. Many veteran teachers commented that this was the best kickoff that they had ever experienced in their careers. Our district is all abuzz with the enthusiasm and anticipation of the return of our students on Monday. If you are interested in building a better culture in your district John Perricone is your man!
Thank you, Mr. Perricone, for bringing joy and excitement to our district. I so look forward to working with you again in the future.
Mike Thomason, Ed.D., Superintendent,
Higley Unified School District Gilbert, Arizona firstname.lastname@example.org 480-279-7049
“Mr. Perricone had immediate credibility with our staff based on his thirty-one years of classroom experience. That credibility only grew throughout his presentation as he delivered his impassioned message (heartfelt and humorous storytelling!) — inspiring and challenging all of us in attendance to truly reflect on who we are as teachers and to how we would want to be remembered when our lives are one day being recalled. The number of individuals who stayed to talk with him and who voluntarily attended his breakout session clearly showed the impact he had during those two hours. The best speaker we have had in our district in a very long time. Outstanding message and delivery!”
Randy Brzezinski, Director of Educational Services
Bath Central School District Bath, NY email@example.com 607-622-1105
“In the field of education, we are always working on improvement in all facets of our work, and as educators, the most important might be self-reflection and improvement from within. John Perricone is a true educator who understands the nuances that define an educator’s world. He is now considered a superstar in our district after presenting to our staff!
He has a captivating, heartfelt approach as he shares his personal experiences and philosophy which serve to motivate and inspire educators. I took a chance on bringing him to our district as I didn’t know him before his coming here, and he left us wanting to hear more! Thank you John for your honest, thought-provoking presentation that captivated us all! We can’t wait to have you back!”
“Mr. Perricone is a fabulous speaker! My staff laughed and sometimes cried as they related to his experiences as an educator. He reaffirmed the purpose of “WHY” we do what we do and encouraged them to appreciate the whole child. His charismatic and charming demeanor made the staff feel comfortable and relaxed. His energy and real-world approach kept the staff engaged and inspired. We all know it’s easy to get bogged down in bureaucracy and time constraints, but his message uplifted my staff and reminded them to teach each day as if it were their last. His message reminds us that we leave a lasting impact on the lives our students and that we must strive to make it a positive and meaningful one. We highly recommend a visit from Mr. Perricone — you will not be disappointed!”
Rhonda Ellington, Principal Mullen Elementary
Prince William County Schools Manassas, Virginia Ellingre@pwcs.edu 703-330-0427
“Today’s opening day with John Perricone was one for the record books! Every staff member related to his words, his enthusiasm, his passion for the work that we all do. It was the most memorable opener in my 20 years here!”
“I am honored to have invited John to our district. With every word, he captured the hearts and minds of the school community. I can’t wait to have him back to speak to our students. An amazing beginning to a great year ahead!”
Patti Morris, Superintendent of Stillwater Central Schools,
Stillwater, New York firstname.lastname@example.org 518-373-6100
We welcomed John Perricone to our region as the keynote speaker for our conference day with special area teachers and what a treat! John has over thirty years experience teaching and he so eloquently shared his love, passion, and philosophy of education with heartfelt and deeply moving stories (and humor!) – all of which served as a backdrop for us to reflect upon our own commitment to our profession. Who better to motivate and inspire a group of educators than a successful veteran who understands the joy as well as the challenges of teaching? John captured our hearts and revitalized our passion while inspiring us with the knowledge of Sho-shin! (Cherishing our ‘beginner’s mind’) Thank you Mr. Perricone for reminding us that good teaching is an art — and of the powerful and resonating impact that teachers can have on their students and their families’ lives! You are a true inspiration!
Sara Fontana, Supervisor of Instructional Support Services, GST BOCES email@example.com 607-739-3581 x2322
“I wanted to share how fortunate I was yesterday to hear John Perricone speak to the Spencer-East Brookfield staff. It was the best professional development/opening day I’ve ever had as a teacher. A former teacher of thirty-one years, and a inspirational speaker/writer/educational philosopher who travels the country, he shared so many wonderful anecdotes and how to find our identity within education. Using the Japanese expression sho-shin, which translates to “Beginner’s mind,” he encouraged us all to treat each day with the same excitement as though it were your first day teaching. (In fact, I’ve hung a poster of sho-shin right next to my desk to see every morning.). His visit and gentle words rejuvenated my spirit with how lucky we are to be in this noblest of professions and the positive impact we can have on people’s lives. I have already ordered his book, “Zen and the Art of Public School Teaching,” and look forward to keeping in touch with him in the future.”
