In Memoriam: Thomas DePeter

By Denebola
Published: June 2009

What is the most valuable thing in the world? What is the morning glory? What does poetry accomplish?

To the untrained scholar, these questions lack meaning; to Thomas DePeter, they held a world of meaning that only he – and eventually his students – could comprehend.

Throughout a 35-year teaching career, DePeter touched the lives of numerous students in his English classes, theatre productions, and lacrosse teams. Though he spent only one year at Newton South, his presence truly made a difference not only in the lives of his students, but everyone around him.

DePeter related to his students in a way unlike other teachers. By sharing his own life experiences with his students, DePeter fostered communication and personal connections both within the classroom community and, more importantly, outside of school.

DePeter’s teaching style was, to say the least, unconventional. Though a traditional essay or lesson plan was out of the question, students still learned the skills necessary to make it through life. “The concepts [DePeter] introduced us to have been invaluable, former student Alex Schneider said. “The lessons he taught me about reading and writing literature will stay with me forever, whether or not I recognized it at the time.

Examples of such lessons, according to Schneider, include the value of a structured vocabulary, the frequently underestimated power of alliteration, and the significance of the sounds that poems make. Through these lessons, DePeter taught the value of critical thinking outside of the box.

A thespian at heart, DePeter also stressed the importance of simply taking in and appreciating a piece of writing, such as a play. Through a series of read-aloud plays, students began to appreciate his unusual, yet ultimately successful, pedagogical methods.

Though senior Jason Agress did not have DePeter in class, his frequent encounters in the hallway left a lasting impression. “He had this laid back, comforting persona, and was always very friendly – he always had something worthwhile and interesting to say, Agress said.

So, what would the answers to the questions at the beginning of this article be? What is the most valuable thing in the world? The Head of a Dead Cat. What is the morning glory? Another thing that will never be my friend. What does poetry accomplish? Two-fold consciousness.

Ultimately, what do these questions mean? They are, in fact, DePeter’s legacy.

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