Teacher Talk, Vol. 2: Jamming with Mr. Pontiere


Eve A. '26

Mr. Pontiere has been at OLSH for the past nine years, and has spent every minute of his time here inspiring and encouraging his students. I sat down with him to talk about his time teaching so far.

What do you remember about your first day at OLSH?

“When I walked in, Mr. Plocinik took me for a tour and the thing I remember most was how beautiful the school was. How clean the school was. How nice all the kids were! It was really funny because I came from Montour, and had just left, and there were a lot of kids from Montour here . So I was walking down the hall and they’re going ‘Hey Mr. P! Hey Mr. P!’ It was pretty cool.”

What is your favorite memory so far at OLSH?

“My favorite memory was probably my first concert here. That would’ve been around 2014. The students gave me a commemorative bass guitar and they all signed it. That’s my fondest memory because it was my first year. I came in in the middle of the year and there was a little division because a lot of students loved the teacher I replaced which is  great. She was a great teacher. It took a while for me to win them over!”

What was the most memorable year of teaching?

“Let’s do the bad one first-those COVID years. That was horrible. You cannot teach music on zoom. The arts more than anything during this shutdown suffered the most. The most memorable? I’d have to say all of my performances. I mean, all of them have been memorable for some reason. The things that stick out in my head are the concerts. It’s all good. It’s all positive here.”

What inspired you to become a music teacher?

 “When I was in high school, I wanted to go into music but everyone said ‘Don’t go into music! There’s no jobs! Go into medicine!’ I’d love to be a doctor but I don’t know if I had what it took to do ten years of schooling, so I went into medical technology. My second year of college it hit me, and I said ‘Do I want to do this the rest of my life?’ I decided Sophomore year of college to quit the program and go into music. I took 2 ½ years of music credits and graduated a semester late. I was happier.”

Did you grow up around music?

 “I had three or four uncles who played the trumpet, some cousins who played piano- my dad even marched in the PITT band. Music was in our whole family. Everybody had something to do with music.”

I read an article published by OLSH in 2019 saying you were the first recipient of the Allan J. Pontiere Outstanding Music Educator Award. What was it like to have an award named after you?

“It was a big surprise. I used to work for the Pittsburgh Youth Pops Orchestra (PYPO). I was an assistant conductor there for a few years. Because I had so many years of teaching, and I brought lots of students into that orchestra- they have a yearly award named after me. I’m honored.”

What are some surprising things people might not know about you?

“I love to golf. I used to be a big hunter and one day I just stopped. When my son got into intramurals I didn’t have time to hunt on Saturdays. I sort of just lost the desire to shoot things. I love fishing. I’m pretty transparent. What you see is what you get. I love sports cars! I want to get a sports car but everything is so expensive. That will be my gift to myself when I finally retire.”


“When I retired at Montour, I didn’t want to go. They offered a deal- if I left then I would get healthcare until I was 65 for my family and I. After that I said, ‘You know what? I’m gonna work!’ My wife works in admissions, and they needed subs here. I didn’t want to sub. But, it was cool here because it’s a different place. I would never go back to a public school to sub ever. Then, while I was subbing here, the music teacher decided to leave. Mr. Plocinik said ‘Hey, do you want a job?’ I went, ‘Oh man. Do I wanna do this again?’ I had been retired for a year already. I had to decide if I wanted to get back into it. He said, ‘Just get me through the year.’ I’m still here. I’ve stayed because I just wasn’t ready to go yet. I still wanted to teach. Also, when I was home, it was great in the summertime and the fall, in the winter time you lose your mind. There is nothing to do.”

Do you get emotional watching students graduate?

“Yeah, especially when I see them from freshman year to senior year. For example Piano Class- someone like you or someone who really struggles and then all of a sudden they’re playing Somewhere Over the Rainbow. It’s cool to see the progression of a student.”

Do you have a favorite class you teach?

“I think my favorite would probably be Concert Choir. I like them all- they’re all different. That’s what’s cool about this job. I do something different every period. I don’t teach the same class every period. I have Guitar, then Music Appreciation, then Concert Choir, then Piano. It keeps it interesting.”

What is the funniest thing to happen in class to date?

“When we had a band here, we played at the football games. We used to rehearse behind the AAC- they put a little field up for us to rehearse in. Evan J. was playing the big quads. They are heavy. So, we were walking down to the AAC, and it’s a bit of a slope, and he trips. He didn’t fall, but the weight of the drums carried his body and he couldn’t stop. He landed on the hood of a student’s car. He just sprawled on the hood. So, OLSH had to pay for the hood repairs. He wasn’t hurt badly. I had another kid fall down the risers. He stepped off the top riser and just tumbled slowly. A somersault. His name was Joe Webber.”

How do you think you’ve changed as a teacher since you’ve started teaching?

“Believe it or not, the older I’ve become the more patient I’ve become. You become wiser, you become less stressed- because you’ve done it so many times. Everything always works out. Usually when you get older you become less patient, but I think as you become a seasoned teacher, you step back.”

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

“To quote Mrs. Steuernagel, ‘Be smart and make wise decisions.’ I tell that to my son. That’s probably the best advice. Think before you do anything. And to just be a good person.”

What do you do over summer break?

“I golf. I’m in a golf league and I golf three times a week. I have a small yard, but I do yard work. I love to wash cars. That’s terrible because cars are a terrible depreciating asset. We just bought kayaks, so that’s also really cool.”

In the article I mentioned earlier it mentioned you are in a Top 40 Band. What is that like?

“That was cool. We broke up because of the Pandemic. We were semi-retired because we were all old. I loved it though- I’ve been in bands since the 70’s. Our latest band was called Nightlife and we were a really good band.”


After this, we did a speed round.

Favorite color?


Favorite song?

“Any Chicago tune.”

Favorite place?

Rehoboth Beach.”

Favorite band or singer?

“Probably Chicago or Earth, Wind, and Fire. Favorite singer? Luther Vandross.”

Favorite movie?

“I love war pictures. Funny movie? Mrs. Doubtfire!”

Favorite TV show?


Favorite animal?


Favorite food?


Favorite sport?


Favorite student?

“You, Eve!”


Thank you for reading Teacher Talk: Volume Two! Stay tuned and make sure to read the next one! Thank you Mr. Pontiere for sitting down with me and for giving such a great interview. See you next time!