Jake Dustin, Spencer-East Brookfield
“Mr. Perricone, it was an absolute honor listening to you speak with such passion and laughing with you as if we had known each other for years. I can say I have never been so inspired by a speaker as I was by you yesterday morning. I can only hope to have as big an impact on one person as you have so obviously had on so many. Thank you times a million for being you and doing what you do.”
Heather Nichelle, Spencer-East Brookfield
Bringing Mr. Perricone to my district made for the best opening day I’ve had in the five years that I’ve been the Superintendent of Glide.
My faculty and I were so impressed with Mr. Perricone’s message and the manner in which he inspires everyone to be the best expression of themselves (instructional and non-instructional staff as well) that we booked him on the spot for next year! He brought us all together as unified whole, and the pride that he instilled in my staff was unprecedented. I cannot thank him enough for his contributions and we eagerly await his return next August!
“John Perricone is inspiration, motivation, and celebration all wrapped up in a package that is one of the best gifts that you can give your teachers. In this day and age when teachers feel so challenged by circumstances, John has the ability to help them reconnect with their love of children and their love of learning. Using humor, personal stories from his own career and research, Mr. Perricone provides a compelling case for elevating the mission of teaching to its highest level. John presented to our faculty in January of 2017. I brought him back as a surprise in June. The teachers were thrilled, and once again, John had them completely captivated the entire time. Mindset and culture are difficult aspects of an organization to touch in just two hours, but Mr. Perricone has definitely made his indelible mark on TASD.”
While attending today’s Personal Development Day at our first day of school, I had the distinct honor of meeting Mr. John Perricone! Mr. Perricone is a keynote speaker, educational consultant, reknowned author, and an exceptional and brilliant human being, and I’m a better man for having heard him today!
Blaine Geyer Bellmawr, New Jersey September 2016
“If you are seeking to inspire your staff not only about teaching, but about life, then John Perricone is the perfect keynote speaker. His message touches the heart and uplifts the soul. His words of wisdom helped so many of my staff regain their perspective on why they chose to become teachers. He uses his oratory gifts to reaffirm the importance and intrinsic value of educators and the essential contributions they make to the greater good. John left an indelible impression on our school district and his impact will be felt for many years to come. I have never heard so many positive comments from my staff after an Opening Day Convocation. I would not hesitate to recommend John to come and share his unique reflections on how to be inspired to teach joyfully every day and live a fulfilled life to any group of educators. His keynote address was not only inspiring — it was life changing. He is awesome!”
Although it has been several weeks since you were the keynote speaker at Evergreen Mill Elementary School, the memory of your presentation is still vivid and evident throughout our building. Your words inspired, motivated, and touched people’s hearts. You are an amazing motivational speaker! You have our deepest appreciation for having served as a teacher. On behalf of Evergreen Mill Elementary School, thank you for a most memorable presentation and we so look forward to seeing you again next year for your secondary address.
I was the teacher that introduced myself before your keynote.
I want you to know that your presentation has rekindled in me a love, appreciation, and gratitude towards my profession. My Dad passed away in the arms of myself, my sister Linda, and my brother Steve on January 8th of this year. We spoke everyday — he was my best friend, counselor, cheerleader, comedic relief, and so much more.
Since his passing, I’ve had (and still am having) a very difficult time. I know one of my Dad’s proudest moments was the day I became a teacher. Your presentation helped redirect my sadness and reminded me how much my Dad would want me to embrace life and cherish my profession. Thank you for helping me. I feel like a different person. Thank you for bringing so much light to my life and our entire district.
Barb VanDerwarker, Queensbury Schools
“Your presentation to our faculty and staff at “Opening Day” was outstanding! You touched our minds and more importantly our hearts with your powerful message and insightful address. It was the perfect start to our school year!”
