Behind Pagliacci's Pi Day: A Teacher Who Makes a Difference

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Last year, we inaugurated a tradition at Pagliacci: Pizza Pi Day. On March 14th, at all of our locations with slice bars, we will offer any two slices for just $3.14. 

As is usually the case, behind any great idea is an inspirational person. Pizza Pi Day was inspired by Tom Tivnan (Mr. T), a beloved teacher at West Mercer Elementary School. Two years ago Pagliacci owner Matt Galvin delivered several pizzas for a Pi Day party in his daughter’s math class taught by Mr. T. 

“As a thank you to the Galvin's generosity,” Tom said, “we wrote thank you cards with suggestions on what Pagliacci might do in the future for Pi Day in the restaurants, and the rest, as they say, is history.”

While Pizza Pi Day is significant to us, and we hope to you also, Tom Tivnan's greatest inspiration has manifested itself in his dedication to teaching. Over his 44 year professional career, teaching mostly 4th and 5th grade, he has had about 1500 students over the years in his classroom.

“I have watched them go on in their education and on into their futures. Over the years, I get phone calls, letters, and emails from former students. Doctors, teachers, professors, entrepreneurs, brokers, actors, musicians, parents, engineers, wives and husbands—have sought me out to say hi,” Tom said. “I have even had the great pleasure of teaching former students' children.”

One of those former students who has stayed in touch, and has had the good fortune of sending his kids to Mr. T, is Matt Galvin. 

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As a young man at the University of Washington in the pre-med program, Tom took a summer job as a swimming instructor. One of his students, a twelve-year-old boy named Andy, was brought over to him by the head of the program for private lessons. He learned that Andy, the oldest of five kids who lived on the waterfront in Bellevue, had witnessed his mother drown right in front of the family house. 

“I took this frightened 12 year old from just getting his face to touch the water to swimming out to the raft in the middle of the Luther Burbank Beach,” Tom said. “He learned some basic skills for safety and came back the following summer to say that he was on a swim team. I knew then that I would much rather make kids safe enough not to have to see a doctor. I still have that philosophy.”

Over the years Tom has worked to get his students involved with their learning, to see it as an investment in their future. He tries to have them apply abstract concepts like adding and subtracting fractions to real-world situations, even using the stock reports in the Seattle Times as practice material. While studying the human body he’s borrowed the high school’s human skeleton and a life sized torso with removable organs. He’s had classes build a 100 yard crawl-through digestive system and a gym-size circulatory system for the students to teach the rest of the school about the human body. He’s taken classes on field trips to musicals and operas, to Mt. St. Helens, to Olympia and Victoria to compare the two governmental forms, amongst many other places. In his AP math class at West Mercer he has the students "invest" a thousand dollars in the stock market. The class completes the 1040EZ form every year.

By applying abstract concepts to real-world places and problems, Tom keeps his students interested in learning. Continually challenging them is his goal. “I believe it’s human nature that if you set the bar too low, everyone will try to sneak under it. But if you raise the bar just enough to be a challenge, everyone will try their hardest to jump over it. That's how I have approached teaching.”

We’re grateful for people like Tom, who have dedicated their lives to teaching others to learn how to survive and to thrive in the world. As one small token of our appreciation, we dedicate Pagliacci’s Pizza Pi Day to the man who inspired it. 

Please celebrate with us on March 14th at one of our locations. All you have to do is ask for the Pi Day special.  We will do the rest.