2006 Outstanding Teacher of America
Theater Arts Teacher, El Dorado High School, Placerville, California
Paul Tomei graduated from Cal Arts in Valencia with the intention of pursuing an acting career. Following graduation, he spent time acting in Los Angeles and in musical reviews in Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe and Japan. He also worked as a “voiceover artist” for television commercials and advertising.
His early acting career began when he was a student at El Dorado High School where he was involved in several productions. After 7 years in Los Angeles pursing his acting career, he decided he needed a change in his life and returned to Placerville, California, to complete his student teaching under his former Drama teacher at El Dorado High School. At the conclusion of his student teaching assignment, his supervising teacher and friend left El Dorado High School for another assignment at a different school in the district and Mr. Tomei was offered the position. Currently, Mr. Tomei is completing his Masters Degree in Theater Arts from the University of Chicago.
Mr. Tomei is described by his students and colleagues as a “creative tour de force” at El Dorado High School. In his tenure at El Dorado High School, he has developed Studio 81 and Playhouse, which was built in the former auto shop classroom. Under Mr. Tomei’s direction, the drama department has become a force in the community. He has become known for consistently “pushing the envelope” with his selection of productions. He is credited with a unique ability to find the hidden talent within his students and is able to get them to reach deep within themselves to find and demonstrate their excellence.
He is recognized by students and parents alike for his dedication, tireless work ethic and always getting the best from his students. Mr. Tomei’s directing skills has led El Dorado High School to win two “Elly Awards,” which are sponsored by the Sacramento Area Regional Theater Alliance and awarded annually for the best high school theater productions in California.
While Mr. Tomei believes in theater arts and drama as important disciplines, he often encourages his students to pursue other majors in college while encouraging them to remain working in theater arts. He feels that majors in other disciplines provide them with a broader perspective and better prepares them for acting.
Mr. Tomei’s students and colleagues stress that his major asset is his ability to “connect with and challenge his students.” The Principal of El Dorado High School said, “The drama students have risen to levels that we never thought possible. He is committed to the learning process and encourages students to take chances in a safe and protective environment, thereby stretching themselves beyond their own expectations. His primary focus is to ensure teamwork, eliminate the “star” appeal and make certain the groups work together as team members with a common goal. And, throughout the process, several other departments collaborate in the production of the three annual productions. For example, costumes are done by the Fashion and Design Classes and construction and staging is completed by the shop classes. He pulls the entire school into his productions.”
Along with teaching, Mr. Tomei is active in his community and is heading a community project to build a new amphitheater on campus. He has pulled the community together to raise the necessary funds to build this new community center that will benefit the city of Placerville as well as El Dorado High School.
Mr. Tomei is described by many as the “sounding board” for many students, parents and fellow teachers. However, one of his most important life accomplishments is saving the life of a colleague and friend while taking a group of students on an educational trip to Europe. His friend and colleague, Marty Sherin, went off the trail and plummeted 40 feet down the mountain while riding a bike on a mountain trail. Mr. Sherin had stopped breathing and Mr. Tomei ran down the mountain, turned him over and started his breathing. Mr. Sherin and says, “Paul saved my life and I am forever grateful. As a teacher, his personality attracts students. He simply beams energy. He uses humor well and he lives, loves and breathes the theater….the Theater department is actually better than the athletic department in that he places more students into collegiate theatrical programs than the athletic department does in athletics.