I wanted to write to share my thoughts on your visit to Evergreen Mill this week. I am currently a special education teacher and am pursuing a master’s degree in Educational Leadership. As part of the program I am required to complete an internship. Upon completion of each relevant activity, we are to reflect on our experiences to include it’s impact on our development as leaders. You are the epitome of what I strive to be each day and so desire for my future family of teachers to be. While your presentation was unforgettable, I wanted to be sure to document your visit not only as a reminder for myself as I’m going through this program as to why I do what I do, but also as a reminder to schedule you as a speaker in the first building I have the opportunity to be an instructional leader Thank you again for your enlightening presentation. I am so excited for the upcoming school year!
Jessica Hoefs, Learning Specialist Evergreen Mill Elementary School
“What a great way to begin a new school year! John did a fabulous job in addressing our consortium of eight schools here in Oklahoma. His delivery is amazing, as he speaks with such passion and a love for education. If you believe educating the whole child starts with developing relationships with students, you will want John Perricone to speak to your staff.”
“Wow!” would be just one word of many that I would use to describe a recent teacher in-service with guest speaker, John Perricone.
Mr. Perricone provided an uplifting and thought- provoking experience for all of us in attendance — so much so, that my colleagues and I spoke of him and and what he imparted days after the in-service had passed. His ability to mix humor with a seriousness tone, while raising the bar for what we can all aspire to be as teachers was unprecedented in my experience, and his address kept us all riveted and totally invested in what he had to say from beginning to end. We left his address with a renewed sense of purpose for our calling as educators. Thank you so much, Mr. Perricone!
Thea Bierman, 2nd Grade Teacher
Jim Thorpe School District
“You have a gift and it is so wonderful that you are able to impact, influence, and uplift so many with your words, thoughts, experiences, and actions. So blessed to have come in contact with such a sincere and caring educator! Keep up the beautiful work that you are doing in this world!”
All the best my friend,
Rob Gasparello, Principal Sharpstown High School, Houston, Texas
Hello, Mr. Perricone,
I just wanted to thank you for your presentation yesterday. How I wish it was recorded! What you said spoke to the fighter in me I thought was dead and gone. Today I went back to my class in a new way, remembering the fun I used to have. I started singing to the kids again and even hit the gym after school for the first time since September! Most importantly, I heard someone speaking a message I rarely hear, that we were called to accomplish something special in our lives as teachers, and it’s a blessing to be an educator and a parent, as hard as it is. Thank you for the reminder.
John’s presentations are, in a word, inviting. Namely they are from the outset and throughout, a sincere invitation for each of us to embrace the opportunity to reflect on why we do what we do, and to move ourselves beyond the barriers of our thinking related to our life and professional situation into spaces that inspire pragmatic re-considerations of what we do in our classrooms, as members of our professional communities, and in our lives as committed educators, never failing to leave us with renewed optimism.
Again and again, this is the outcome of his visits. And they are just that, visits. They start with his personal greeting at the door, continue with his self-effacing manner and grounded engagement with those in attendance, and conclude roughly an hour later as inspiring entreaty to (re)invest ourselves in the ideas that made us want to teach in the first place, underscoring his wish for us to continue the conversation with him, with each other, and beyond, as we filter back into our own life places.
I’ve known John for some time. I’ve read his book. We’ve shared many conversations. I’ve watched him teach. And yet hearing him speak for the first time at Penn State opened yet another vista for me to think through who I am as an educator and powerfully rekindle the passion behind all I am trying to do in that role. In a word, he re-frames — and reclaims – teaching as art and artistry, providing a reason to believe in it and ourselves once again. Inspirational isn’t a strong enough word to describe what he does. Rather, life-affirming gets closer to the mark.
C. Michael Elavsky, Ph.D., Associate Professor
College of Communications
The Pennsylvania State University 115 Carnegie Building
University Park, Pennsylvania 16802 814-865-2444
I am in my 20th year of public school teaching in Eastern Pennsylvania. I have taught in five school districts from the Philadelphia area to the Poconos. I have endured countless mandatory in-service days. Your presentation at the Jim Thorpe Area School District on March 9, 2016 was the first one that spoke to me, and provided me with something I can really use…not just in teaching, but in life. Thank you so much, my friend. Sho-Shin!
