Anthony Piccinni basks in the idea of retirement


Quinn Berry

Anthony Piccinni poses in his classroom with his class pet Kaa. Piccinni has been Kaa’s owner for 22 years and he has become a big part of Piccinni’s identity. “[Kaa] and I have done birthday parties, visited preschool classrooms and taught lessons in elementary schools,” Piccinni said. “Giving him away is hard, not because of a deep, emotional connection, but because he is a part of a significant aspect of my life that is coming to a close. I will miss being a classroom teacher, and he has been a part of the classroom and the experience.”

Smiling in the science hallway, greeting students during passing periods and caring for his snake, science teacher Anthony Piccinni has decided to retire after this year since joining the staff in 2011.

“[This decision] was hugely difficult. It is still difficult. The plus side is that I will still be up here coaching, so I will still be up here every day in the fall and still see people. It is not like I am completely trying to cut ties; I am still kind of around which makes it a little less difficult,” Piccinni said. “What I came to realize was that [I was going to retire] some time. I was going to feel that sadness, so I might as well do it now. There are financial considerations and investments that made it possible now, and I wanted to go out feeling like I still loved what I was doing.”

Piccinni has struggled to find a new place for his class snake Kaa. The zoology teacher at South High had an interest, but it ended up falling through, so he is looking for another option.

“I know places like Grant’s Farm have the ability to do that. I think my best pursuit is to go through something like the Herpetology Society around here because they are bound to have somebody who would be willing to take him. But he is old, and even if somebody takes him, he is not going to be around that much longer,” Piccinni said. “I hope somebody adopts him. I even put it out to all of the science teachers in the district and asked if anybody wanted him and nobody responded which really shocked me. I do not think people realize how easy he is. As a classroom pet, he is really one step above the diorama.”

I want to go back to my roots to naturalist environmental education and see if I can get back to where I was when I was in my element,”

— Anthony Piccinni

During his retirement, Piccinni plans to find his passion again in environmental education.

“In 2002, I was State Environmental Educator of the Year so that was how deep I was into [environmental education]. Then the district changed some things; they took away a lot of what I was building, and I had to adjust,” Piccinni said. “I want to go back to my roots to naturalist environmental education and see if I can get back to where I was when I was in my element. I do not know if that will involve working at the Botanical Gardens or working at the Zoo or the Wolf Sanctuary, but I want to get back to that point again.”

Further than becoming more immersed in environmental education again, Piccinni is most excited to rediscover his true self in his retirement.

“So much of what I have structured myself around is to be the ultimate team player. What can I do to collaborate with students and their education, to collaborate with teachers and their education? The drawback to that is I often put myself second, and I sacrifice a lot of who I am,” Piccinni said. “I guess what I am looking forward to most is figuring out who I am deep inside. I can now separate myself from all of the voices and find that quiet inside me and find out who I am.”

Piccinni enjoyed creating the opportunity and environment for students to learn and is going to miss his ability to do that.

“It was creating the labs, creating the situation where students were like ‘I get it now’ or ‘this is so cool’; that is what I call that lightbulb moment. I am going to miss those moments. That is really what I am going to miss the most because it was honestly about relationships,” Piccinni said. “I loved working with teachers to develop those, and I loved standing out in the hall and talking to Cutelli during passing periods. I am going to miss the relationships and the relationships that create significant moments.”

To the teacher that will eventually take his place, Piccinni emphasizes the importance of building relationships between teachers and students.

“I hope that I left this place better than when I entered it,” Piccinni said. “I do not know if I will ever know for sure, but that is really what my biggest hope is.”