Mr. Eric P. Flowers, M. Mus. Ed.
Director Of Bands – Jim Thorpe Area School District, Jim Thorpe, PA
John Perricone was treated to a standing ovation from all 200 teachers in attendance at our Central South Zone Conference at SUNY Cortland. The profound message that he delivered on the art of teaching (through heartwarming stories and personal anecdotes) combined with razor-sharp wit and humor, made for an experience that had every teacher excited to return to their classrooms with renewed vigor and insight!
We wanted to help our teachers re-energize themselves after a good, but exhausting first quarter of the school year. Teaching takes so much energy, and even the most dedicated of our teachers needs help to re-channel the positive energy within each of us. John Perricone’s message to our staff was not only profoundly inspirational, it was personal for each of us and him. His focus on the drive and passion that brought each of us to become teachers re-enforced to our staff that it truly is the everyday moments working with, and the relationships developed with, our students that is our true reward as teachers. It’s not the money, fame, or power that brings satisfaction for teachers. It is something much deeper and more profound. We are the richest people in the world because we get to experience teaching young people every day. That is what defines us. John brought us back to why we chose this profession and the satisfaction we receive through it. It was the message we needed, and John presented it with such energy and kindness. There was a bounce in people’s step on a day that traditionally has had less energy. We thank John for helping to show us we really are excited and fortunate that today and tomorrow we get to teach.
Jeff Gustason, Principal Linn-Mar High School in Marion, Iowa
“John Perricone’s captivating presentation reminds us all why we entered the education field. As a thirty-one year veteran of the classroom, he understands the inherent power in our day-to-day interactions with our students. Through story-telling, parables, and real-life examples, he takes the audience on an indelible journey filled with reminders of what is truly important — not only in education, but in life as a whole. I can’t wait to bring him back to my school for an encore.”
CHARLES OGUNDIMU, Ph.D., Principal Frederick Douglass Academy VI High School
Far Rockaway, New York firstname.lastname@example.org (718) 471-2154
John’s visit was so timely for Arlington amidst the current negativity surrounding public education and the politicization of issues surrounding student growth and learning. He was a breath of fresh air, helping us to find and maintain our philosophical compass as educators. John’s message was uplifting, heartfelt and real, setting the perfect tone for the start of school year and leaving us all with lessons for teaching and life.
Brendan Lyons, Ed. D., Superintendent of Schools Arlington Central School District 144 Todd Hill Road LaGrangeville, NY 12540
You may recall, I’m the Arlington teacher with 45 years in teaching whose book you signed. I wanted to thank you for an absolutely amazing and inspiring first day of school! During your talk, I found myself nodding in affirmation of everything you said, identifying with your passion for what you do, and thinking, “Finally — someone who sees the big picture!” Keep the faith! And thank you so very much!
Your presentation was absolutely fantastic and you hit a home run with our staff with many echoing the sentiment that you were by far the best opening day speaker they had ever experienced! You so embodied and conveyed a message we’ve been emphasizing in our district –that of the importance of making meaningful connections with our students, and in so doing, creating the very best environment in which learning can take place. I don’t know that we could have envisioned a better start to our year! Thank you so very much!
Paul Jenkins, Superintendent of Glens Falls Schools
Glens Falls, New York email@example.com (518-792-2122)
I cannot imagine a better start to our new year! Your presentation was simply outstanding and my office has been nothing but a steady stream of teachers coming to thank me for bringing you here. Thank you for the gift of your inspiration — I’ll be telling many other administrators about your impassioned and phenomenal work! Joanne Blocker, Director of Academics Gateway Regional School District Huntington, MA (413) 685-1313 firstname.lastname@example.org
[this is an internal memo, that was shared with me]
Melissa, Thank you so much for the wonderful opportunity to be inspired by John Perricone this morning! He was by far the best speaker we have ever had in my 18 years here, and I believe did wonders for morale! In a time when government policies and the beliefs of a few top state administrators are clearly trying to do away with public education, I want you to know how much we appreciate your constant support of our daily efforts to provide meaningful and enjoyable educational experiences for our students. I speak for myself and my colleagues when I say that your continual guidance, constant smile, and gracious leadership make Lynbrook a wonderful place to work! Thank you again for everything you do for us!
Jackie Miller Grade Three Teacher, Waverly Park School
Mr. Perricone, I cannot begin to express my gratitude for what you did to launch our new school year! Your message struck a universal chord in every staff member I’ve spoken to and for everyone who searched me out (both in person and in emails) to thank me for bringing you to Woodstock. The administrative staff conccured that they just couldn’t believe that your address spoke to every facet of our collective mission and vision for our district. Our teachers are on fire in anticipation of meeting their new students, and we thank you for reigniting the spark that resides in each and every one of us. You reminded us of our deepest mission as educators, and in so doing brought out the best in us. We so look forward to having you back for your secondary address next year!
I want to wholeheartedly thank John Perricone for presenting to our entire staff during our first in-service day for the 2015-2016 school year. His message was profoundly inspirational and began our year on a very high note. His style is heartfelt and humorous. He held our staffs’ attention from the beginning to the end of his presentation.
We will remember “Sho-Shin” (cherish your beginner’s mind) by remembering each day that, “this is the first day I have taught, and it may be my last. I will teach today as though I will never have the opportunity again.” I believe without question that those who were present will remember and practice this philosophy in their classrooms. Many of my staff commented that in light of Mr. Perricone’s presentation, that they felt renewed and were indeed very excited to begin the new year.
Donald Wismar, Executive Director, and Shelly Carson, Director of Special Education Seneca Highlands Intermediate Unit 9
Mr. John Perricone offered a poignant, meaningful and profoundly inspiring message to begin our new school year. His passion for the profession and compassion for students touched our staff and provided purpose for what we do on a daily basis. He was the perfect presence at a time in New York when political mandates are attempting to strip the power of the teacher in the classroom. The message is simple: everyone who touches the life of a child, touches the life of generations to come! We were reminded we have the best jobs in the world! Thank you, John!
Mr. Perricone, Wednesday was simply outstanding! Every one of my teachers thanked me over and over for starting the year off with your presentation. Many even said that it was the best start up to the year they had ever had! Everyone was smiling and so positive; it was so nice to see. Your presentation touched everyone in the audience and by the end of the evening, all of the principals were communicating about the positive responses that we all received from faculty members. I thank you from the bottom of my heart and I will always remember to start each day like this is the first time and the last time I will be the principal of Quest Elementary School! Sho-Shin!
Many, many thanks from the Viera feeder chain schools: Quest Elementary, Suntree Elementary, Longleaf Elementary, Williams Elementary, Kennedy Middle School, and Viera High School.
“John Perricone is just what our staff needed! He is uplifting in a time when teachers feel beleaguered under the weight of new initiatives, state testing, mandates and quite frankly — burnout. Before hearing him speak, I wasn’t sure how our teachers would react to Mr. Perricone, but I can state unequivocally that by his message our staff was not only revitalized, but he brought us all together as a school community with a unified sense of mission and purpose. You will not regret bringing this man to your school. He is truly an inspiration for educators everywhere.”
“You have a friend in me for life! It’s amazing that I found you via the internet a year ago with the vision of having you as a keynote…and dreams do come true. I just knew from the moment I read your reviews that you were the absolute right person for North Bellmore! I was truly inspired by you and find you to be one of the most authentic and life-giving human beings I have had the pleasure of meeting. So many faculty members, administrators, staff and Board members have told me that your presentation was profoundly inspiring! You captured the mission and core values of the district and reminded all the “teachers” (every adult in the district) of their purpose and of the value of the work they do each day. Your presentation is one that captures the true essence of humanity in terms of our purpose – after all, is there anything more significant in life that lifting up another human being so that he or she can take the next step of the journey? I think that all people need someone like John Perricone in their life as a reminder that who we are to others is what matters in the end – what could be more significant? Because of what he shared, North Bellmore has now embarked on an introspective journey that can only enhance the culture of our schools. You have found a new friend and me and countless numbers of my staff who have never been so renewed and excited to get in to their classrooms and make a significant difference in the lives of the young people they’ve been called to serve. A million thanks!”
“John Perricone speaks to the heart of who we are as educators. He connects to teachers and staff in a way that reignites the passion we all feel for the students we serve. John’s message defines and validates the incredibly challenging responsibility we have to be the best for our students every day. He was just what our staff needed and we are grateful that he was able to be a part of our annual conference. I whole-heartedly recommend him to others seeking to inspire and motivate educators.”
Jill Walker, M. ED., Executive Director of Staff Development
Leander ISD in Leander, Texas Jill.Walker@leanderisd.org 512-570-0208
John Perricone brought his thirty-one years of classroom experience and love of teaching to life for our staff! His words were heartfelt and and he motivated our staff to make a personal and soulful connection with their students, thereby creating the very best environment in which they can learn. We so look forward to having him speak to our staff again in the very near future.
Paul E. Nelson, Ph.D., Superintendent Concordia Parish Schools 4358 Highway 84 West Vidalia, LA 71373
Dear Mr. Perricone,
“Knowing you as my teacher over 30 years ago, I was very confident that when I hired you, we’d have a good in-service day. I remembered your enthusiasm, your wit, and your passion when you taught me all those years ago. What I did not expect is that our staff would be changed forever by your talk. Every high school student you have touched in Maine- Endwell has been changed by you, but I did not expect that spending two hours with us as a staff at SMCS would effect the change that it has in adults who did not know you. The culture of our school is changing now! For the first time in my 26 years in schools, after your talk, I heard comments such as “Best in-service ever!”, “Has it been two hours already? I didn’t want him to stop!” and “We really needed to hear that.” Your talk is a combination of inspiration, motivation, real-life experience in “the trenches” and, of course, uncanny comedic timing. We so needed to laugh together as a faculty, and did we ever. But, unlike most In-service days, we left with a tangible, LASTING goal: Sho-Shin (cherishing our beginner’s mind so we are never stale in our teaching) — which renewed and revitalized every one of us. Mr. Perricone, the poster is now in all of our classrooms and it’s in all of our lives now, thanks to you. You were sent to us for a reason, and we will not let you down! Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
Lori O. Favela, Ed.S. Academic Dean, Middle School St. Michael Catholic School of Houston Texas email@example.com 713-621-6847, x3311
“Your message hit a grand slam! Our staff was so thoroughly impressed and inspired by what you shared with us in your Keynote address “Why Am I a Teacher?: Developing a Philosophical Identity”. They can’t quit talking about how great of a job you did. We even talked about you last night in our Board Meeting under the “What is right” section. Thanks so much for coming and sharing with us and know that I truly consider you a friend. We are already looking at having you back.”
Gary Brogan, Superintendent of Bear Lake ISD
Paris, Idaho firstname.lastname@example.org 208-945-2891
“It is with great pleasure that I recommend Mr. Perricone to speak at your school or any educational forum. He has moved our staff in ways that I have not seen in my 31 years in our school district. I am usually reluctant to have someone come to speak to our staff if I had not previously seen him/her in person. However, based on the testimonials I read on his website, I felt confident it would be worth the risk. There was no risk! At the end of his one hour and forty-five minute presentation, where he challenged our staff to reflect on their personal philosophy about education; and motivated and inspired them to realize how lucky they were to be in a career where they can have a positive influence on the lives of youth every day, he received a standing ovation. My overall response was simply…he delivered! For days and weeks after his presentation, staff still thanks me for bringing him to Phillipsburg. It was truly a positive experience, and we were honored to have him.”
Dr. Marian Trapani, Director of Planning, Research and Evaluation,
Phillipsburg School District, Phillipsburg New Jersey, Trapani.Marian@pburgsd.net 908-213-2610
“John Perricone was the most highly rated keynote speaker ever in our school district. His message of compassion, reflection and appreciation of our profession was exactly what we needed at this trying time in the history of education. Thank you, John!.”
John Lysko, Superintendent, Township of Ocean Schools,
Oakhurst, New Jersey email@example.com 732-531-5600 (ext.3220)